THE Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock is not always the most informative when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival. Rooster Booster was the last Champion Hurdler to win it and that was in 2004, a year after he slalomed up the hill to victory in the big one. But I’ve not totally given up on MELODIC RENDEZVOUS being a Champion Hurdle contender. He wasn’t right in the Fighting Fifth last time and is best judged on his impressive earlier victory at Wincanton.
Conditions will suit him at Haydock with the deep ground playing to his strengths and he gets a useful 4lb from the improving favourite Ptit Zig.
Another would-be star putting his Cheltenham Festival credentials on the line is KATENKO in the Peter Marsh Chase. If he has genuine Gold Cup aspirations, he has to win on Saturday. Vintage Star could provide the main threat in receipt of a stone.
TRUSTAN TIMES returns to chasing at Haydock and has always looked like he would make the grade while my strongest fancy of the day is the unexposed STRAIDNAHANNA in the 3.50. This strapping five-year-old has shown obvious promise in three runs and this looks like a decent opportunity to get off the mark for Sue Smith.
UGLY BUG was chinned on the line at Chepstow and could be hard to beat in Haydock’s opener despite going up 5lb for coming second.
There is an excellent card at Ascot where Sire De Grugy will be hard to beat in the Clarence House Chase but my best bet is the rapidly improving RENARD in the 3.00. He is up 9lb for his last victory at Chepstow but gives the impression there is plenty more to come.