THE next three weeks is a funny time. It is the calm before the storm as the racing community builds itself into a frenzy in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival and pundits jump on the lucrative gravy train of preview nights. But Saturday’s racing still has a stamp of quality and it is last chance saloon for some potential Festival candidates…
The Betfair Ascot Chase has been won by some illustrious names such as One Man, Kauto Star, Voy Por Ustedes and Monet’s Garden. This year could see the real coming of age of BALDER SUCCES. I hope so as he is a real favourite and I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. He is up against an outstanding novice in Ptit Zig and it is a fascinating clash. Throw in Ballycasey, who will probably try to make it a stamina test, and you have a terrific race. Not a betting race fior me though.
Elsewhere, here are four horses to make up a Saturday Yankee…
CLONDAW KNIGHT won by an official 14 lengths at Wetherby last time out but he had a lot more in hand than that. He has been raised 13lb and I think he’ll be able to carry that burden in Ascot’s 2.40, especially with a question mark over many of his rivals. Carole’s Destrier could be the main danger.
Donald McCain has made no secret of his affection for DIAMOND KING. He ran a blinder on his reappearance when, despite running keen, he was bang in contention until a furlong out at Cheltenham before tiring. He should be spot on for the 2m 3f handicap at Ascot (3.15) and it is no surprise that Jason Maguire has made the journey south.
Maguire could notch a double with the highly promising Always Lion in the bumper. But I’m going to oppose him with BIG CHIEF BENNY who was green at Warwick when coming second but showed loads of potential. The weight concession he gets for being a four year old could give him the edge.
Finally, at Haydock GAS LINE BOY is taken to win the Betfred Grand National trial (I remember this as the Greenall Whitley Chase. I was there when Yahoo won it in 1988 and Rinus in 1990). Richard Johnson gets on well with Gas Line Boy who likes Haydock but who is 10lb higher than when winning there in the autumn…
GAS LINE BOY
BIG CHIEF BENNY
It is also a big day for other Cheltenham candidates:
TEA FOR TWO
DEPUTY DAN and VIRAK
SIGN OF A VICTORY
TOP NOTCH and