The BHA’s equine influenza prevention methods seem to have paid off, which is great news for racing fans and trainers alike, with the Cheltenham Festival now on the horizon. The BHA’s decision to move the Denman Chase and Betfair Hurdle from last week’s Newbury card to Ascot this Saturday means a bumper meeting from the Berkshire course.
Elsewhere, Haydock hosts one of its biggest meetings of the year and we also have Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle and Gowran’s Red Mills Chase to look forward to.
The Grade One Ascot chase over 2m5f sees 2018 winner and leading Ryanair candidate Waiting Patiently likely to defend his crown. He would be the fifth dual winner since 2000 and after a highly frustrating campaign, in which he has run just once when unseating after being badly hampered, it will be great to see Ruth Jefferson’s stable star back in action. Rapidly improving Cyrname, dual Grade One winner Politologue and formerly top drawer 2m performer Fox Norton are also entered and with the ground likely to suit all, this could be a cracker.
Reigning Gold Cup champion Native River and King George winner Clan Des Obeaux are set to clash in the Denman and this race will surely have a huge bearing on this year’s Gold Cup market. Five of the last 11 Gold Cup winners won the Denman en-route to Cheltenham glory and Native River bids for a hat-trick of wins in the race. Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, who trains Clan Des Obeaux, has won the race seven times since 2000, including with legendary Gold Cup winners Kauto Star and Denman.
The Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase will unfortunately no longer feature RSA favourite Santini but Top Ville Ben and others mean the Grade Two race will still provide festival clues. Al Dancer is likely to go off favourite for the Betfair Hurdle and with last year’s winner Kalashnikov going oh-so-close subsequently in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, a win would surely boost his Cheltenham claims. Novices have a great record in this race and, therefore, Getaway Trump and Thomas Darby must also be strongly considered.
At Haydock, leading domestic Triumph Hurdle candidates Quel Destin and Torpillo hold entries in the opener, while Grade One winner Yanworth catches the eye in the entries for the Rendlesham Hurdle. The feature race on Haydock’s card is the Grand National Trial, won by Yala Enki 12 months ago, and he could defend his title against, amongst others, Scottish National runner-up Ballyoptic and Welsh National second Ramses De Teillee. Unfortunately, 2017 National winner One For Arthur won’t be able to take his chance.
Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle, a recognised Champion Hurdle trial used by 2008 winner Katchit en route to Cheltenham glory, has several interesting entries including novices Quel Destin and Getaway Trump; both mentioned earlier for other races. Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite Angels Breath also holds an entry in the opening novices’ hurdle on the card. Social betting site betconnect offers personalised bets put forward by experts on all of today’s horse racing cards, and this level of insight may be necessary in order for bettors to pick out a winner.
Across the Irish Sea, Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy is set to have his first chase race since last year’s RSA at the festival where he was impressive in the Red Mills trial. Monalee, who chased him home at Cheltenham, Gold Cup third Anibale Fly and the smart Bachasson are also entered. Presenting Percy was beaten in the contest a year ago, so over the 2m4f distance, which is short of his best, he will really have to bring his A-game. A win will almost certainly see his odds for the Gold Cup contract so if you fancy him, it may be worth getting on now at odds of around 3/1.
It is entirely fair then to call this Super Saturday but Ascot’s nine-race bonanza is just the tip of the iceberg. Racing is back and very much back with a bang.