It's a big day for Haydock racecourse, but the weather hasn't been kind and the races on the soft ground there are likely to be gruelling. Before heading into today's races, a quick look at last weeks blog: and we were close with the main selection Il Ridoto, who looked poised to take the feature race of the day as they leaders approached 2-out, but although staying-on to be 4th he had nothing left in the tank. He is only a 5yo and there will be opportunities ahead for him. Although not a selection (the odds available were below my 9/4 threshold for selections on the blog), there was plenty of confidence on Tea For Three at Uttoxeter, who travelled well and found plenty to win well.
The feature race today is the 3m1f & 125yds (Grade 1) Betfair Chase at Haydock. The soft ground has reduced the field to just 5 runners, however the Gold Cup winner - and winner of this race last season - A Plus Tard returns, and looks near impossible to beat today. There's no certainties in horseracing, but it may pay to have "straight forecast" wager on the race to put the 1st-2 in the right order. What could come 2nd? On their best recent form, my rating suggests that there is little to split the other 4 runners in the race. Bristol De Mai is a 3-time winner of the Betfair Chase, but he pulled-up last year and I can't see him being 2nd unless the other 3 run exceptionally poorly. Frodon was a mighty winner with top-weight just 14-days ago, but he won't be able to bully Bristol De Mai who also likes to lead, and if things don't fall his way he tends to lose interest. He may throw in the towel with half-a-mile to go. Protektorat won a poor Grade 2 over 3m1f at Aintree last December, but was beaten before the final fence in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and plodded on to be 3rd - I'm not convinced he's a true 3-mile-plus chaser. Remember, he couldn't beat the current OR147 chaser Empire Steel over 3-mile when conceding him just 4lb. And that leaves Eldorado Allen, who was a good 2nd in the "Charlie Hall" over 3-mile at Wetherby, and also beat top stayer Royale Pagaille over 3-mile at Newbury. He comes here race-fit, in good form and the ground isn't an issue - I can't see him winning, but he can be 2nd.
What other races are worthy of interest today? Earlier on the Haydock card at 12:40pm there a Class 3 3m4f handicap chase, and stamina is really going to be needed in this race. One that stands out for me on form and on the odds, is Innisfree Lad: he ran a great race 20-days ago to be 2nd to improving Houston Texas (runs in Haydock 3:35pm) and was not beaten far when 3rd in the 4-mile "Eider" at Newcastle in February. He ran off OR135 that day, now he's on OR129 and with stamina no problem he looks a value eachway wager at 14/1 (Skybet are 5th odds 4-places on this race). The market leaders Wouldyoubewell and No Cruise Yet are priced on potential and not form (both only beat a couple of horse's LTO).
The card at Ascot is disappointing; nothing wrong with the races on offer but with 6 or fewer runners in the 1st-5 races on the card, betting opportunities are few - I just don't like betting at short odds, there is so little reward for the risk. The only race that's interesting is the extended 2-mile (Class 2) handicap chase at 3:15pm. A few of these met here at Ascot 3-weeks over this trip, and perhaps the winner that day - Thyme White - can follow up again. However, he meets Frero Banbou (who was 2nd) on 7lb worse terms, and Frero Banbou looked sure to improve for the race. The 7yo Boothill currently 3/1, won LTO but that was only his 2nd chase, and he's going to be mixing with some solid handicappers here. The Irish raider So Scottish is also a novice with 2 wins from 2 chase runs and looks well handicapped on OR135, but the same applies to him as Boothill. With ground likely to be too soft for top-weight Third Time Lucki, for me the value is with Frero Banbou who is 11/2 with Bet365 (5th odds a place 1,2,3).