Ante-Post Angle — Saturday 21st

Following on from my Ante-post columns last week, I have decided that it’s something I would like to bring each and every Wednesday (time permitting).

This weekend I will be covering two races from Haydock and Ascot. Haydock hosts a competitive Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle and the weekend’s main event the Grade 1 Betfair Chase. And, at Ascot, I will be covering the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma Chase followed by the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle.

14:05 Ascot — Chanelle Pharma Chase (Grade 2)

Despite being a small field its very high-class renewal of the race, just the four runners but the lowest-rated horse in the field is Grade 1 winning chaser Itchy Feet.

I think its key to note that this race in recent years has been farmed by Paul Nicholls. Since 2010 he’s managed to win this race six times.

I can see this year being no different with him fielding half the runners in the contest. I will be siding with REAL STEEL, he’s clear on ratings and I can see this race playing into his hands.

Looking at the race I imagine Black Corton will be taking the field along and making this a real test of stamina. Black Corton is without a win since April 2019 but always seems to run his race around Ascot.

With a strong pace on I think this will stretch the opposing pair of Imperial Aura and Itchy Feet leaving Real Steel to pick up the pieces.

Real Steel proved on his final start for Willie Mullins that he’s a high-class stayer. He tanked round in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with only the final 2-furlongs and stiff finish getting the better of him. A strongly run 2m4f and an uphill finish could really play into his strengths.

Despite running what looks like a career-best at Cheltenham, he historically has been a better horse going right-handed which he gets this weekend. Everything looks set for a big performance from the 7yr old and with grade 1 targets down the line you would be hoping he has the ability to win this.

14:25 Haydock — Stayers Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

At the time of writing there is currently twenty-four runners who could line up, for this reason, I will be using a trend to help me narrow the field down.

This is a race that has been dominated by horses aged between five and six. This doesn’t just apply to recent years, in fact since the first running of this race fifteen years ago. Eleven of the winners matched this trend with three of the remaining four aged seven.

This stat alone helps us whittle the field down from twenty-four to just seven runners.

Imperial Alcazar 5/1, Collooney 10/1, Third Wind 10/1, Cill Anna 14/1, Dolphin Square 20/1, I K Brunel 25/1 and Shang Tang 33/1.

At this very early stage normally its difficult to know what sort of ground were going to get. Fortunately for punters Haydock is forecasted rain pretty much all week and is a track that notoriously turns up soft/heavy. I wouldn’t expect any different here.

From the trend horses, I’m going to side with THIRD WIND for Hughie Morrison. I think he’s is fairly treated off a mark of 141 and back on a slower surface, he rates A good E/W option.

He managed to finish 4th at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, it was his first try at the three-mile trip and it was a brilliant effort against some battle-hardened runners. The 3rd Tout Est Permis was a real plot job for the race, he ran off a hurdle mark of just 136 that’s 16lbs below his chasing mark and Third Wind managed to get within 2L of him.

The front two take no introduction, The Storyteller ran off a mark of 149 which is 9lbs below his chase mark. He’s also come back this season and already picked up a win at Grade 3 and Grade 1 company. The winner Sire De Berlais has also been seen since when winning a Garde 2. He finds himself 6lbs higher and at this early stage, the Stayers Hurdle is the plan.

Third Wind has already had a run this season, he headed over to Newbury for a Class 2 and could only manage 5th. I’m not too disheartened with the run, it was the off the back of a 238-day layoff and he was met with good ground.

14:40 Ascot — Coral Hurdle (Grade 2)

This season’s Ascot Hurdle is an interesting one, we see last season’s leading juvenile hurdler Goshen tackle open company for the first time.

Laurina is seen for the first time for new trainer Paul Nicholls, following an electric novice campaign she may not have hit the heights that we all thought but is undoubtedly a very talented mare on her day.

Last seasons 2nd Call Me Lord will be looking to go one better, he’s ever consistent in these races but does tend to bump into one.

Away from the main market rivals, you’re looking at horses who will need to take a step forward. Indefatigable was last seasons game-winner of the Martin Pipe, I think she’s likely to get found out at this level.

Tea Clipper is an exciting prospect for Tom Lacey, a winner from four of his five races but will need the ground at least good. I think he is a likely NR in the field.

Song For Someone was highly progressive last season, placing in listed and Grade 2 company before picking up the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle. Currently, five going on six there is every chance he’s improved for a summer on his back. I, unfortunately, have a niggling doubt that he will struggle to give weight away to the pair at the head of the market.

I have landed on LAURINA, this is likely going to be the last time I give her a chance unless she shows some of her old spark. The Nicholls yard has been flying this season and Harry Cobden was quick to say he was “quietly confident” about her chances this weekend in a recent interview. It’s been well documented that she’s had her issues and providing they do not reappear the weight she gets could be all too much.

Goshen is, of course, the worry, he put up some frightening performances as a juvenile but I stand on the side of them being a poor bunch. Juvenile form tends to get found out when stepping out into open company I believe the same will happen here.

15:00 Haydock — Betfair Chase (Grade 1)

A brilliant renewal of the Betfair Chase this year, five runners with top three in the market rated between 169 and 171.

I am solely going to focus on the front three for this race as the two roughies down the bottom have very little chance. Clan Des Obeaux comes here off the back of a break and his form first time out leaves something to be desired. The past two seasons he's been beaten and has always come on for the run, I would imagine this is a stepping stone towards a hat-trick of King Georges.

That leaves us with last year’s 1–2 to fight it out. This is a real heart over head moment for me, my head is telling me that if the ground is going to be testing then Bristol De Mai will take some beating. He showed no signs of regression last season when putting it up to Lostintranslation in this race and followed it up with a great run in the Cotswold Chase. My heart is telling me that Lostintranslation will have improved for another year, he’s an exceptional jumper and see’s this trip out really well.

It is my heart that I will follow. LOSTINTRANSLATION had an exceptional season last year, he won this race in the manner of a very talented horse. Held up at the back and creeping into contention under Robbie Power before pouncing late and using his potent turn of foot. Something was amiss at Kempton and he put that right with an excellent round of jumping at Cheltenham when placing in the Gold Cup.

I think he could be a class apart from this field. With the Tizzard team starting to hit form, I can see him putting lengths between himself and his rivals.

Chanelle Pharma — Real Steel 2/1

Betfair Stayers Hurdle — Third Wind 7/1 E/W

Coral Hurdle — Laurina 5/2

Betfair Chase — Lostintranslation 5/4

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