Alan got his week of to a great start with a 9.08/1 winner at Newmarket yesterday, today he has two selections from Wetherby and Ascot...
"only two lengths off Sizing John at the finish in the Punchestown Gold Cup. I think he is the class act in a strong field."
This looks like a cracking renewal of the Charlie Hall Chase, where Colin Tizzard's Cue Card, one of the most popular chasers in training takes his place in a quality field, he won this race in 2015 and won an Ascot Grade 1 just three starts ago. But he struggled in this race last year and although he continues to prove everyone wrong at the top level, I just can't see him winning this today.
Some of the other contenders are Nigel Twiston-Davies Blaklion who won a Grade 2 Novice Chase here two seasons ago and finished fourth in this race last year, he's another that is capable of a good effort here with conditions to suit but again I don't see him winning. Bristol De Mai is also trained by Twiston-Davis but he looks vulnerable under a six pound penalty. The north's big hope looks to be Brian Ellison's Definitly Red, a course and distance winner who tasted victory in the Grimthorpe two starts ago. He has stamina to burn but he could do with a bit more cut in the ground.
He may be short but I think the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree, the first novice to win the race for 41 years, sets the standard here. He hasn't been in the best of health since that amazing win but looks like he has put all those injury setbacks behind him when he ran second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November, on his his first start of last season. He then ran a much better race when third in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April where a mistake two out really hurt him, but he rallied and was still only two lengths off Sizing John at the finish. I think he is the class act in a strong field.
Harry Fry has worked wonders with Air Horse One, improving him markedly, winning three races and finishing a close fourth in the County Hurdle at the festival last season. He runs today off a mark of 141 and that's only one pound higher than his festival mark, where surely a similar display will see him involved in the finish under the steerage of Noel Fehily.
The market leader is the Nicky Henderson's mare Verdana Blue who was fourth in a Grade 2 at the festival last term but she seems to be struggling to finish off her races. Comments in her form like last time out "switched left before last, ridden and not quicken flat, no impression on leaders" and her penultimate race "no extra close home" suggest she may not be up for the fight and she could be one to lay at shorter prices in running.
2017 Overall (prior to this week): +29.15 pts
This week so far...
Staked: 2 pts
Returned: 5.8 pts