With Tony Calvin away, Alan Dudman is on duty to preview Saturday's ITV4 action, and his main betting focus is at Ascot but he also has a selection in the big race of the day at Haydock....
"To add to the bets for a cracking handicap over fences for Ascot's 15:00, I've got to include Happy Diva."
With plenty of trial races coming up on Saturday - particularly at Haydock with the Supreme and Champion Hurdle trials, I am hoping the weather doesn't intervene. Rain was forecast for the Friday in the north west, with snow a possibility on Saturday. Haydock has to pass their morning inspection at 07:30, and Clerk of the Course Kirkland Tellwright is confident.
Here's hoping, and we'll preview the Peter Marsh later on.
Petticoat can run well at big odds
We'll start in race time order for the Ascot card and the Grade 2 mares' hurdle at 13:50 over 3m. That distance should really benefit Jester Jet. She has four runner-up finishes this term, but I can't see an awful lot wrong with her attitude. She has been running over trips far shorter than what she'll face on Saturday.
Back hurdling for this, and a return to a more suitable distance, she is quite a strong stayer. Jester Jet also has plenty of form on good and soft ground so conditions won't be a problem. Especially, if like me, you've been on weather watch.
Her and If You Say Run are towards the top end of the market, so they don't really fit the bill for a Saturday big price. If You Say Run looked good when landing a mares' handicap hurdle in November at Wincanton from 131, but she blotted her copybook by throwing away her race at Kempton last time at Listed level.
She was done at [1.04] in that, the second occasion she has been beaten at ultra-short odds (she was also matched in-play at [1.03] at Ludlow).
I'll be taking a punt on Warren Greatrex's Petticoat Tails, and she has returned well this season from a wind op and looks the type that should enjoy a stiff 3m finish.
She ran on well in a handicap at Cheltenham last time from a mark of 127. She has a bit to find on the form book, but my opinion in these mares' events is that the gap can be bridged. She has Ascot form with a 2m6f run under her belt at the track, and I think she will benefit from 3m - certainly judged on that run at Prestbury Park.The cheekpieces are also retained, and she can go well. She was 10/1 on the Sportsbook initailly, which is a fair reflection of her chances. She might not be good enough, but the trip is key.
Stick with Better Getalong and add Seddon to the mix
We've already got Better Getalong onside for the 14:25 at Ascot - and it's a good handicap hurdle over 2m4f. Nothing has changed to deviate from the bet there with the Nicky Richards horse. He never budged in the Sportsbook up until Thursday, and he's an interesting one judged on his novice form. The case was made for him earlier in the week on the ante-post column.
I didn't mention one of the massively unexposed runners on that occasion, so we'll rectify that with Seddon (it would have been two with Highest Sun, but he wasn't declared). Seddon (pictured, above) goes handicapping for the first time from 137 for Tom George and might just be better if the ground stays on the decent side of things. A lot of the George runners seem to act on better ground.
He finished 12th in the Champion Bumper and was in the Ascot Angels Breath race last time at the track over 2m. That was steadily run and Seddon was keen in the contest. A better pace, quicker ground and a big field might just help him, as will the step up in distance to 2m4f. The handicapper has raised him a further 5lb for that Ascot run. With form in Graded races, anything around [5.0] to [6.0] he is clearly a danger.
Back Pictons and Diva for chasing cracker
The midweek ante-post pick of Belami Des Pictons was a big mover during the week from 12/1 into 7/1, so we've got to be fairly happy with that position heading into Saturday. Jockey Charlie Deutsch was originally booked on Calipto, but he hasn't made the cut, and Deutsch is riding with plenty of confidence at the moment.
I'm looking forward to seeing him on board Belami Des Pictons. Calipto's loss is our gain.
To add to the bets for a cracking handicap over fences for Ascot's 15:00, I've got to include Happy Diva.
Yes, the Kerry Lee stable are very quiet, but Magic Dancer ran fine to finish second a week ago. Maybe she might want the ground to be on the softer side, so that is a risk, but she's a decent mare with some strong form this season. In fact, the more I looked, the more impressed I was. She makes the list of two.
You might remember her being brought down in the Betvictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, and she was travelling very well until four out. The gallop was brutal in that as Baron Alco and Frodon finished first and second, but she looked as though she would have had a say in the finish.
She backed up that effort to prove there were no ill effects from the incident to run well again at Prestbury Park behind Venetia Williams' Aso - who could be a Ryanair candidate again. That was strong form over a similar sort of trip to what she'll face on Saturday.
Richard Patrick is on board, and I really like these claims in the big races. He knows how to ride her too as she likes being delivered late and usually travels well.
From a mark of 142, she is still well treated considering she was a 135-rated novice hurdler. Keep on eye on the ground with her, but hopefully the trainer can get amongst the winners following a cold spell.
Just two rivals for Altior
I haven't really got too much to add regarding Altior (pictured) for the televised race in the Grade 1 Clarence House - and he was trading at [1.14] on Thursday. He was [1.12] on Friday morning.
The absence of Un De Sceaux was not a surprise given the ground, and with just two opponents, it isn't a big price Saturday column race.
Coming up with an enticing headline wasn't easy. In the old days when I worked at footballing service Clubcall, one of the best headlines on the old Teletext pages (before the internet arrived) was for Ipswich and it said: "Swedish Coach Arrives" in red flashing letters. It was just that, a Scania luxury coach with all mod cons.
We'll swiftly move on (and save on the word count).
Fisher to enhance Supreme claims but too short to back
On to Haydock we march - weather permitting.....
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson had both Angels Breath and Mister Fisher entered up during the week for the 14:05 Rossington Main, with both dominating the market at 10/11 and 7/4. Angels Breath isn't running and he probably wants deep ground. It's a small field that doesn't get the betting juices flowing unfortunately.
Mister Fisher showed his inexperience when clouting the last at Newbury in November but he looked more clued-up when winning by three lengths in traditionally-strong novice at Kempton last time. He won by three lengths and beat Didtheyleaveuoutto (nightmare to type) and Thomas Darby - and the former could be a Betfair Hurdle candidate at 10/1 on the Sportsbook. He looks well handicapped for that.
However, it's a race I am struggling to find something at a price, but there could be a bit of activity in Mister Fisher's Supreme Novices' Hurdle odds of [15.50].
Silver looking for gold in the Champion Hurdle trial
It's a real shame Clyne won't be turning up for the 14:40 at Haydock, neither Brain Power for that matter. And in the race named after four-time winner The New One, we won't be getting anything fancy in terms of a price on Silver Streak.
He was behind Brain Power last time in the International, but BP is a bit overrated for me. So we'll pass at around 6/4.
For an outsider the real flyer could be Pingshou. He has been running over fences this season without any joy, and was last seen running in the Henry VIII. Indeed, on some of his form you could say Henry VIII would have more chance of winning this, but Pingshou is a Grade 1 winner at Aintree. He's better with a positive ride so I imagine he'll sit on the tail of usual front-runner Global Citizen, but I will be passing in terms of a bet as he is best on good ground and we are unlikely to have that at Haydock.
Back two for the Peter Marsh
With two ante-post picks in the midweek column for the feature Peter Marsh Chase at 15:15, I was rather gutted that Fine Rightly didn't make the cut as I was looking forward to seeing him tank through the race again!
However, we are left with Robinsfirth for the staying feature over fences, and he was backed in the week too. Returning from a break of 400 days, that was encouraging to see some money for him, and he's a horse with untapped potential as a stayer as I outlined on Wednesday. He was trading at [8.20] to back on Friday morning.
He'll have to be decent to win this, mind, as there are some serious Grand National contenders up against him but the withdrawal of Nicky Henderson's Valtor certainly makes his task a touch easier.
Favourite Daklondike showed his stamina to win the Tommy Whittle at the track last time. That came in heavy and the first time visor worked a treat, and he'll enjoy a return to further as stamina really his forte. He is towards the top of the market so again, we will leave him alone.
While Red Infantry produced a PB to win at Haydock over 3m5f from 132. So it might be hard for him to improve again.
I briefly toyed with the idea of backing Otago Trail, and there was a bit of cash to take at [10.0] on the Thursday. He finished second in the race by some distance behind Bristol De Mai, but is 2lb higher 12 months on with 153. Like Wakanda, he didn't quite make the list.
Back Petticoat Tails @ [12.0] in the 13:50 at Ascot
Already advised: Better Getalong @ 10/1 in the 14:25 at Ascot
Back Seddon @ [6.0] in the 14:25 at Ascot
Back Happy Diva @ [10.0] in the 15:00 at Ascot
Already advised: Belami Des Pictons @ 12/1 in the 15:00 at Ascot
Already advised: Robinsfirth @ 10/1 in the 15:15 at Haydock