THE jumps season is now in full flow and the ground at Haydock tomorrow is set to be extremely testing.
The feature is the Betfair Chase and this now looks a guilt-edged chance for recent Charlie Hall winner Bristol De Mai to land the first major race of the staying chase division.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old will relish the bog-like conditions which put paid to Sizing John’s chance of running earlier this week, with further heavy rain forecast prior to tomorrow’s card.
Bristol De Mai jumped soundly and travelled powerfully throughout that aforementioned Wetherby contest, where tomorrow’s main market rival Cue Card fell, and I wouldn’t put anyone off the chances of him confirming the form with Colin Tizzard’s former King George winner.
I’m loathe to row in at evens with Bristol De Mai, but if he were to drift on the morning to anywhere around the 7/4 mark, he’d rate a good bet.
There’s several interesting bets on the rest of the card, where it will surely pay to stick with stamina-laden runners with a liking for heavy conditions, and with that in mind Claimantakinforgan makes plenty of appeal in the Newton Novices’ Hurdle (12.10) which opens the card.
Nicky Henderson's five-year-old was third in the Champion Bumper last season and looked a natural over timber when winning at Newbury on hurdling debut at Newbury earlier this month.
A point-to-point winner over three miles, Claimantakinforgan showed his depths of stamina when landing a heavy-ground bumper at Haydock on this card 12 months ago, and rates a fair bet to make it two from two at the track.
In the Betfair Each-Way Edge Handicap Chase (12.40), Russe Blanc should relish underfoot conditions in this gruelling test and can win for Kerry Lee.
Now a 10-year-old, Russe Blanc has won three of his last four starts on officially heavy ground, including a career best performance to win at Warwick back in January off 127.
A winless nine starts have followed but the white gelding is now back down to that last winning mark and should strip fitter for a recent reappearance run at Carlisle in the Cumberland Handicap Chase, where the 3m 2f trip may have proved insufficient for this dour soft-ground performer.
Verni looked a well-handicapped hurdler to keep onside when second in the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival and can land the Betfair Handicap Hurdle (1.50) for trainer in-form Philip Hobbs (25 per cent strike rate past 14 days).
Put away since that excellent run behind Champagne Classic in March, Verni is up just 4lb for that display to 139 and the presence of Richard Johnson in the saddle can only help the eight-year-old’s cause.
Previously, Verni hacked up on soft ground twice at Newton Abbot before thrashing his nine rivals at Taunton, plus his second behind Clyne at this track 12 months ago now reads very well, with that winner now a full 17lb higher. He rates a decent bet under the champion jockey.
Finally, with David Pipe’s yard absolutely flying, it might be worth chancing Champers On Ice in the Betfair Stayers Handicap Hurdle (formerly known as the Fixed Brush).
Things didn’t go to plan for the seven-year-old over fences last season, last seen when well-backed but pulled up in the four miler at the Festival.
A winner on both soft and heavy, stamina holds no fear for Pipe’s inmate, who won a highly competitive Punchestown bumper and backed that up with smart form in novice hurdle events at both Newbury and Cheltenham.
Those efforts make his hurdles mark of 143 look exploitable and with the yard now back in full working order after a lean 12 months, he makes appeal at 10/1.