CUE CARD (3.00) may have been written off prematurely in some quarters and he can win his fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Colin Tizzard’s venerable star will be 12 years of age in five weeks’ time but was still going well enough when coming to grief in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Paddy O’Brien tended to blame the low-lying sun for that aberration but Cue Card’s stalwart jockey for the past two years is now replaced by young Harry Cobden.
No doubt he will have Cue Card sitting handy just off the pace, tactics which saw him powering 15 lengths clear of Coneygree 12 months ago.
Rising star Bristol De Mai is still only a six-year-old and the Wetherby winner has won both his visits to Haydock by very wide margins. He had 22 lengths to spare over Otago Trail last January and hacked up by 32 lengths here in a novice chase in January 2016.
Gordon Elliott sends over his recent Down Royal winner Outlander, with cheek-pieces retained.
Outlander, a past winner of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, has had back problems but remedial work seems to have done the trick and it would be folly to think this is a two-horse race.
LE ROCHER (2.25) is a confirmed mud-lover and should go close in the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle.
Nick Williams has mopped up this event twice in recent years with Aubusson and Diamond Harry, and Le Rocher has been successful three times on heavy.
His recent pipe-opener behind Court Minstrel at Chepstow, a race which is working out remarkably well, should have put him spot-on and the handicapper has dropped him 2lb.
If all 16 runners go to post he should run well against a whole host of more fancied rivals.
CLYNE (1.50) reeled off four straight wins on very deep ground, two of them coming at Haydock, and he must go well in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle.
The Evan Williams-trained gelding handed out a seven lengths thumping to Verni last winter and the runner-up is no better off when taking into account Mitchell Bastayn’s 5lb claim.
Clyne only gave second-best close home to The New One after a gruelling battle on his return at Ffos Las (heavy) and Williams has wisely given him a 35-day break to recover from those exertions.
CLAN DES OBEAUX (1.15), a dual novice chase winner for Paul Nicholls, may be the answer to an intriguing Betfair Graduation Chase.
His gelding has twice run useful Whisper to under a length and Clan Des Obeaux finished second on heavy in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham last January
All six runners appear to have a bright future and it looks another race to savour.
At Ascot, TOP NOTCH (2.05) will be the all the better for his comeback run over hurdles at Aintree and will take some stopping in the Christy 1965 Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old enjoyed a splendid novice chase campaign last season, scoring four times and running Yorkhill close in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.