Simon Holt: Card can collect
Channel 4 Racing commentator Simon Holt focuses on Saturday's action from Haydock in this week's preview and has two bets.
Paddy Brennan and Cue Card can claim the Betfair Chase
CUE CARD, with the race likely to be run to suit him, is fancied to win his third Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
On official ratings, Colin Tizzard's hugely popular chaser has 6lb in hand over the returning 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, and is expected to come on a bundle for a slightly disappointing reappearance when finishing about three lengths third behind Irish Cavalier (now 4lb worse) off and Menorah in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Connections thought they got the tactics wrong that day; Cue Card was ridden aggressively some way from home and got a bit tired but he wasn't at his best when winning that race last year only to reappear here and hand out a seven length thrashing to Silviniaco Conti.
A subsequent defeat of Vautour in the King George and an unfortunate fall in the Gold Cup (falling three out having just taken up the running) before hacking up at Aintree confirmed that he was the best staying chaser in Britain last season, and the likely fast pace here could play into Paddy Brennan's hands.
Coneygree is reported in good shape for this back-from-injury reappearance and is an exceptional galloper and fluent jumper. He is bound to run from the front and try to stretch his rivals but, with fellow prominent racers Silviniaco Conti and Seeyouatmidnight in the field, there could be pressure on the pace from the outset. This will be a real test of his fitness and there could be some weary horses over the last few fences.
Silviniaco Conti might not have been at his best last term and it could be that he will struggle to recover the form that has won him seven chases at Grade One level including two victories in this race and the King George.
Reappearing for the first time since pulling up in the Grand National in April, Noel Fehily's mount jumped superbly at Down Royal earlier in the month but was readily outpointed by Valseur Lido and didn't finish that far in front of rivals who should have been much further behind him. However, he should come on for the run.
One senses that Seeyouatmidnight will need to improve plenty to win given that he finished third in the Scottish National off a mark of 149, some 27lb lower than Cue Card's rating, though he is a most likeable type and jumped impeccably when disposing of sole rival Bristol De Mai at Carlisle late last month.
Irish Cavalier has long looked a potentially smart chaser and, with his stable in great form this season, certainly fulfilled some of that potential in the Charlie Hall but Cue Card set it up for him that day and he could struggle to confirm the form.
Menorah never travelled in that race yet stuck on gamely on the good ground which suits him and finished second in this race to Siviniaco Conti in 2014 (Cue Card fourth). Conditions here are likely to be much softer than at Wetherby.
Vezelay is a listed chase winner in France and ran well over hurdles last month at Auteuil. A very consistent type and just a seven-year-old, he clearly possesses plenty of ability but the likelihood is he won't be quite good enough.
In the Betfair Exchange 'Fixed Brush' Handicap Hurdle, YALA ENKI is fancied to improve on his fifth place behind Baradari 12 months ago.
The Venetia Williams-trained front runner goes well when fresh as he slammed the useful Duke Des Champs first time out last term (which may have taken the edge off him in this race) and later won the Lanzarote Hurdle, beating Westren Warrior (same terms) by two lengths at Kempton after a break.
Yala Enki was rated 3lb higher than his mark here when beating Mr Mix and Aloomomo in a useful novice hurdle at Ascot in February, was quickly pulled up after an early mistake at the Cheltenham Festival next time and then ran alright (but possibly not at his best) when fifth to Ballyoptic on his final start at Aintree.
With not too much competition for the lead here, he could take some pegging back with Harry Cobden excellent value for his 3lb allowance.
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