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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019

Mark your Card: your best bets for the weekend's racing

With three graded races to pick from today, analyst Declan Smyth flicks through the form book in search of a winner.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

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TEMPUS FUGIT — time flees and waits for neither man nor beast.

Today’s feature is the Grade 1 Betfair Chase (Lancashire Chase) at Haydock Park. In many ways, it’s an intriguing contest despite the fact that Long Run looks like going off an odds-on favourite.

Diamond Harry won first time out last season and is a class act. However he appears to be a delicate sort and I expect that he would like the going a bit softer than it will be tomorrow.

Kauto Star has been one of the great horses of this or any era, winning 21 times from 38 starts and being placed 11 times, amassing over £2 million in prize money. He’s a three-time winner of this race but time seems to be catching up on him — he celebrates his 12th birthday this January.

Although he beat Sizing Europe by four lengths in Down Royal this time last year, it would appear that the latter did not really stay the trip. Since then, Kauto was beaten by 19 lengths into third by Long Run in the delayed King George at Kempton in January and by 11 lengths in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before running a shocker and pulling up in the Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown.

The Nicholls team have nonetheless been very bullish about his chances this week. However, I can’t see him beating Long Run unless the latter blunders the race away.

Time for Rupert will have improved for his run in The Charlie Hall at Wetherby but his trainer is concerned that the course might not be testing enough. To some, Weird Al was a surprise winner of that Wetherby race but now has to be respected. He disappointed last season but has always been held in high regard by connections.

Given the probability of a short-odds favourite, this is a race to savour rather than bet in. Could it be the last time we see the great Kauto Star in action as he gives way to a new champion?

It’s great to see these horses take on each other and it is hard to oppose LONG RUN. Roll on 3.05pm.


Ascot stages the other two features of the day.

The Amlin Chase is off at 2.10pm with the field headed by Master Minded, the mount of Daryl Jacob. The two-time Queen Mother winner disappointed at Aintree on his reappearance last month when he was well beaten by Albertas Run at short odds. He tended to edge a bit right at his fences and excuses were made that perhaps the ground was firmer than he wanted or that he wasn’t as fit as Paul Nicholls had hoped.

The ground tomorrow will also be a problem for him with connections hoping for some rain. Ascot are watering the downhill part of the course and those who want to back the Master should keep an eye on the weather. He is reported to have been well schooled since his last run.

Medermit was a fortunate winner of the Halden Cup at Exeter after Captain Chris crashed out at the last when, in the opinion of most observers, he was coming to win the race. He will improve for the run but might prefer an extra furlong or two.

Somersby had a bloodless win over Aiteenthirtythree three weeks ago and may be coming back to some kind of form, but he usually finds one or two better than him in graded company. Kalahari King is reported to have burst blood vessels on his last two runs so is best avoided.

MASTER MINDED is the less than confident selection.


Ascot also sees the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle (2.45pm).

King of the Night represents Paul Nicholls. This gelding has gone up over 20lbs in the ratings since October and, while obviously improving, might still have too much to do here.

The 2008 Champion Hurdle winner Katchit reappears after over a year but he hasn’t won since that Championship victory and is hard to fancy.

Overturn represents the in-form stable of Donald McCain. Having been on the go since January, tomorrow’s race will be his first outing since winning a hurdle race at Perth in August.

However, I think that he’ll have to play second fiddle to Oscar Whisky from Nicky Henderson’s yard. This high-class gelding is seven wins from nine starts, his only defeats coming when fourth by four lengths to Menorah in the Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2010 and when third by six lengths to Hurricane Fly in the 2011 Champion Hurdle.

We’re taking his fitness on trust but the Henderson horses are running reasonably well and OSCAR WHISKY is the selection.

So we are looking forward to an afternoon where past champions seek to regain their former glory and where the up and coming youngsters want to move them over and assume the mantle. It’s going to make for some fascinating racing. Carpe Diem.

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About the author:

Declan Smyth

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