Champion Hurdle heroine Annie Power is the only horse to inflict defeat on MY TENT OR YOURS (Best price 11-10) when he has been rested in excess of six months so it is difficult to envisage defeat if he is anywhere near straight today. Admittedly, the Lambourn raider, fragile and mercurial in equal measures, is hardly an ideal horse to be hammering at short odds in a small-field early season contest, but he should outclass his three rivals even if the ground is a little deeper than ideal for his comeback.£10 Free Credit and a £500 Deposit Bonus
The ground at the Lancashire value ranged from soft to choppy yesterday and one horse which should relish conditions is WESTREN WARRIOR (Best price 15-2). The seven-year-old should strip fitter for a taking Cheltenham reappearance a month ago when not knocked about and he will surely appreciate the opportunity to tackle deep conditions again. It has been well documented Brian Hughes has been in fantastic form in the saddle and I’m hoping a horse who hasn’t always been the most fluent at his obstacles can find some rhythm with the in-form Irishman on board.
The last two winners of the Betfair Chase resume rivalries today when SILVINIACO CONTI (Best price 8-1) and Cue Card square up at the Lancashire venue with the score tantalisingly poised at two victories apiece. Connections of both chasing stalwarts, who have dominated this race since 2012, realise completing a hat-trick of successes in the Grade 1 feature will take a monumental effort with 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree standing in their way. However, the nine-year-old faces two race-fit rivals which both adore Haydock and he is entitled to be ring-rusty after such a spell on the sidelines so it will be a tremendous performance if he can defy a 377-day absence to complete a magical six-timer.
It could be that Silviniaco Conti, who himself slammed Cue Card by 12 lengths in this event two years ago, rates a decent value bet to upstage the market leaders. I thought he showed plenty of verve and enthusiasm at Down Royale on his comeback, especially as it is common knowledge the 10-year-old always needs his first run of the campaign to blow away the cobwebs and he may enjoy a nice lead into this afternoon’s affair if Coneygree and Seeyouatmidnight duel for the lead up front.
STRAIDNAHANNA (Best price 9-2) was far from beaten in this race 12 months ago when crashing out at the third-last fence and could be ready to make amends today. Danny Cook seems to prefer his chance of the two Sue Smith runners and, although the ground could be desperate by close of play, he narrowly gains the nod over the returning Baroque. The latter will be understandably popular given most of his stable's runners prefer deep ground but I wonder if the Welsh National maybe more of a priority for him and Firebird Flyer a little further down the line.
Paul Nicholls has found the Stella Artois 1965 Chase a happy hunting ground in the past decade, winning the feature chase four times with the likes of Al Ferof and dual winner Master Minded. The Ditcheat handler again has a strong hand today as he saddles both Vibrato Valtat and DODGING BULLETS (Best price 3-1) with preference for the latter who made a nice return to action at Exeter. The 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner would arguably have found two miles on good ground an insufficient test at this stage of his career and he should be highly competitive upped in trip today.
Most onlookers felt Zarkandar was desperately unfortunate not to win at Aintree on his return from injury when capsizing at the last hurdle. That unfortunate unseat of Sean Bowen robbed the nine-year-old of a fairytale comeback and he returns to the track quickly bidding to add his name to an impressive roll call of previous winners. I am usually a little wary of horses that revisit the track so quickly following a lengthy absence so with that in mind YANWORTH (Best price Evens) is given the nod. Backing horses at around even money first time out is not an ideal punting strategy, but Alan King’s progressive hurdler boasts an impressive record fresh so can take today’s examination in his stride.
In the hope the ground doesn’t deteriorate markedly, VANITEUX (Best price 11-4) is taken to enhance Nicky Henderson’s excellent recent run at the track. The seven-year-old was only a length behind Arkle winner Douvan when capsizing at the second last fence at the Cheltenham festival in March and, with that form of that race working out impressively, he should go well here even off a lofty mark of 154. The selection’s two appearances following a sustained period of absence have yielded a decent second in the Greatwood Hurdle and a 19-length novice chase success at Kempton so he should be ready to roll first time out.
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