12:55 Ascot

DEMACHINE (NAP) (best price 5-2) clocked a very smart speed figure when scoring on chasing debut in a wildly-competitive affair at Uttoxeter a month ago and with virtually everything come out of the race going on to boost the form subsequently, Kerry Lee’s inmate rates a confident choice to follow up.

Placed in three useful novice hurdles last season, the son of Flemensfirth has always been regarded as a long-term chasing project and on the evidence of what we witnessed at the Midland venue, the sky’s the limit for this talented individual. The way he jumped and travelled before going on to outstay a smart field 36 days ago marked him down as a well-handicapped youngster and with the likes of Morning Vicar, Canello, Northofthewall and Checkitout (both fell when still in the lead at Aintree at Ludlow respectively), the race in question looks one of the strongest of its kind during the early part of the campaign. Young Bull, third in the same race, looks the obvious threat.

Demachine - 1pt @ 5/2

13:30 Ascot

HOTTER THAN HELL (best price 5-1) couldn’t quite live with the front two in an ultra-competitive mares’ handicap hurdle at Wincanton last time out, but she still managed to capture quite a few big name scalps in the process and with today’s contest looking decidedly weaker on paper, it would come as something of a surprise if she wasn’t a huge contender come the business end.

Slightly disappointing the time before at Ludlow, Alan King’s mare was on a retrieval mission at the West Country venue and even though she didn’t manage to win, there’s little doubt she ran somewhere close to career high based on the speed figures and overall quality of opposition. Keeping on well late on after getting outpaced between the final two flights, hopefully today’s step up to three miles can bring about a degree of improvement and if so, that should be good enough to see her in the frame at the very least.

Hotter Than Hell - 1pt e/w @ 5/1

13:37 Naas

DAMALISQUE (best price 7-1) hasn’t raced over hurdles for 798 days but given his recent exploits on the Flat, there’s a decent chance he can make up for lost time.

Clearly the son of Linda’s Lad has had one or two issues over the past few years, but on the evidence of what we saw of him at the Curragh 41 days ago, the ability and engine is still there in spades. Noted travelling as well as anything turning for home, Edward Harty’s gelding just couldn’t quite keep tabs on the very smart Mt Leinster in the closing stages, but considering the winner is rated 97 on the Flat, you could easily forgive him on that score. Rated 5lb lower than when we last saw him over hurdles and hailing from a yard who won this race last season in the shape of the classy Kilfenora, it would come as a surprise if this lightly-raced sort wasn’t competitive off 118.

Damalisque - 1pt e/w @ 7/1

13:50 Haydock

The first thing to notice in this competitive handicap is the likelihood of a very strong pace with Kid Commando and Le Ligerien both all-the-way winners last time out in the line-up and that scenario could play into the hands of the strong-travelling SHAKEM UPHARRY (best price 11-2), who may well benefit from a stalking ride just in behind the speed.

Always very highly regarded, Ben Pauling’s gelding had the misfortune to bump into the likes of Shishkin and Mister Coffey on his first two starts over hurdles and those two useful efforts prompted connections to have a tilt at the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival. Unfortunately, the son of Flemensfirth proved unequal to the task, but it meant that his handicap mark of 127 was untouched for the beginning of this season and on the evidence of what we saw of him at Ffos Las a few weeks ago, it’s one he should easily be capable of exploiting. Always in a low gear at the Welsh track, the strapping six-year-old clocked a smart speed figure without being unduly stretched and with today’s trip, track and ground all in his favour, a big run looks on the cards.

Shakem Upharry - 1pt e/w @ 11/2

14:25 Haydock

As we’ve seen already this season, the form of the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival couldn’t be any stronger with the first two home, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller, going on to land big pots in recent weeks, so it should pay to keep THIRD WIND (best price 7-1) and RELEGATE (best price 5-1) on side in this competitive affair having both run blinders from the back of the pack in that hot handicap back in March.

The former just came out best of the pair in fifth and that performance has to go down as a career high considering the severity of the opposition that day and given how far back he came from. Indeed, even getting beaten 11 lengths, his final circuit sectionals still came out miles better than those achieved by Lisnagar Oscar and Co in the Grade 1 on the same card and considering the ground may not have been totally to his liking either, his display needs upgrading. Sure to be better for his seasonal return when once again finding decent ground unsuitable, Hughie Morrison’s gelding now returns to a surface where his stats read 11114 and he rates a must for anyone’s shortlist with so many positives in his favour.

The latter also produced a tremendous effort from the back of the pack in the Pertemps Final and. as a result, she too looks potentially very well handicapped now coming across the Irish Sea for a tilt at another decent pot. Similarly to Third Wind, Colm Murphy’s mare is likely to strip fitter for her opening gambit of the season behind Sire Du Berlais over a trip short of her best and with the cheekpieces on in a bid to keep her mind on the job, she will be a danger to all if in a challenging position turning for home.

Third Wind - 1pt e/w @ 7/1
Relagate - 1pt @ 5/1

15:35 Haydock

As we witnessed last weekend, Evan Williams is a man to be feared in big Saturday handicaps and POBBLES BAY (best price 17-2) should go close to providing the Welsh handler another notable winner.

Having his first outing of the season, the son of Oscar kept on well from the rear of the field to finish a creditable runner-up to the impressive winner Minellacelebration and with the numbers for the three-mile event on-par with the Old Roan Chase on the same card, it’s clear that he ran to a very high level following a 230-day break. Well suited by a proper test on soft ground, the 10-year-old is likely to be in his element given today’s conditions.

Pobbles Bay - 0.5pts e/w @ 17/2