13:10 Ascot

The SBK Handicap Chase looks wide-open and I like the look of COBOLOBO (best price 9-1) who is taken to bounce back to form and hopefully go one better than he did twelve months ago. The ten-year-old doesn’t have the most consistent of profiles but he ran a great race in this last year off top-weight off a mark of 138 and is effectively ten-pounds lower this time round with lesser weight to carry. His latest showing wasn’t exactly encouraging but this track clearly plays to his strengths and now that he has finally been given some relief by the assessor, this quirky but talented ten-year-old should be ready to spark a revival with a decent showing of himself back on the same mark as when last successful. 
Cobolobo - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/1

13:40 Navan

The Navan Handicap Hurdle will see the return of two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll, who heads the weights but I’m drawn to the claims of stablemate DUFFLE COAT (best price 12-1), who makes plenty of each-way appeal with fives places widely available under the assistance of Davy Russell. 

Unbeaten in his first four starts over hurdles as a juvenile, he has been tried over three-miles the last twice without making any sort of impact but will appreciate the drop back in distance, over this intermediate trip, and I’m glad Davy Russell maintains the partnership, too. He’s got quite a bit of weight to carry for his age but he’s evidently well-treated off a mark of 141, based upon his Grade Two win at Cheltenham, where he beat subsequent Greatwood Hurdle runner-up Adagio who was rated 147 going into that high-class handicap at Cheltenham on the back of a pair of second placed efforts in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle and Grade 1 Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle. Duffle Coat needs to bounce back to his best but he has the class to plant himself right in the picture here with the possibility of outclassing these if able to reproduce anything close to last season’s smart juvenile form. 

Duffle Coat - 0.5pts e/w @ 12/1

14:00 Haydock

HUNTERS CALL (best price 5-2) is almost entering the teenage category but he seems to be getting better with age and, although he’ll be tackling one of the rising stars from the north in the shape of Tommy’s Oscar, I fancy Olly Murphy’s charge to give Ann Hamilton’s potential Champion Hurdle candidate something to think about down the home-straight. 

This twelve-year-old has been in superb form this term, where he produced a smart handicapping performance at Bangor on return to action before backing up that initial impressive display when third in the Grade Two International Hurdle next time. He looked to be travelling all over Guard Your Dreams on the run down to the final hurdle but the climb to the line just found him out in the closing stages, which led to Song For Someone just mugging him for second place. That was still a fantastic performance in defeat, though, as it proved he can still mix it at a high level and whilst Tommy’s Oscar might just come out on top, if the official ratings are anything to go by, this quality veteran of the party, however, has the stronger form of the pair and looks the better value. 

Hunters Call - 1pt @ 5/2

14:35 Haydock

This is slightly a stronger renewal than the one ROYAL PAGAILLE (best price 3-1) won last year but Venetia Williams high-class chaser gets his conditions for the first time since romping to victory in this twelve months ago by sixteen lengths and can repeat the feat this afternoon back at this favourite venue for his in-form handler and jockey. 

The eight-year-old came through the ranks last season, including his easy victory off top-weight in this, which deservedly earned him a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He wasn’t at his best that day and was reported to be lame but, to his credit, still finished an honourable sixth and he returned with an excellent second in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase behind A Plus Tard over today’s course-and-distance. His display in defeat can be upgraded to some extent, too, as he did well to hold his pitch for as long as he did on the good-to-soft ground, which was a lot quicker than ideal. That was a perfect warm-up for this assignment and, being only seven-pounds higher than last year in this event against mostly handicappers, the class act in the field is strongly-fancied to make it three wins from four starts in Merseyside. 

Royal Pagaille - 1pt @ 3/1

14:43 Taunton

The consistent LEONCAVALLO (best price 9-2) wasn’t at his best last time, where his jumping was a bit scruffy, but he continues to perform admirably well and it seems only a better of time before he gets his head in front. 

He has run well to hit the frame in a pair of quality handicaps at Ascot this season, including when  second to the high-class Soaring Glory so it’s interesting connections have decided to send him to Taunton to tackle this easier assignment rather than the race the Garry Clermont will contest later. A reproduction of some of his best efforts this season, including either his third in the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his reappearance or his second when giving a chunk of weight to subsequent Lanzarote winner Cobbler’s Dream should be more than enough to see him return to the winner’s enclosure or, at the very least, reach the frame.

Leoncavallo - 0.5pts e/w @ 9/2

15:45 Haydock

Later on, in the Smalley Decorators Handicap Chase, the Dr Richard Newland-trained KATPOLI (best price 7-2) looks a good bet to potentially resume winning ways for a yard amongst the winners of late. 

The seven-year-old scored twice in this sphere a couple seasons ago on soft ground, including a comfortable defeat of the 134-rated Hawk High in a class-two event before finishing second at Doncaster off a mark of 137 in the same grade. He was then absent for eight months but looked to be travelling strongly on return at Cheltenham, where he was starting to make his move through the field before making a bad blunder four out, sending Charlie Hammond out of the side door. He then returned from a fourteen-month absence, last month, where he was given a considerate return to action in a warm race for the grade at wetherby. That said, he was yet to be asked for maximum effort, as he was travelling very powerfully, until belting the fourth last. I think that reappearance will have blown away the cobwebs and therefore the combination of today’s drop in grade allied to the trip/conditions should make him difficult to beat.

Katpoli - 1pt @ 7/2