Racing returned to the fold on Wednesday after a six-day break due to the outbreak of equine influenza and fans of the sport have plenty to look forward to on Saturday including a bumper nine-race card at Ascot.
The Berkshire track will play host to the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase and the rescheduled Grade 2 Denman Chase and Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle, which were lost from Newbury’s card on February 9.
Randox Health Grand National hopefuls will test their credentials in the Grand National Handicap Trial at Haydock, which has also gained the Listed Mares’ Hurdle from Warwick to make it an eight-race card at the Cheshire track.
A host of exciting horses will be having their last runs ahead of the Cheltenham Festival next month and here are five individuals to follow on a superb day of racing.
Unbeaten in three starts this season for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, Al Dancer bids to continue his winning run in the rescheduled Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle. The six-year-old has long been the favourite for this contest in many people’s eyes and it’s hard not to see why.
When last seen at Cheltenham in December, he showed plenty of speed to win by 11 lengths. He holds entries in both the Grade 1 SkyBet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle showing he is highly thought of by connections.
Clan Des Obeaux
Having stunned his elders with a devastating performance in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton last month, the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux will look to continue his upward trajectory in the rescheduled Grade 2 Denman Chase at Ascot.
The seven-year-old will face six rivals including Thomas Patrick and Terrefort but he is clearly head and shoulders above the opposition. Expect the son of Kapgarde to tune up perfectly for a tilt at next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Aptly named, Ruth Jefferson’s stable star will bid to get his season up and running with a return to the scene of his greatest victory to date – the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. The eight-year-old will bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the race since Riverside Theatre in 2011 and 2012.
Not seen since the Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, we will never have known how close he would have come to the winner Clan Des Obeaux having unseated jockey Brian Hughes in the early stages of that contest.
Bound for this year’s Randox Health Grand National is the Colin Tizzard-trained Royal Vacation. The nine-year-old, who sports the colours of the now retired Cue Card, is well suited to the 3m4½f trip of the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock having won over the distance at Taunton in January.
The son of King’s Theatre finished second behind Rock The Kasbah in the Grade 3 BetVictor Handicap Chase on his first outing this season and will have to fend off the challenge of the Venetia Williams-trained Yala Enki, who is bidding for back-to-back successes in the race.
Grade 1 winner Sceau Royal, last seen finishing fourth behind Altior in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase, makes the switch to hurdles on Saturday in the Grade 2 Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
Reverting back to hurdles shouldn’t be a worry for the seven-year-old as he recorded six victories in that discipline before graduating to be a Grade 1-winning chaser. He looks the most likely to trouble Paul Nicholls’ highly-promising Grand Sancy.