Cheltenham clues aplenty at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton

County Hurdle hero Ch'tibello lines up in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
County Hurdle hero Ch'tibello lines up in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.

Storm Dennis is expected to batter Britain this weekend, with inspections galore taking place on Saturday, but Steve Chambers previews all the National Hunt action from Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton...

Ascot (8am precautionary inspection)

A seven-race card dominated by the Ascot Chase at 15:35, which will see Cyrname attempt to retain his Grade 1 crown against the exciting, improving Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Riders Onthe Storm in a thrilling four-runner feature. Paul Nicholls' Cyrname was beaten in the King George VI Chase last time out and will face Riders Onthe Storm, who was a facile winner last time out and will hope to use this race as a stepping stone to the Ryanair Chase at next month's Cheltenham Festival.

A relative match on paper according to the bookmakers, there's arguably more exciting betting heats taking place at Ascot on Saturday afternoon, with the six-runner Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at 13:50 one of the notable punting head-scratchers.

Anthony Honeyball's Sam Brown, Nicky Henderson's Pym and Colin Tizzard's Copperhead have all been victorious in their last two outings, with the first-named last seen winning a Grade 2 race at Haydock Park last month. As short as 10/1 for the RSA Chase and National Hunt Chase, Sam Brown is novice chaser on the up, but he will face his toughest test to date on Saturday against some proven talents.

Pym (14/1 for RSA Chase) beat the smart Imperial Aura at Cheltenham by eight lengths on his latest outing, and the Seven Barrows in-mate has shaped like there's more to come over fences, while Copperhead (14/1 for RSA Chase) was a Grade 3 handicap chase winner at Newbury in December and has shown that stamina is certainly one of his finest attributes.

Grade 2-winning novice chaser Danny Whizzbang for the aforementioned Nicholls and Kim Bailey's Two For Gold, who is bidding for a four-timer, add yet more depth to an epic renewal of the Reynoldstown, with the winner certain to be shortened by the bookmakers for the staying novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival.

Haydock Park

It's Grand National Trial Day at Haydock Park, and you can read Nick Seddon's Grand National Trial preview here, but in this piece we are going to focus on the undercard and the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at 14:05, where we will see the stamina-laden horses launch into the limelight with some vital Stayers' Hurdle clues on offer.

Alan King's The Worlds End was last seen winning the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, which came in testing conditions, so the heavy ground at Haydock Park should play to his strengths, and that's why the Barbury Castle in-mate has been installed as the race favourite. Around a 16/1 chance for the Stayers' Hurdle, The Worlds End will have the tough task of trying to down Paisley Park at Cheltenham next month, but this assignment is certainly within his capabilities.

Having ended last season with a fine second place in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle, the Warren Greatrex-trained Emitom failed to fire on his reappearance when last of six in the Relkeel Hurdle, but the six-year-old is sure to improve for that outing and while he may lack the proven form The Worlds End has to offer, he is somewhat of an unknown quantity, so warrants respect.

As big as 50/1 for the Stayers' Hurdle, West Approach will return to hurdles for the first time since finishing sixth in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in April. Disappointing over fences and last seen pulling up in the Welsh National, Colin Tizzard's raider will hope that a return to the smaller obstacles can see him recapture his best form.

Winless since March 2018, Clyne has been struggling to notch up a win in handicap company of late, so a return to Graded races will hand him a tough task in a race that is all about The Worlds End, who can book his place in the Stayers' Hurdle with a win.

Wincanton (8am precautionary inspection)

As well as Ascot, Wincanton will face an inspection at 8am to determine whether their racing on Saturday can go ahead. If the clerk of the course gives the meeting the green light, the Kingwell Hurdle at 14:45 will be the highlight.

It's disappointing that Champion Hurdle hope Fusil Raffles will not be running, but it's still a competitive-looking renewal of the Grade 2 event, but this year's race could well turn into more of a County Hurdle trial than that of a Champion Hurdle prep.

Dan Skelton's Ch'tibello tasted County Hurdle success at last year's Cheltenham Festival, and he is a leading fancy for the Kingwell Hurdle, as he looks to record his first win since that day in the sun last March. Well beaten in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park, Ch'tibello will attempt to put up a bold show here, but will have to get the better of the Paul Nicholls-trained Quel Destin.

Fifth in the Triumph Hurdle in 2019, the Ditcheat in-mate was last seen winning the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown Park, so heads to his local track in fine fettle, and is arguably the one to beat.

Of the others, Elgin (33/1 for Champion Hurdle) has been competing on the Flat of late, so is an intriguing runner now returning to the jumping sphere, while the Tom Symonds-trained Song For Someone is a hurdler on a steady incline and was second in a Grade 3 handicap hurdle last time, but will need to improve further to land this prize.

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