Three Horses To Watch At Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton With The Cheltenham Festival In Mind

We pick out three horses worth a look with Cheltenham and Aintree in mind at weekend.
We pick out three horses worth a look with Cheltenham and Aintree in mind at weekend.

Joe Tuffin takes a look at the weekend's actions from Wincanton, Ascot and Haydock, and picks out three to watch with the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National meetings in mind...

Song For Someone - Kingwell Hurdle, Wincanton 15:18 

With The Cheltenham Festival now officially a month away, a lot of horses you may expect to see at Prestbury Park have been put away and wrapped in bubble wrap ahead of the big day, but one that may still be seen, and may well be a key contender, is the ultra impressive Song For Someone, who has wowed us this season with a real step up in his performances - bagging two Grade 2 wins in the Coral Hurdle and the International Hurdle.

It was mooted after his Coral Cup win that his big day would be the Aintree Hurdle at the Grand National meeting, but success over two-mile-one-furlong at Cheltenham has put him firmly in the Champion Hurdle picture - not least because it was Silver Streak who chased him home, who has since gone on to beat current champion Epatante at Grade 1 level.

His Wincanton assignment won’t be a walk in the park though, especially if second favourite Goshen finds a form revival and performs like the superstar he was tooted to be. He disappointed twice on his flat campaign in the summer before a stinker of a run in the International Hurdle saw him finish tenth of ten at Cheltenham, with Song For Someone 29-lengths ahead. If (and it’s a big IF) he returns to the form of last year he will probably beat Song For Someone, but i can’t with confidence suggest anyway that he will and for that reason it’s best to stick with the favourite. Navajo Pass is also of interest after enjoying a fine campaign, which included beating Buveur D’Air last time out in The New One Hurdle, but that’s an old Buveur D’Air who hadn’t ran for over a year, and Song For Someone is preferred. 

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Master Tommytucker - Ascot Chase, Ascot 15:35

Ah Master Tommytucker, you wonderful enigma of a horse. At first, I worried about him and his crazy method of jumping, which is basically to not jump, then I lost interest in him after being beaten by Al Dancer at Newton Abbot, but now I’m back supporting him after he appears to have mildly cleaned up his act while maintaining the ability we always knew he had. But even with the race at his mercy last time out in the Silviniaco Conti Chase, he still chucked himself through the fence and almost lost it in a staggering final fence flight. 

He’ll have to be at his very best if he’s to win his first Grade 1 this weekend as he takes on Mr Ascot himself in Cyrname, but we know he has the ability to be a Grade 1 horse the aforementioned Cyrname - who currently tops the market for this race - has only looked himself once in the last 12 months, when winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby. I really believe he’s vulnerable to a faultless Master Tommytucker performance but that really is hard to ensure.

If he performs and jumps well, then he may well be seen at the Festival next month where he holds two entries in both the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup. The Ryanair looks more his target, where he’s currently 20/1, but he genuinely could end up right at the top of the market alongside Allaho and Min if he gets up this weekend, and for that reason he’s probably worth a bit of a play at 20/1 on the off chance he shows us exactly what he can do. 

Lord Du Mesnil - William Hill Grand National Trial, Haydock 14:40

Aintree and that big day in April has been the talk of the racing world in the recent week, after the reveal of the Randox Health Grand National weights on Tuesday, and that hype won’t yet simmer down with Haydock hosting the National trial on Saturday. Although the race doesn’t have the most stand out record in producing Aintree winners, it does serve as a valuable testing ground for horses bidding to prove their ability over these stamina sapping trips, and when it comes to picking the winner of the three-mile-four-furlong contest at the weekend you’d be hard pressed to make a case against Lord Du Mesnil.

Possibly disappointing this season after being beaten as the evens favourite on his first start followed by two ninth-placed finishes in both the Grand Sefton and Welsh National respectively, he enjoyed a stellar campaign as a rising star in the staying division when finishing second on four occasions, including notably this race and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. When finishing second to Smooth Stepper here 12 months ago, he ran off a mark of 147 before being put up to 153 before the festival, and that has seemed to catch up with him so far. Two poor performances have seen him fall back to 149 - just 2 lbs higher than last year - and if he can’t come close here on a course where he has great form (Two wins and one second), then a lot of questions will begin to crop up. Currently a 10/1 chance, he’s well worth a play in the each-way market, and if he runs anywhere near the standard of last season then you can expect the 50/1 about him for the National to go quite quickly…

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