Take a chance on Barizan
Simon Holt previews Saturday's action from Ascot and Haydock and fancies Barizan to run very well in the Swinton Hurdle.
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Ascot's Betfred Victoria Cup and the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (best known as the Swinton) at Haydock provide punters with enormous challenges on Saturday.
The 29-runner Victoria Cup features many horses who have thrived in similar races on the Royal Heath, notably Prince Of Johanne, Lightning Cloud, Bronze Prince, Excellent Guest, Smarty Socks and Redvers.
- 2pts win Tartiflette in 15.50 Ascot at best morning price - improving filly can shrug off rise in the weights
- 2pts win Main Sequence in 14.40 Ascot at best morning price - pick of these on form and should take all the beating
- 1pt win Barizan in 15.30 Haydock at best morning price - tough, versatile handicapper who has a lovely racing weight
None of these should be lightly discounted as they clearly handle the frenetic pace that these cavalry charges are renowned for but the other angle in this type of race is to try and find the biggest improver, the horse who might be a listed or Group horse masquerading as a handicapper.
For my money, that horse could be Ed McMahon's filly TARTIFLETTE who has really come good on her last two starts, beating 19 rivals at Doncaster in November and then following up at Haydock last month when she travelled strongly on the bridle to two furlongs out before winning a shade cosily.
Both Cape Classic and Highland Colori (third and fourth) renew rivalry on better terms here but I believe Tartiflette's performance was that of a highly progressive filly and reckon she will confirm the placings despite going up 5lb (not overly-punitive) in the ratings.
The other horse that catches the eye is the Irish-trained Jamesie who returns to the course and distance of his fine second behind Eton Forever on soft ground in the Buckingham Palace Handicap at the Royal meeting last June.
David Marnane's charge should be spot on for this after a good second at Dundalk on his reappearance and would be an even more potent threat if the ground eases.
Earlier, David Lanigan's MAIN SEQUENCE looks the class act in the listed Buckhounds Stakes.
Last year's Derby runner-up ran sound races later on in the Grand Prix de Paris (looked unlucky) and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York before proving slightly disappointing when fifth behind Encke in the St Leger on his final start.
However, the level of those efforts looks superior to main dangers Thomas Chippendale (over 10 lengths behind Main Sequence at Doncaster) and Ektihaam who were second and third to the smart Al Khazeem at Sandown last month.
In contrast, Haydock's feature hurdle race (on a mixed card) looks far more competitive but BARIZAN takes the eye at the foot of the handicap.
A smart juvenile hurdler in 2009/10 (and a Grade One winner at Punchestown), the Evan Williams-trained seven-year-old then appeared to lose his way but emerged from the wildnerness with a 25/1 victory at Taunton in February.
Barizan proved that bolt from the blue was no fluke when running a good race in the Imperial Cup subsequently, finishing fourth to First Avenue in very testing ground when, in the past, faster conditions (likely at Haydock) seemed to suit him best. He also seems more tactically versatile now compared to the days when he was invariably a tearaway front-runner.
Williams has withdrawn the top weight Court Minstrel necessitating a 3lb rise in the weights, but Barizan still loiters at the foot of the handicap and is capable of going close if continuing his recent renaissance.
Local Hero, the winner of two valuable Market Rasen handicap hurdles last summer in the hands of 7lb claimer Paul Bohan on fast ground, should find conditions ideal while Forgotten Voice, whose trainer Nicky Henderson has a good record in this race (and is also represented by Cape Express), is another horse who should handle what is invariably a speed test.
However, both of those have to concede fully 18lb to the selection.