Holt: Have faith in Templeross
Simon Holt is backing Templeross at Ascot on Saturday while he also has a selection for Haydock's Grand National Trial.
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WAKANDA, who returned to form when second at Wetherby over Christmas, looks overpriced in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday.
Sue Smith's hardy chaser had hitherto been out of sorts this season but he looked much more like his old self when splitting Definitly Red and the reopposing Blaklion that day and runs here off a slightly lower mark than when successful at Ascot 14 months ago.
Wakanda's only previous visit to Haydock resulted in a win and, at the time of writing, two of his trainer's last three runners have won.
Stable companion Vintage Clouds figures at the opposite end of the weights and remains a horse for the future. But he has a habit of finishing second, remains a maiden over fences and looked to be weakening when falling here at the third last behind Bristol De Mai last month.
A far bigger threat could be Vieux Lion Rouge who battled home gamely to win the Becher Chase at Aintree in early December and will doubtless be returning to Aintree for the Grand National, in which he finished seventh last year, in a couple of months.
However, the eight-year-old can sometimes take a while to get going and, although successful here last season (against much weaker opposition), the big fences may have inspired him.
While held by Wakanda on Wetherby form, a step up in distance could suit Blaklion, though overall last season's RSA Chase winner has appeared to be fighting the handicapper this term.
At Ascot, Cue Card will start a short price to beat his five rivals in the Betfair Ascot Chase and it will be a huge shock if the popular 11-year-old cannot advertise both his well-being and his Gold Cup claims after running a bit below his best behind stablemate Thistlecrack in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Course specialist Royal Regatta and the back-to-form Taquin De Seuil should keep him honest, however.
Earlier on the Ascot card, TEMPLEROSS looks the one to beat in the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle after a sterling effort to split Modus and subsequent winner Lord Of The Island in the Lanzarote at Kempton last month.
Up just 3lb for that run, Nigel Twiston-Davies' prominent racer is weighted to confirm the placings with sixth-placed Doesyourdogbite and this slight drop in trip on soft ground could prove ideal.
Air Horse One, winner of his last two starts in novice company, may prove the biggest danger.
Posted at 1130 GMT on 17/02/17.