Take Taquin to be Ascot ace
Matt Brocklebank pores over the pick of Saturday's racing and highlights the value on offer at Ascot and Haydock.
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CRESSWELL BREEZE looks attractively treated on her return to handicap company in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Anthony Honeyball's mare has mainly been campaigned against her own sex since being sent over fences and it could be deemed slightly disappointing that she's only registered the sole success.
That came in a small-field mares' novice chase at Wincanton in November 2015, where she really enjoyed the testing ground and looked to be crying out for a step up in trip, having won twice at three miles over hurdles in the previous campaign.
In seven subsequent starts only once has the seven-year-old been tested over three miles and she was comfortably beaten when fifth of six behind Desert Queen at Market Rasen on her return to action in November.
However, there are excuses for that fairly tame effort, primarily that it was her first outing of the current season, but the sharp track and unseasonably quick ground would also have been dead against her.
She had another short break before resuming with a fair second at Leicester, getting four and a half lengths closer to Desert Queen than at Market Rasen as she stayed on past the 139-rated Tagrita in the Listed contest over two and three-quarter miles.
Honeyball, whose runners this year continue to tick over at a perfectly healthy 20 per cent strike-rate including a couple of winners earlier this week, reckons the "burly" Cresswell Breeze takes a couple of runs to get fit but reports her to be in excellent shape heading into the spring.
There's no getting away from the fact that Saturday's race represents the toughest task of her life but she's so unexposed over staying distances, having never raced beyond three miles in her life, and the pick of her form came in a big-field handicap when a close third behind subsequent winner Definite Ruby at the Punchestown Festival last April.
She's only 2lb higher in the ratings here, sneaking in at the foot of the weights with David Noonan taking off another 3lb for good measure, and the manner in which she tends to jump to her left when put under pressure suggests she might just take to the track.
That will obviously need to be the case, with Vieux Lion Rouge and novice Vintage Clouds among a host of previous course winners in the line-up, but the progressive Goodtoknow is feared most nearer the head of the market.
Trained by last year's winning handler Kerry Lee, he's an out-and-out stayer and looked better than ever at Hereford. He's also 2lb well in under 5lb extra for that success since the weights for this race were framed, but at twice the price it's Cresswell Breeze who catches the eye getting plenty of weight from what is essentially a field of largely exposed handicappers.
There are no prizes for guessing who is the most likely star turn at Ascot as Cue Card bids for another top-level success in the Betfair Ascot Chase, a race he won in 2013 before doubling up in the Ryanair Chase that year.
He's got 9lb in hand on ratings from TAQUIN DU SEUIL and could easily outclass his opposition before stepping back up in distance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, the return to shorter should not be dismissed as completely insignificant.
At 11 it's reasonable to suggest that Cue Card isn't getting any quicker and there's a chance this first try at the trip for two years might just catch him out.
Going back even further, Colin Tizzard's horse has suffered defeat in his last four starts at distances short of three miles and if Taquin Du Seuil can run up to his mark of 161, which seems perfectly plausible when you consider all his best form has come over this intermediate trip on testing ground, then we could be looking at an upset in the feature.
Taquin Du Seuil's form in landing the BetVictor Gold Cup under a big weight at Cheltenham earlier in the season has worked out extremely well, with Aso, As De Mee, Frodon, Potters Cross and Double Shuffle all winning big races subsequently, while there wasn't much wrong with his last effort in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
Sent off an unconsidered 20/1 chance at Leopardstown, Jonjo O'Neill's charge ran as well as could have been expected in fifth behind Outlander and certainly didn't look out of place at the top table.
He looks far more solid than fellow 8/1 chance Royal Regatta and is worth chancing.
It's interesting to see Traffic Fluide turn out again so quickly after his comeback effort behind Altior last weekend but trainer Gary Moore has a better chance earlier on the card in the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle.
Moore reportedly had last weekend's Betfair Hurdle as a long-term aim for the lightly-raced KRUGERMAC from the start of the season so it was slightly surprising not to see him declared for the race, given that original top-weight Renneti was ultimately not declared and so in the end Krugermac would have been required to run from just a couple of pounds out of the handicap.
However, the decision to wait could pay off a week later as the six-year-old can compete off his actual mark of 119 and that looks a very workable one after he scored by eight lengths over this course and distance in November 2015.
The form of that race could have worked out a little better but he looked a fine prospect that day and probably found the heavy ground too hard work when second behind Chef D'Oeuvre at Lingfield subsequently.
That proved to be his last run for over a year and his comeback run at Sandown last month was blatantly needed as he struggled to go the early gallop and was nursed home in his own time by Jamie Moore.
It's fair to expect plenty of improvement from that performance and connections reach for a first-time visor in a bid to eke out a little more.
This race was won by top weight Different Gravey last season but has otherwise been bossed by lightly-weighted runners in recent seasons and Krugermac has the kind of potential that could see him prove to be seriously well handicapped at this stage in his career.
Posted at 1620 on 17/02/2017