Ascot to offer antepost clues

  • Last Updated: February 15 2013, 17:27 GMT

An at-a-glance guide to the weekend's action with a view to unearthing further Cheltenham and Aintree clues.

Could Raya Star prove to be a Champion Hurdle player?

With the Cheltenham Festival under a month away this weekend's action represents one of the few remaining chances to gather clues for the greatest show on turf.

Ascot takes centre stage with the Betfair Ascot Chase promising to provide hints for not one but three of the Festivals Grade One contests.

Captain Chris bids to follow up a fine King George second over a slightly shorter trip, and if he does go one place better then the Betfred Gold Cup may well be his next port of call.

Conversely, Colin Tizzard needs to see a big run from his Cue Card should the Ryanair Chase remain the plan but, along with Finian's Rainbow, defeat at Ascot could see connections forced to drop in trip and take on Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a race won by Finian's Rainbow in 2012.

Earlier on the card, Rocky Creek looks set to start favourite for the Reynoldstown Chase but in Houblon Des Obeaux and northern raider Real Milan he faces two worthy adversaries.

Alberta's Run won this race before his comfortable victory in the RSA Chase five years ago and either that or the John Oaksey Memorial National Hunt Chase could be on the agenda for Saturday's winner.

Over at Haydock, the Betfred Grand National Trial may not quite live up to its name with just two of the field entered in the Aintree spectacular, but should Teaforthree win then he'll surely be promoted towards the very top of the betting.

Rebecca Curtis's horse chased home Monbeg Dude in the Welsh National last time and having won last year's four-mile novice chase at the Festival, stamina-sapping conditions at Haydock shouldn't pose much of a threat although the likes of Rigadin de Beauchene might.

The following race, the (in)conveniently named Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, may shed more light on its equivalent at the Festival.

The absence of potentially smart Gevrey Chambertin weakens the contest somewhat but both Two Rockers and Shotgun Paddy hold entries in the main event and could conceivably have a big impact on the betting should either produce a stylish victory.

Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle produced the Champion Hurdle winner in 2008 when the loveable Katchit landed the double, and this year's favourite Zarkandar will go to Cheltenham with a live shout of repeating the feat should he come through his task unscathed.

He faces the progressive Raya Star whose 40/1 quote for the day one showpiece will surely collapse should be get the better of the current third favourite.


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