Katenko to relish Haydock Marsh
Man On The Spot previews Saturday's televised racing from Ascot and Haydock.
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Utopie Des Bordes finished a long way behind MICKIE at Kempton over Christmas. She's only a couple of pounds better off here and will struggle to turn the tables on Henry Daly's mare, who is a thorough stayer and should handle conditions. The selection did finish behind Highland Retreat, as did Utopie Des Bordes, over 2m6f at Wincanton in November but is 9lb better off now and can complete the hat-trick. Carole's Spirit is still improving judged on her latest victory in a Listed hurdle at Haydock. This will be her first try over 3m but she's tough and should stay. Tweedledrum had no chance in the Long Walk Hurdle last time and faces a stiff task in the weights again today while the trip may be a problem for Prima Porta, who has yet to recapture last season's form.
Cinders And Ashes went on to land the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham after winning this trial in 2012 and UN TEMPS POUR TOUT is entered in this year's renewal. A £450,000 purchase, David Pipe's charge won Listed and Grade 3 hurdle races in France and a provisional rating of 147 suggests he's good enough to make a winning start for new connections. Zamdy Man has returned to action much improved and landed a Listed event over track and trip in November while Stand To Reason has taken well to hurdling, although he was left clear at the last when scoring at Newbury on his latest start. Meadowcroft Boy remains unbeaten after winning easily on his hurdling debut and is worth a try in this company but River Clare and Abracadabra Sivola look up against it.
The Skyfarmer promises to stay this longer trip and the runner-up has franked the form of his comfortable Cheltenham success. But he's been raised 17lb, which could be a problem in a competitive handicap like this. Citizenship took just two runs to get off the mark for Venetia Williams but this is a much better race than the one he won at Exeter. Fitness is unlikely to be an issue for the returning Minella Forfitness but he reappears off a high mark and Irish Saint has struggled so far this term. Knight Of Pleasure was well beaten off this mark at Lingfield in a race in which KUILSRIVER was still travelling strongly when blundering and unseating Thomas Garner. The latter looks nicely treated at present and could be a bit of value here as the ground will suit. Thomas Crapper may be in the handicapper's grip but Bourne isn't without a chance at the weights and has gone well here in the past off similar marks.
PTIT ZIG had the highly regarded Un Temps Pour Tout, engaged in the previous race, back in third when landing a Grade 1 hurdle at Auteuil in November. He's since run really well carrying top weight in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot and should have enough to keep Melodic Rendezvous at bay in this. The latter couldn't live with My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last time but revels in this more testing ground and looks a genuine threat. The remainder have some catching up to do to match the principals, but Act Of Kalinisi is an improving handicapper and Ifandbutwhynot landed a Listed handicap at Newbury before finding the progressive Strongpoint too good at Musselburgh.
Renard has now won three times at Chepstow but has been successful on right-handed tracks, though never off a mark this high. Paul Nicholls' pair, Grandioso and Bury Parade, have questions to answer at present while the handicapper is refusing to release his grip on veteran Big Fella Thanks but Tatenen is still on a decent mark despite returning to form at Newbury and he appears to have the beating of Gus Macrae, second over a shorter trip here four weeks ago, on the form book. WHAT A WARRIOR was held up and could never quite get on terms with Houblon Des Obeaux and Cedre Bleu over 3m here last time but he'll be ridden closer to the pace over this shorter trip and can open his seasonal account as he's 14lb better off than when only seventh to Tatenen earlier. Taunton winner Theatrical Star is 7lb higher but could figure if his jumping doesn't let him down.
Vino Griego posted one of his better efforts when winning a three-runner affair on fast ground at Sandown last month but today's surface is more likely to suit KATENKO. Venetia Williams' charge has done all of his winning in bottomless ground including at Sandown and Cheltenham at this time last year and he gets the nod. Chance du Roy bounced back to form with a victory in the Becher at Aintree last month and has leading claims on that and Sydney Paget cannot be easily ruled out on the evidence of his earlier win over course and distance. Merry King and Vintage Star ran well in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow last time but recent winners Night Alliance and Wychwoods Brook will need to dig deeper having both taken a big hike in the weights.
SIRE DE GRUGY is the current second-favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase having followed up his victory over Somersby in the Tingle Creek at Sandown by beating Oiseau De Nuit by four lengths in the Desert Orchid at Kempton. Whether he'll be good enough at Cheltenham in March is still open to debate but he should land a second Grade 1 chase here and beat some old rivals if his sometimes suspect jumping holds up. Hidden Cyclone was third in the Paddy Power and beaten less than a length by Benefficient in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month. He's a reliable sort who shouldn't be far away again while Days Hotel won three Grade 2 events as a novice. Kauto Stone struggles in this grade, however, and Lancetto is only a handicapper.