Hawkes to make his Point
Man On The Spot previews Saturday's terrestrial TV action from Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton.
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Hawk High was partnered by A P McCoy when winning at Warwick last month. But the champion jockey renews acquaintances with Handiwork in this having won on the latter at Market Rasen in December. Both of the above carry an 8lb penalty today which works in the favour of AURORE D'ESTRUVAL. The latter opened her account in testing ground at Wetherby a fortnight ago, where her main rival Slipper Satin unseated, and John Quinn's filly gets the nod with more to come from her. Slipper Satin had earlier won well at Fakenham and makes most appeal of the remainder with a clear round, unless Sea Claria can improve on last year's form in France on her debut for an in-form yard.
Gevrey Chambertin has the size to make a chaser and his debut over the larger obstacles has been long-awaited. He won four of six starts over hurdles, including a Grade 3 on his reappearance at Haydock, and is worth following but will have to jump well to lower the colours of MANY CLOUDS. His defeat of Indian Castle at Wetherby over Christmas was franked when the runner-up beat Feltham Chase winner Anacotty in a handicap at Cheltenham last month and Oliver Sherwood's charge looks a leading contender for next month's RSA Chase. Ely Brown is progressing nicely but was handed the Towton at Wetherby on a plate when market rival Green Flag clipped heels and unseated his rider. This looks more competitive and Third Intention is usually found out at this level. Baby Shine's form is over shorter trips and O'Faolains Boy may need more time after being pulled up at Haydock.
CELESTIAL HALO remains as good as ever and won the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in good style on his comeback. He remains clear of the field on today's terms despite a penalty and can take this on his way to another crack at the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. Two Rockers has lost his way since landing the Prestige on this card last year while Restless Harry has yet to improve on his victory in this contest in 2012, although he did win over fences last month. He is also entered at Ascot, however, like Two Rockers. Cross Kennon won the 2011 renewal but hasn't scored since but Lienosus returned to winning ways at Taunton last time though, along with Mickie and Quartz De Thaix, has been found wanting in Grade 2 company before. Seeyouatmidnight has won both starts over hurdles but faces his first real test after scoring at Musselburgh last time.
Our Father and Hawkes Point both have alternative engagements in the Grand National Trial at Haydock but last year's Aintree third Teaforthree will continue his preparations for the big race here and should strip fitter for his reappearance. Chance Du Roy will probably accompany Teaforthree to Aintree having won over the big fences in December but he was pulled up in the Peter Marsh at Haydock next time, as was Night Alliance. HIGHLAND LODGE also called it a day early in the Welsh National last time having cut out the early running but Emma Lavelle's stayer is much better than that and could be the pick of the weights on his fourth in the Hennessy when he finished almost five lengths ahead of Houblon Des Obeaux, who is 8lb worse off here and Our Father. Houblon Des Obeaux may also struggle to confirm Cheltenham running with Restless Harry on much worse terms.
The Welsh Grand National is proving a good pointer for this contest and HAWKES POINT finished runner-up in the Chepstow marathon in December. He beat current Grand National favourite and stablemate Tidal Bay with Merry King further behind and Well Refreshed pulled up. The latter won last year's renewal off a much lower mark but this can go to Paul Nicholls' chaser. Wychwoods Brook won the Peter Marsh Chase over these fences last month with Merry King not beaten far and another bold bid looks likely, while Across The Bay just got the better of Wellforth over 3m4f here in December and that pair are closely matched. Our Father is held in high regard but disappointed when sent off favourite for the Hennessy at Newbury on his comeback. Much better is expected from him and the inconsistent Nuts N Bolts, who beat Red Rocco over track and trip back in November but was pulled up last time. Loch Ba ran well here in December under today's jockey and has an each-way shout as he has the beating of Emperor's Choice, who scored at Ffos Las a fortnight ago, on Warwick form though the latter is still preferred to stablemate Rigadin De Beauchene, beaten 10 lengths when runner-up in this last year.
This looks wide-open and the last two winners take their chance again. Kuilsriver, successful 12 months ago, hasn't shown much in two runs this term but 2012 winner BOURNE has been knocking on the door and still looks well handicapped. Donald McCain's grey races off the same mark as two years ago and it's very hard to knock to form of his latest third over today's course and distance as the winner Irish Saint finished third in last week's betfair Hurdle and the second was placed in a hot handicap at Exeter the following day. Easy Taunton winner Virak will be helped by Jack Sherwood's claim and has more to offer while jockey bookings suggest the progressive Heath Hunter is the pick of David Pipe's trio. Like Minded had Foxcub behind when third in the Lanzarote at Kempton and that's another race that's working out well but the rejuvenated Stopped Out may be too high in the weights now and Two Rockers will probably going over fences sooner rather than later.
Zarkandar is bidding to win this for the second year running but has developed a case of seconditis this season. That said, he has the highest rating of these and will certainly handle conditions. But MELODIC RENDEZVOUS has Notarfbad to make the pace for him in this and can land his third Grade 2 contest of the campaign en route to a tilt at the Champion Hurdle. Grumeti should be the pick of the remainder as he actually finished ahead of the selection in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and is no slouch but Golden Chieftain is a staying chaser making his seasonal reappearance and Red Riverman is well out of his depth.
The race had yet to develop when Riverside Theatre unseated Barry Geraghty in the King George but Nicky Henderson's charge looks to have it all on to confirm earlier Peterborough Chase running with CAPTAIN CHRIS on 10lb worse terms. Philip Hobbs' gelding, second in this last year, has easily turned around Huntingdon running with Champion Court at Ascot since and has 6lb and more in hand on his rivals according to official ratings. The Henderson yard also run Hunt Ball but he has something to prove after flopping in the States. There looks to be little to choose between the Paul Nicholls' pair Kauto Stone and Rolling Aces but the latter probably has more scope. Cloudy Too won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day but has plenty to find off level weights against genuine Grade 1 chasers over a shorter trip and Medermit is best watched after a long absence.