Weird reasoning at Haydock
Chris Wilson previews Saturday's action and fancies Weird Al to cause a minor upset in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
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ASCOT: 12.25 Dursey Sound, 1.00 Venetian Lad, 1.35 Grassfinch, 2.10 Finian's Rainbow, 2.45 Oscar Whisky, 3.20 Pepite Rose, 3.50 Saucy Baron.
GOWRAN: 12.30 Crouching Harry, 1.00 Blacklough, 1.30 Do The Bookies, 2.05 Raajih, 2.35 Hidden Cyclone, 3.10 Aupcharlie, 3.45 Sensational Sema.
HAYDOCK: 12.20 Balder Succes, 12.55 Double Ross, 1.25 Baltimoar, 2.00 Quartz De Thaix, 2.30 TRUSTAN TIMES (NAP), 3.05 Weird Al, 3.40 Super Ally.
LINGFIELD: 11.40 Myzamour, 12.10 Con Leche, 12.45 Fat Gary, 1.20 Lastkingofscotland, 1.55 Young Dottie, 2.25 Millibar, 3.00 Alaskan Bullet, 3.35 Loyal Royal.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.50 Italian Riviera, 6.20 Hello Stranger, 6.50 Gung Ho Jack, 7.20 Squawk, 7.50 Desert Sunrise, 8.20 Desert Vision, 8.50 Grendisar, 9.20 Annelko.
DOUBLE: Trustan Times and Finian's Rainbow
Weird Al is a credible each-way solution for the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
This is usually the time of the year to catch the Donald McCain-trained nine-year-old, who nearly always does his best work as a fresh horse.
That was certainly the case last year, when he was a deeply impressive winner of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby - his first start since he broke a blood vessel in the 2011 Gold Cup.
Weird Al then contested the Betfair Chase, in which he jumped pretty well from the outset to get to within two lengths of runner-up Long Run, who is likely to be a short price for this season's renewal.
While it might be just a shade fanciful to except McCain's inmate to reverse form with a horse who is rated 14lb higher, connections must surely fancy their chances of exorcising the demons of a troubled spring.
Weird Al is a fragile individual, and broke another blood vessel in last season's Gold Cup, after which he fell in the Grand National.
Setbacks at that level should not lead to his castigation, though, and it is entirely feasible the capable McCain will have him even sharper and stronger for what is likely to be his big engagement of the year.
Weird Al also loves cut in the ground, having won four times in demanding conditions, so should be confidently braced on Merseyside for whatever the elements have to offer.
The other big race on the card, the Betfair-sponsored "Fixed Brush" handicap hurdle, can also stay in the north courtesy of the Tim Easterby-trained Trustan Times.
Great Habton-based Easterby has always been a big fan of this six-year-old, with an honourable third to Cape Tribulation in a Grade Three handicap at Aintree last season's highlight.
Trustan Times carried on the good work at Wetherby at the beginning of the month when he turned in a really accomplished performance to win a two-and-a-half-mile handicap in some style.
Despite the impressive nature of that success, Easterby's inmate still looked in need of a more demanding stamina test, with a return to three miles seemingly made to measure.
Although he has gone up 8lb, Trustan Times has very few miles on the clock for a six-year-old and is probably still improving.
Good racing at Ascot, too, with Nicky Henderson taken to assert control on the twin features - the Amlin 1965 Chase and the Coral Hurdle.
Finian's Rainbow should set the ball rolling in the Amlin, even if he is not fully wound up on his first start since winning the Melling Chase at Aintree in April.
Finian's Rainbow is another horse who is often brimming with brio first time out, and has twice shown up really well at a track which clearly plays to his strengths.
Last season's Queen Mother Champion Chase winner ought to be a cut above these rivals in Berkshire.
Oscar Whisky can then maintain the Seven Barrows onslaught by taking the Coral Hurdle.
The Dai Walters-owned seven-year-old fell in this race 12 months, but is an excellent staying hurdler when in the right frame of mind - as most explicitly shown by back-to-back victories in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle.
Oscar Whisky has speed and stamina in equal measure, and can take this Grade Two heat on the way back up the top table.
Con Leche, a staying-on third at Wolverhampton last time, should be followed with interest in the British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Maiden at Lingfield.
Desert Sunrise is also a worthy ally for the 32Red Casino Nursery at Wolverhampton.