Harry’s Saturday Preview

Harry Skelton: Tongue tie may be missing piece in the puzzle for Calico 

Haydock

I’ve got four rides at Haydock on Betfair Chase day and it would be great to leave with a winner. 

First up is Knickerbocker Glory in the Listed novices’ hurdle (12:10). He pulled too hard first time out at Wetherby but he’s a horse with plenty of ability and he just needs to learn to settle. Hopefully that run will have taken the gas out of him. We have to teach him his job so he can finish his races, but he’s not without a chance.

We don’t know why Calico disappointed in the Welsh Champion Hurdle last time, so we’re putting a tongue tie on him in the 2m3f handicap hurdle (1:15). He hasn’t made a noise but there’s a missing piece in the puzzle at the moment and maybe this is it. He’s been schooling and working well and we hope he can run a big race.

The ground will be absolutely fine for him, he’s got a run under his belt and we think stepping up in trip will help. He’s a good horse with some good form to his name. 

We’re looking forward to getting Alnadam started in the graduation chase (1:50). He loves soft ground so conditions aren’t going to be ideal, but it’s a chance to get going. He’ll come on for the run and Bravemansgame, who is in the same ownership, is the one we all have to beat. 

Riggs ran nicely at Aintree on his reappearance when they went a very slow pace which didn’t help. He’s come on nicely for that and should go well in the valuable stayers’ handicap hurdle (2:25).

He’s got a lovely racing weight and we hope he will run very well. He was a good second in the EBF Final last season, which is always a strong race. This race stood out and it has always been the plan to come here after Aintree. It’s very competitive but he goes there with a decent chance, although I wouldn’t mind a bit of rain.

The Betfair Chase looks like a great race like it normally is. A Plus Tard ran a stormer in the Gold Cup and he’s the one to beat. Bristol De Mai has been an incredible horse and he absolutely loves it round Haydock, but we all know he is most effective when the mud is flying. If I could choose one to ride it would definitely be the up and comer, A Plus Tard. 

Ascot

Bridget goes down to Ascot for five rides with Martha Brae first up in the mares’ handicap hurdle (1:30). She won well at Exeter last time and even though this is a hotter race, she’s in good form and she should run very well. The step up in trip will suit. 

The Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase (2:05) looks a hot renewal and it will be an interesting race to watch. We have Bennys King who loves deep ground. He’s not going to get that but there is some good prize money in this and we’d be delighted if he could pick up some of it. 

We were really happy with Molly Ollys Wishes at Wetherby and the Coral Hurdle (2:40) looked like a nice race to go for. It certainly won’t be easy with Goshen, Buzz and last year’s winner Song For Someone in there, but two and a half miles will be no problem for her. The ground has been a factor, we needed to find somewhere with a bit of cut. 

Bridget knows Amoola Gold inside out, they get on very well and hopefully he can put up another great performance at Ascot in the valuable Hurst Park Chase (3:15). He’s in great form at home and although he’s gone up in the weights again, he loves it round there and you’d be silly to think he doesn’t have another big chance. 

Emily’s Star runs in the bumper (3:50). She’s a nice mare who shapes like a stayer. We’d be delighted if she ran well and she’ll be ridden to finish off her race. 

This week

After some fantastic results at Cheltenham we’ve had a good week with some nice winners. We were delighted with Hartur D’Oudairies and West Balboa at Warwick on Wednesday, we really like them and they are lovely horses for the future. They couldn’t have made better debuts and they’re both chasers in the making. We’ll have a think about where we go next. 

Field sizes

Plenty has been written and said about field sizes recently. It’s certainly difficult when you get a highly rated novice in a novice chase, maybe the answer is banded beginners chases like they have in Ireland. We run a lot of novice handicaps here, but putting them into different bands could work well. 

You also need to look at where they are putting these novice chases on, not everyone wants to run at Cheltenham first time up. There have been two novice chases over the same distance at Warwick in the past two weeks. I think the race planning needs to be looked at. 

Too much focus on the Festival?

I understand when people say there is too much hype around Cheltenham, but it’s our Olympics. You dream of going there, having chances there and having winners there – it’s natural to be excited. 

I do think that there can be too much pressure on the horses to start talking them up as Cheltenham horses before Christmas. You need to keep them fit and well, that’s the priority. We’re a long way off from March and there are plenty of nice prizes to go for up until then.  

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