Faugheen storms clear up the hill to land the 2014 renewal under Ruby Walsh.

The Weekend Sweep

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14:05 Ascot, Amlin 1965 Chase (25K Field Size Bonus Race) (Grade 2) (Class 1)  (4YO plus) – 2m 3f
Last year’s winner Al Ferof bids to get his season off to a flying start once again. He defeated an inferior rival in French Opera last season and has much more on his plate this time. He is reunited with old partner Ruby Walsh but his trainer has stated he may need the run tomorrow. He is the class horse in the race nevertheless and can be expected to go well.

Bury Parade is a handicapper and is booked for a struggle. He is one for staying handicap chases later in the season and a watching brief is advised tomorrow.

Fox Appeal dead heated with Theatre Guide at Kempton earlier this month.  He enjoys going right handed and is a 2nd season chaser on the upgrade. He has place claims at a decent price tomorrow.

Somersby comes here on the back of a below par effort at Exeter recently. He was top class a couple of years ago but age may be a factor with him now. I am expecting a better performance than he showed in his last race but he is playing for place money.

Wishfull Thinking comes here on the back of an astonishing  run at Aintree where he cruised through the field to win handsomely. If he turns up in the same mood he will be hard to defeat tomorrow. Taking on Al Ferof will not be easy but he has a run under his belt and may have a fitness edge.

Rajdhani Express unseated at Aintree last time and he would have found it difficult to defeat an in form Wishfull Thinking if he did not unship his rider. He probably has a bit to find with the two market leaders.

VERDICT
It is difficult to split the two at the head of the market. WISHFULL THINKING is not getting any younger but jumped like a stag at Aintree. He just edges the vote over Al Ferof who may just need this outing.

14:40 Ascot, Coral Hurdle (10K Field Size Bonus Race) (Registered As The Ascot Hurdle) (Grade 2) (Class 1)  (4YO plus) 2m 3f 110y
Faugheen, the incredibly exciting prospect from Willie Mullins’ yard travels over for his seasonal debut at Ascot tomorrow. He won the Neptune at Cheltenham in March and followed up at Punchestown. He is unbeaten and will be very hard to defeat tomorrow.

Lac Fontana is no slouch and also has a victory at the Cheltenham Festival to his name. It would be a shock if he were to defeat Faugheen but he is a decent prospect for the season ahead. 

Blue Fashion only has one run in Britain to his name, that came at Haydock this time last year. He finished 2nd to none other than More Of That back then but it is a worry that he has been off since. He is the unknown dimension in the race but it is hard to see him being good enough to defeat Faugheen.

The rest of the runners are punching above their weight here.

VERDICT
FAUGHEEN looks an absolute machine and should win this tomorrow. It is good that Nicholls and Henderson send runners to tackle him though and their two are likely to run well behind the favourite.

13:50 Haydock, Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (Class 2)  (4YO plus) – 2m
This race revolves around The New One who is challenging for favouritism in the Champion Hurdle. He normally wins his autumn prep runs under suitable conditions however tomorrow could be a big test for him. The ground at Haydock looked very testing today and it is only going to get worse. At a price of 1/3 he could be worth taking on tomorrow.

Melodic Rendezvous has a liking for soft/heavy ground and goes well fresh. Two miles is a bare minimum for him but under tomorrow’s conditions a big run is expected. A huge threat to The New One in my opinion. 

Aurore D’estruval gets weight from the field, being a filly. She is only 4 and impressed judges with her performance at Wetherby last month. She is a double figure price tomorrow and could well outrun her odds. It will be tough for her in the ground and she may well be outclassed but this horse is one to keep an eye on in the future.

VERDICT
The New One could be in for a hard time tomorrow. It would not surprise me if he was declared a non runner with the ground getting worse. If he does run I expect MELODIC RENDEZVOUS to serve it up to him and possibly even defeat him.

14:25 Haydock, Betfair ‘This Is Play’ ‘Fixed Brush’ Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1)  (4YO plus) – 3m
A wide open contest in which Volnay De Thaix is favourite. He carries a welter burden of 12st and in desperate ground it will take a huge performance for him to win tomorrow. Against some other well handicapped sorts lower down the list I think he has it all to do.

Big Easy and Katkeau could be the ones to focus on. Both ran huge races last week at Cheltenham in which Katkeau came out on top off the back of a long lay off. The Pipe’s are shrewd and a plan which included gaining victory at Cheltenham and coming here and winning under a penalty is probably not too wide of the mark. Big Easy is in the form of his life and there will be little between them tomorrow but I think of the two Katkeau has more room for improvement.

Aubusson won at Cheltenham in January where the conditions were simply atrocious. If this horse coped with that ground then it should be able to run through tomorrow’s mud no problem. The step up to 3 miles may also help and this unexposed type could run into a place.

At a big price Uncle Jimmy could run well. He is in decent form and does not mind testing ground. A big price at around 20/1.

VERDICT
There should not be too much between KATKEAU and Big Easy tomorrow but the former looks like he could have more to offer and is preferred. Aubusson and Uncle Jimmy look like lively each way players.

Horse Racing fan of both codes. Can be found in the Grandstand or queuing for the bar at most Cheltenham meetings. Love the festival and what it brings to my home town. Enjoy previewing races and hopefully finding some winners! Can be found on Twitter discussing racing and grumbling about Sunderland AFC. @RoyNicol.

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