Great Britain & Ireland Preview: Top horses reappear
It’s an exciting weekend ahead for fans of jumps racing in Britain and Ireland. Some of the best National Hunt horses make their seasonal reappearance on Saturday, the most notable perhaps being the English hurdler Constitution Hill, who faces open company for the first time in the Ascot Hurdle.
There’s also important races at Haydock in England’s north and at Punchestown in Ireland. Let’s have a look at some of the races.
Punchestown Race 2, 8:03 a.m. ET, Craddockstown Chase (G2), 2 1/8 miles, novice chasers
A group of six steeplechasers mostly untried at the top level contest this. The most proven of these is probably #6 Midnight Run, whose efforts include a Grade 3 runner-up effort behind Enniskerry in the Kilbegnet Novice Sept. 26. Without that unbeaten runner to contend with, he’ll be tough to beat.
#4 Hallowed Star will have supporters after winning a chase at Galway by 19 lengths Oct. 4, and he looks to be a horse on the improve. However, I’m prepared to give #3 Grand Paradis another chance; he showed some very good form over hurdles, and if he can improve his jumping he may have the talent necessary to win here.
Ascot, Race 4, 9:05 a.m. ET, 1965 Chase (G2), 2 5/8 miles, open steeplechasers
A small field here, but with one very exciting name: #4 L’Homme Presse. Last year’s Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (G1) winner at Cheltenham has the makings of a very good open steeplechaser and will be strongly favored here.
However, he does have two worthy challengers here: #1 Saint Calvados, winner of the Oaksey Chase (G2) at Sandown last April, and #5 Hitman, placed in Grade 1 company last year in the Melling Chase at Aintree and a narrow second, again at Aintree, when resuming Oct. 23. If he runs here, Hitman could be worth a go, as he is getting three pounds from L’Homme Presse and six pounds from Saint Calvados. Otherwise, best to use L’Homme Presse in exotics.
- $10 win/$20 place: #5 Hitman
- $3 trifecta: 4 with 1, 5 with all
Haydock, Race 5, 9:25 a.m. ET, Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, 3 1/16 mile, open hurdlers
A very open 14-runner handicap hurdle. There are horses with form at the top level here, most notably #8 Might I, second in last season’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (G1) at Aintree. He looks a very strong chance here.
However, the one I am most keen on is #10 Complete Unknown. He was good enough to win the Handicap Hurdle Final (G3) at Sandown last year, and he followed with a good second at Perth to Mahler Mission. Trainer Paul Nicholls should have him fit, and he looks ready for a big effort.
- $10 win/$10 show: #10 Complete Unknown
Ascot, Race 5, 9:40 a.m. ET, Ascot Hurdle (G2), 2 7/16 miles, open hurdlers
As mentioned above, this race sees the return of #2 Constitution Hill. He earned one of the highest ratings in many years when winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle (G1) at Cheltenham last year. Most jumps fans are hoping we will eventually see a clash between Constitution Hill and the unbeaten two-time Champion Hurdle (G1) winner Honeysuckle some time this season.
Unfortunately, it won’t be here, so best to just watch Constitution Hill, and maybe have a go at some exotics.
- $4 trifecta: 2 with 1, 4 with 1, 4
Haydock, Race 6, 9:00 a.m. ET, Lancashire Chase (G1), 3 3/16 miles, open steeplechasers
In which the outstanding Cheltenham Gold Cup winner #1 A Plus Tard returns. He has some good company here, most notably former King George VI Chase (G1) winner #4 Frodon and the improving #5 Protektorat. But he was too good in this race last year, and it’s difficult to see him beaten. Exotics are the best options here.
- $20 win: #1 A Plus Tard
- $5 trifecta: 1 with 4, 5 with 4, 5