|Sat||1.50 Haydock - Midnight Shadow||9/4||Bethard|
|Sat||2:25 Haydock - Flash The Steel||12/1||888 Sport|
|Sat||2:40 Ascot - Roksana||11/4||Bet Regal|
1:50 Haydock - Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase - Midnight Shadow
The Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase entries include last year's winner Activial, who won it as a novice having been beaten on his chase debut. Jarveys Plate is bound to be popular too, given his victory on chase debut, with Reserve Tank boosting that form at Wincanton, but I prefer the chances of Midnight Shadow, who carries less weight.
Last season, he developed from a high-class handicap hurdler into a winner of the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham, defeating the likes of Wholestone and Old Guard. Connections then tried him over 3m in the Cleeve Hurdle, where he failed to see out the trip, before his season was cut short by injury.
He returned this season to be third on chase debut in a strong beginners’ event at Carlisle and would have got off the mark at the same course last time out, had he not fallen at the last when two lengths ahead. The silver lining is that by falling, he does not carry a winner's penalty here, and he will appreciate the step up to 2m5f, making him hard to beat at 9/4.
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2:25 Haydock - Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle - Flash The Steel
This is a competitive 3m handicap hurdle, with Umbrigado heading the betting as his connections won the race in 2010, 2011 and 2013. But as this is his first start of the season, I would be against him, and I would also be against Lisnagar Oscar, who reverts back to hurdles having jumped poorly over fences.
I will be taking a chance on the Dan Skelton-trained Flash The Steel, who made a winning reappearance at Chepstow over 2m4f on soft ground last month. That was in a Grade 3 handicap hurdle, which was run at a frenetic gallop. He stayed on well to win by two lengths and the runner Champagne Court has won two races since, third Imperial Aura also winning over fences.
This will be the first time Flash The Steel has run over 3m, but if you watched his last race in isolation you would have thought this step up in trip would bring out improvement in him. His last two victories have come on soft ground, so any rain at Haydock isn’t a concern and he should out-run his odds of 12/1.
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2:40 Ascot - Coral Hurdle - Roksana
The Coral Hurdle was won last season by If The Cap Fits, but it looks a stronger contest this year, so I will be taking him on with Roksana.
She was a fortunate winner of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival following the fall of favourite Benie Des Dieux, but went on to finish a head behind If The Cap Fits at Aintree over 3m on her next start. She had led after the last hurdle then, but just failed to get the trip.
She returned from her summer break at Aintree too, finishing a neck behind Top Notch in a 2m4f hurdle, where jockey Harry Skelton probably gave her too much to do. She just failed to catch Top Notch after the last hurdle, but I would be confident she would have won if Skelton could ride the race again.
With the fitness edge over her rivals, and being a guaranteed runner in a race that looks like it could cut up, Roksana looks a fantastic antepost bet at 11/4.
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