Peter Marsh Handicap Chase 3m Haydock Saturday – What a great race our “alternative” E.W. selection, One For Arthur, ran in last week’s Warwick Classic, winning at the rewarding odds of 14/1 with plenty of petrol left in the tank. Considering how well he handled the Aintree fences in his previous race, this upwardly mobile animal, who seemed to benefit from the use of a tongue tie for the first time last week, has got to be seriously considered for the Grand National itself if getting in. Certainly his trainers post race comment, “He jumps superbly and if going up sufficiently in the handicap could be a Grand National horse this year, and if not definitely will be next year” was most encouraging. In it’s thirty six year history only one horse, the Twiston-Davies trained Earth Summit, has gone on from this Saturday’s Peter Marsh Chase, to Aintree glory, but with the top eight in the handicap, at the time of writing, rated above 148 it’s not impossible that another Aintree hero could be lurking.
Course form is always important at Haydock, and this contest is no exception, with ten of the last fifteen winners, including last year’s victor, Cloudy Too, (Oddsguru’s E.W. selection), having winning form at the track. Wychwood Brook in 2014 was a rare novice to win, but most victors have had plenty of previous experience, and indeed, a 10yo, an 11yo, and a 12yo have come home in front in three of the last five renewals. Recent runnings have been great for less experienced pilots, with claimers riding five of the last seven winners. Winter ground at Haydock is particularly attritional and a recent outing has been a help. Sue Smith with three previous winners is the most successful trainer and is represented by the 7yo novice Vintage Clouds.
He was a decent hurdler, winning a novice Hurdle over the course, and was also placed in a Grade2 on the track. Switched to the larger obstacles this term, he acquitted himself well in his first two races. He finished second to subsequent winner Briery Belle at Carlisle in November, and eleven days, later put in another promising effort when finishing second to another subsequent winner, Politologue, in a valuable Novices Chase here at Haydock. Slightly disappointing last time over Catterick’s tight circuit, he might well resume his previous progress over Haydock’s more galloping track, and looks nicely treated on a mark 1lb lower than his hurdles rating.
Paul Nicholls has had two contenders placed from only five runners in the last seven renewals, and his dual course winner Virak, catches the eye. He has been disappointing in his two runs this term, but he did show the talent was still there when finishing second off a mark of 157 in a Class1 handicap chase at Aintree last April. A return to form is not unknown in this contest, and with the going and course strongly in Virak’s favour and off a mark 5lbs lower than Aintree, it will come as no great surprise to see the Nicholls CV further enhanced.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained 6yo, Bristol De Mai, must be a lovely horse to own. This genuine animal has won four of his ten chases, and come second in the other six. Until his last race he had been campaigned at distances short of three miles, but in the 23 1/2f rehearsal chase, on soft ground at Newcastle, at the end of November, he showed that the distance was within his compass.
Giving 8lbs to the winner Otago Trail, and not putting in the most fluent round of jumping, he was headed two out but rallied, and kept on well to finish 3 1/4L in second, with another of Saturday’s opponents, Definitely Red, who went off the 5/4fav, 1 1/4L back in third. As he meets the winner and third on 5lbs and 7lbs better terms respectively on Saturday, he looks well handicapped, and with a Class1 Novices chase on heavy ground over the course to his credit, he has to be seriously considered.
Colin Tizzard is quite bullish about his recent French import, Alary, and it did run a fine race last time when beaten 1/2L by the very talented Milord Thomas, in a Grade1 27 1/2f Auteil chase, on very soft ground. He led over the last and was only collared in the last 100yds by the Jacques Ricou ridden hot favourite. By my reckoning he improved by nearly a stone from his previous race, and if that sort of progress has been maintained since joining the Tizzard Academy, Colin’s confidence could be well placed.
Selection: Bristol De Mai (if abs Alary)
E.W. : Virak