There’s top notch National Hunt action wherever you look this weekend, and here’s a handful of horses who can pay for their way:
They’ll be going loco for Mad Max in the opener at Ascot tomorrow, and with good reason.
This giant six-year-old son of Kayf Tara (twice a winner of the Ascot Gold Cup – so no stamina worries) will ultimately be a big noise in the staying chase ranks, but don’t miss his hurdling debut at 12.55pm (Friday) in the Nicholas Cunningham Memorial “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, a great starting point for a horse who demolished the opposiiton when last seen in public in a Newbury bumper in February.
To say this lad is highly regarded is something of an understatement, and with the Henderson yard in electric form, expect a command performance from Mad Max. Those in the know at Seven Barrows say he hurdles like a natural – get on.
One horse who did hurdle like a natural was Victor Dartnall’s Lodge Lane, and there’s genuine excitement about his first try over the larger obstacles in the Devon County Show Exeter Novices’ Chase at 1.40pm (Friday).
He’s got loads of scope, and the way he tackled his hurdles firmly suggests he’ll be an even better chaser, although it’s worth bearing in mind he did reach the lofty perch of 147 last season.
A winner over 2m 3f in soft ground he loves at Exeter last season, he also won at Fontwell, and although he disappointed in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival (his blood was later found to be wrong), he bounced back to see off a very handy type in the shape of Tazbar at Perth in April.
The seven-year-old is the apple of his trainer’s eye, with Dartnall quoted this week as saying: “Lodge Lane has the potential to go even higher now he goes chasing. He has schooled very well and is an exciting prospect”.
I’d make the trip up Haldon Hill just to see him alone, but the presence of Jonjo O’Neill’s winning chaser and 156 rated hurdler Wichita Lineman in opposition means we’ll get a workable price about Lodge Lane.
You’re spoilt for choice on Saturday, but make sure you don’t forget to back another Nicky Henderson in-mate Binocular in Haydock’s Betfair Hurdle at 1.40pm on Saturday.
Nothing short of brilliant in four racecourse outings last season, the only horse to lower his colours was Captain Cee Bee when he still emerged with huge credit as runner up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
His final performance, slamming the Triumph winner Celestial Halo by seven lengths at Aintree, made plenty of people sit up and take notice. Rightly so.
He has youth on his side, great technique, and in a race restricted to four-year-olds has to be the nap bet of the weekend. While you’re at it, if you haven’t already, snaffle a bit of 11/2 with Coral for the Champion Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival. He’ll be shorter on Sunday morning.
Don’t forget this column’s antepost portfolio already contains Tatenen at 16/1 for the Arkle, Mount Helicon at 33/1 for the Triumph and Character Building at 8/1 for Hennessy Gold Cup.
Last up, don’t get in my way on the M42 on the way to Birmingham airport on Saturday night, it’ll be a close run thing making the flight to Dublin, but all being well I’ll be present and correct at Navan on Sunday to see Paul Nicholls try and continue his winning streak across the Irish sea in Navan’s Troytown Chase (2.30pm).
Officier de Reserve carries English hopes in the Irish feature, and at 5/1 he rates a sound each way investment with bet365.
He proved his well being with a win over hurdles at Warwick at the beginning of the month, a performance which proves his summer wind op did the trick.
Soft ground and three miles are the perfect combination, and if you can forgive the fact he jumped like a diseased goat in the Kim Muir, he makes plenty of appeal. What’s more, the booking of Davy Russell to do the steering should help immeasurably.
12:55 Ascot (Friday) – Mad Max
Posted 9 years, 7 months ago
1:40 Exter (Friday) – Lodge Lane
1:40 Haydock (Saturday) – Binocular
2:30 Navan (Sunday) Officer de Reserve