CeeBee has a second Saturday Preview and in this piece he likes Harry The Viking at Haydock in the Betfair Home of Price Rush Handicap Chase and Court Minstrel in the Coral Ascot Hurdle.
12.40 Haydock 3m4f Handicap Chase
Harry the Viking ran three solid races in defeat last season. Twice second to Lie Forrit and then behind The Last Samuri. The first of those three good efforts was against a very well-handicapped Lie Forrit, whilst the third home that day, Summery Justice, was narrowly defeated in the Eider Chase next time.
Lie Forrit went in again in Haydock’s valuable Grand National Trial, with just a head to spare over HTV this time. The pair pulled 19L clear of a smart field. Next time out it was The Last Samuri who defeated HTV at Kelso and TLS went on to hold up the form by almost winning a decent Ayr handicap next time out. The 4th home that day won next time out also. Three rock-solid pieces of form all over further than 3miles on soft or heavy ground. That’s the key to Harry the Viking. He needs extreme trips as he is very slow. He was barely able to keep up in the Grand National trial over 3m5f but this lower grade and small field without any other confirmed front runner will really suit him.
He races off an official rating of 129 here. Having narrowly been defeat off 124 here last year and getting competitive off 132 he’s handicapped to go close again. The Sandy Thomson yard are going well with two wins and three seconds from their last eight starts.
For an in-form yard, with no worries about the trip, track or ground, off a workable handicap mark and probably most importantly in a race that it looks like he can dominate from the front, Harry the Viking is worth a bet.
Quickly to some of the others:
Emperor’s Choice went close in this very race last year, but having been off for 329 days (I know that means nothing for Venetia handicap chasers) I suspect he’ll be preparing for a Welsh National repeat rather than being at 100% today.
Sybarite doesn’t jump well enough to stay in touch. He’s well handicapped on his best hurdles form, but a risky proposition back over fences.
It’s now 16 starts since Lackamon last won. Up 2lbs for his last defeat won’t help buck that trend either. He’s a solid type and ran well in a similar, if slightly lesser, event last time but it’s hard to see him coming out on top here.
Buachaill Alainn is probably the least likely of this lot to handle the deteriorating ground. He’s in good form but will need to be improving to cope with his most recent hike in the weights. He had a race fitness advantage the last time having raced through the summer but back on winter ground I’d be against him.
Goodtoknow is hard to fancy first time out, he has never won off a break before.
No Deal is quite unexposed, but with just 1 hurdle and 3 novice chase starts he lacks plenty of battle-hardened experience. He’s 1 from 1 over 3miles but this 3m4f trip over fences is far removed from a 3m maiden hurdle at Ayr against 100-rated horses.
Copper Birch is possibly the biggest danger to the selection. He’s won off his current mark before, handles the mud and the extreme trip (as an aside I backed his dam to win a point to point and she probably needed 6miles to be at her best). Reaching for a first time visor may bring about some improvement (below-par the last few times) also, but I worry that he’ll simply be outclassed in this company regardless of the weight concessions.
1.5 points win Harry The Viking at 8/1 at GP with Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill
(1/5 odds 3places don’t appeal as e/w terms even if he tends to run well without winning quite regularly)
2.40 Ascot – 2m3f Hurdle
I was going to skip straight to the 3.15 at Ascot, a competitive handicap chase, they usually take some dissecting and can throw up good value winners. But surprising I found what I believe to be a cracking bet in the 6 runner Coral hurdle.
Obviously ratings aren’t the be-all and end-all but they give us a starting point here. Rock on Ruby is rated 160 and gives 4lbs to Court Minstrel (157) and 8lbs to Brother Tedd (155). My immediate thought is there’s not much between the trio. So priced at 6/4, 10/1 and 6/4 respectively I’m struggling not to get involved.
Rock on Ruby will be suited by this drop in trip as he didn’t see out 3miles last time. He’s still a high class horse but conceding weight to all around here won’t be easy. He turns 11 this season so regression will be creeping in at some stage soon.
Brother Tedd has gone up a combined 20lbs (9 & 11) for his last two handicap wins. At Aintree 2wks ago and at Sandown in Apr. An 11lb hike for a 5runner race early in the season looks very harsh. He beat Silviniaco Conti who wouldn’t have been suited by 2m5f and wasn’t 100% fit and Low Key from the bang out of form Pipe yard. 155 is quite a mark for one who looked below top-class as a novice. The step into graded company may come too soon.
Court Ministrel however deserves his mark of 157. He was 149 by the end of his novice hurdle campaign and was keeping G1 company over fences last season before winning off 145 and 149 early this season. The latter win was over this exact trip at Chepstow in the competitive Silver Trophy. He beat a well-handicapped 5yr old in Rock the Kasbah (good chance up at Haydock today), Our Kaempfer (who was 2nd next time at Aintree) and Tea for Two, both of whom have a good chance in the big fixed brush hurdle today. Ron’s Dream was fifth behind them and he won at the Cheltenham Open meeting. It’s rock solid form that has worked out well. Court Minstrel gave them all weight and a beating that day. He’s a class horse and is overpriced here.
1.5 points win Court Minstrel at 9/1 with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Stan James and others