- The Grand National Trial Chase is a Grade 3 handicap over 3m 4f 97y that will take place at 15:10 at Haydock on Saturday. Current joint favourite Bishops Road has won six from 22 races, including three from 18 chases, but his last win was in this event last year, and he hasn’t fared as well since. His most recent run was on 21st January, when he finished second in a field of 14 runners in a Grade 2 handicap chase at this course.
- Goodtoknow is the other joint favourite for the Grand National Trial Chase at the time of writing, and will come here on the back of a win in a Grade 3 handicap chase at Hereford on 1st February. That was the gelding’s fifth win from 29 races, and his fourth chase success from 21 runs. Kruzhlinin has won eight from 28 races, including five from 19 chases, and his last two races resulted in a Group 3 handicap chase win at Haydock on 19th November and a second place in a Class 2 handicap chase at Kempton on 14th January.
- Vieux Lion Rouge boasts a 50% strike rate both overall and in chases, with ten wins from 20 races and four wins from eight chase races. His most recent win was last time out, when he beat 21 other runners to take a Grade 3 handicap chase at Aintree on 3rd December.
- The Ascot Chase is a Grade 1 chase that is run over 2m 5f 8y and will take place at 15:35 at Ascot. Cue Card is the current favourite, and by some margin, even though the three-mile specialist will be running over a shorter trip than usual. The 11-year-old has won 15 from 34 races, including 11 from 27 chases, and his most recent win was on 19th November, when he won a Grade 1 chase at Haydock. He has had just one race since, and that was on Boxing Day, when he finished second to Thistlecrack in the Grade 1 King George VI Chase.
- Josses Hill has won seven from 17 races, with four chase wins from 11. He finished last of five in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, but won both of his previous races on 4th December and 7th November. Kylemore Lough has won better than half of his races (four from 15, and five from nine chase events) but he hasn’t won since March 2016, and his last three outings saw him finish second, followed by two fifth places. Vaniteux won a four-runner Class 1 Listed race last time out on 14th January, and that ended a losing run of four races. The eight-year-old has won five from 17 races, including three from seven chases.
As the title of the race suggests, the Grand National Trial Chase is an event which serves as a trial for the Grand National proper, which takes place on 8 April. That will make it a big challenge to find the winner, but Bishops Road won the event in 2016 and his 2nd place last time out suggests that he could be perfectly poised to get back to winning ways this Saturday. At his current price, he may be worth an each-way interest to modest stakes which reflect the stiffness of the task ahead.
The Ascot Chase is also a competitive event, but Cue Card looks to be a solid favourite, and if he runs as well as he did in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, where he was pipped at the post by Thistlecrack, he could be very hard to beat. We will therefore side with the favourite and keep our fingers crossed that the shorter trip won’t upset his ambitions.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Cue Card to win the Ascot Chase – 8/11
*Please note that odds will fluctuate as the race approaches.