Steve Hughes has a few suggestions for a valuable jumps card at Haydock
As we near the end of the jumps season, Haydock stages its now traditional challenger series final which caters for handicappers not quite good enough for the class 1 races. I have selections for four of the contests. Our only remaining runner yesterday Oh This Is Us won the finale at Lingfield (SP 5/1)
Haydock 2.05: Casa Tall
A horse with a big reputation in his native France, Casa Tall has yet to set the world alight since joining Tom George. However there have been more promising signs of late, plus evidence that a sharp track will suit him best.
Twice a winner in France (including on good-to-firm) he made his UK debut when top weight for last years Fred Winter. He made no show there and, whilst he travelled well for along way at Perth next time, he ultimately faded into fourth on soft. A delayed start to this campaign saw him need his first run at Wincanton.
However he showed real good form to be second at Chepstow next time and ran far better than 14th suggested when back to the Festival for the Martin Pipe. 2M on a sharp track will surely suit him more as will this faster ground and he is now 13lbs lower than when starting out in this country.
Haydock 2.40: Quarenta
Three times a winner at Warwick over jumps (but without wins anywhere else), Quarenta will hopefully enjoy Haydock, a track similar in configuration, and will certainly enjoy the quickening going.
A strong traveller, this flat track will play to his strengths. There are also a few gnarled old veterans like Uhlan Bute and Loose Chips who like to set the pace, but their old legs might not have the pace to get away from this improving young 7yo.
His two Warwick wins this campaign have only been by a neck on each occasion as he tends to idle once in front, but that does mean his rating is easing up gradually and he is only 5lbs higher than for his defeat of Global Dream at the end of February.
Haydock 3.15: Django Django
With only three runs to his name this campaign, Django Django will come into this end of season race fresher than most and that could prove a decisive factor in this staying hurdle.
He was made favourite for a race over this course and distance in January, but could only manage seventh. I am hoping that the ground was simply too soft for him that day as his best form has come on quicker ground.
The rain had not got into the ground when he won with a bit to spare at Chepstow in November whilst he had some good runs on quicker going at the back end of last season. He is still unexposed at 3m, this being his third start in total at the trip.
Haydock 4.20: Vivas & A Place Apart
The middle distance division of the Challenger series has produced only eight runners, but it looks a tight contest worthy of picking two against the field.
Vivas rates solid each-way value, especially if all eight stand their ground. He showed definite improvement for going chasing in the autumn, winning at both Plumpton and Doncaster on lightning fast ground. The handicapper has looked in control since as he has been beaten in three subsequent outings – but they were on slightly slower going and right-handed tracks and his rating has been eased to a more manageable level, just 2lbs higher than his last win.
A Place Apart has been carefully campaigned this season, mixing chasing with hurdling. His two outings over fences though have been excellent efforts. He showed plenty of pace to win at Kempton on his preferred fast ground in October, despite jumping markedly to his left (won’t be an issue going this way round. Trainer Gavin Cromwell was brave enough to send him over the National fences last time at Aintree where he was a solid third despite the ground being against him. Assuming he is fully tuned up for his first outing in four months he looks unexposed off his current rating.
1pt each-way – Casa Tall – 2.05 Haydock – 15/2 general (most bookies 1/5 odds first 5)
1pt win – Quarenta – 2.40 Haydock – 4/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Django Django – 3.15 Haydock – 15/2 general (Skybet 1/5 odds 1st 4)
0.75pts each-way – Vivas – 4.20 Haydock – 11/1 general
1pt win – A Place Apart – 4.20 Haydock – 9/1 Paddy Power