Watch out for Gogo
Alex Hammond expects Oscar Gogo to perform strongly in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
Last Updated: 20/01/12 4:36pm
This weekend the highlight is the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot and it looks like a mouthwatering clash between Finian's Rainbow and Al Ferof.
However, I don't think it's just a two-horse race. Nicky Henderson's Finian's Rainbow heads Sky Bet's market at 15/8. Last year's Arkle runner up beat Wishfull Thinking in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas and his rival is 11/2 third favourite to reverse those placings.
Al Ferof is 11/4 and it will be fascinating to see how Paul Nicholls' novice fares in open company. He is two out of two over fences and really impressed with his jumping in the Henry VIII at Kempton last month. Somersby is 6/1 for Henrietta Knight; he has been running well in graded chases this season and was fourth in the King George last time out.
Gauvain (7/1) has had a good season with his only blip coming when he fell in the Tingle Creek. He won either side of that mishap, including the Peterborough Chase last time out. Irish trainer Tom Cooper hasn't ruled out Forpadydeplasterer - a 12/1 shot. He has run well behind Big Zeb on his last two outings, although he hasn't won since the Arkle in 2009.
The 10-year-old is incredibly consistent, though, and rarely out of the first two. Whatever happens, this race will have an impact on the Champion Chase market and Finian's Rainbow is currently 5/1 third favourite for that. Wishfull Thinking and Al Ferof are both 12/1 for the Cheltenham race.
At those prices, I'm going to side with Wishfull Thinking as he wasn't far behind Finian's Rainbow at Kempton. I hope Philip Hobbs has got his breathing problems sorted out now, although there is plenty of confidence behind the favourite. With eight horses declared, we get three places and I would be inclined to have a bet each way on the super consistent Forpadydeplasterer at 12/1.
At Haydock the feature is the Peter Marsh Chase and this three- mile Limited Handicap looks super competitive. Bold Ransom heads the market at 11/2 with Sky Bet for Keith Reveley and Graham Lee. Pearlysteps is the 6/1 second favourite for Henry Daly; he fell in the Tommy Whittle last time, but he was held.
According To Pete (7/1) won the Roland Meyrick at Wetherby over Christmas; his first win for a while and the handicapper hasn't been kind (his trainer also saddles 10/1 shot King Fontaine). 2009 National winner Mon Mome (7/1) is on course for the big race once again and comes here en-route to Aintree. He hasn't won since his National victory but ran well at Cheltenham on New Year's Day to show he still retains his ability and enthusiasm.
Consigliere (8/1) represents David Pipe. He won over two miles, five furlongs at Wincanton last time and tries three miles for the first time. Take The Breeze is also 8/1 for Paul Nicholls and the heavy ground will definitely be in his favour here. Conditions will also suit Oscar Gogo (9/1) but Evan Williams' charge also tries three miles for the first time.
King Fontaine was behind his stablemate in the Roland Meyrick and needs to go up the weights if he is to make it into the National line-up; Malcolm Jefferson will be hoping he can run well. There are two more horses at 10/1: The Sawyer and Mount Oscar.
The latter has his first run since finishing second in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton in February. I think this is a real toughie to sort out, but at 9/1 you could do worse than back Oscar Gogo each way. Although his stamina is unproven, he will love conditions and comes here in great form.
Haydock also stages its Champion Hurdle Trial, although the Grade Two has only attracted five entries and isn't the most competitive. Celestial Halo will be odds on to continue his fine form; he beat Torphichen in a Handicap Hurdle at Newbury last time out.
Marsh Warbler is an interesting contender. He has some decent and was a Grade One-winning juvenile over hurdles. His most significant run this season was possibly his second to Grandouet at Haydock, but he also ran well to be fifth in the Ladbroke.
It will be interesting to see if he and Celestial Halo have a battle to make the running as they both prefer to race prominently. Marsh Warbler has plenty to find at the weights, but I'm with him for in-form trainer Brian Ellison.
Staying at Ascot, there is a decent graded hurdle, the Holloways Hurdle - a Grade Two Limited Handicap over two and a half miles. Knight Pass doesn't look badly weighted and this run will tell connections where they should be heading as Cheltenham approaches.
Wishfull Thinking in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot @ 11/2 with Sky Bet
Forpadydeplasterer in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot @ 12/1 (each way)
Oscar Gogo in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock @ 12/1 with Sky Bet (each way)
Marsh Warbler in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock
Knight Pass in the Holloways Hurdle at Ascot