Grand National Trial preview: Ramses De Teillee favourite for wide-open Haydock handicapPublished on: February 14, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
A cracking renewal of the UK’s official Grand National Trial is the feature race at Haydock this Saturday (15:35), and several horses will fancy their chances.
This Grade 3 handicap chase is around three-quarters of a mile short of the distance of the big one at Aintree across Merseyside, but always targeted by useful stayers.
Ramses De Teillee heads the betting at 13/2 with William Hill after chasing home Elegant Escape in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over Christmas. He is one of two runners for David Pipe in this and, while he’s unexposed as a stayer, confirming the form with those in-behind him may prove tougher than the market suggests.
There is plenty of scope for improvement from Ramses De Teillee, yet the last seven-year-old to win the race was back in 2007. It’s not the extended 3m 4f trip that’s the problem, but a swing in the weights.
Yala Enki officially heads those. Trainer Venetia Williams takes weight off last year’s Grand National Trial winner by using 7lb claimer Hugh Nugent, however. Taking that into account, the nine-year-old is 10lb better off for being beaten four lengths by Ramses De Teillee.
Conditions are markedly different from the testing, bottomless ground of 12 months ago, so a sounder surface will need to suit Yala Enki if he’s to win back-to-back renewals at 8/1 with 888sport.
If acting on the forecast good-to-soft going, and the fact he won on that on reappearance Bangor suggests he does, this looks a very solid each-way bet at a course that suits the horse.
Peter Marsh horses try further
The Welsh Grand National form isn’t the only line to consider. Four of the first five home in the valuable Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase are back at Haydock to test their stamina even further.
Wakanda won that for Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith last month and so tries this trip again. While the 10-year-old is up 4lb for his course victory, he was pulled up in this race two years ago when struggling.
Robinsfirth from Colin Tizzard’s yard was just 1 3/4 lengths behind Wakanda on his first run after a lengthy layoff and now gets 2lb from the winner here.
That gives him every chance of reversing the form, but there is always the danger that horses can bounce second time out following time on the sidelines. Despite that possibility, Robinsfirth (8/1 with betway) is marginally ahead of Wakanda in the betting (9/1 at Coral).
Ballyarthur ran really well from 3lb out of the weights in the Peter Marsh and just faded on the run-in into fourth.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has never tried this trip before, but is now 4lb better off with Wakanda and 2lb with Robinsfirth. That unknown quantity of whether he stays or not reflects general odds of 16/1.
Ian Williams’ Red Infantry was fifth here last month, but scored over course and distance previously. This nine-year-old has chances of making the frame again, especially if first-time blinkers have the desired effect.
He too may struggle to confirm his prior Haydock victory. Unibet are 14/1 about Red Infantry, but he’s shorter with other bookmakers.
Impulsive Star a solid each-way bet
Proven stamina is essential for this race, so Warwick’s similar grade and distance Classic Handicap Chase victor Impulsive Star ticks plenty of boxes there.
This Neil Mulholland trained nine-year-old has improved since finishing fourth in the marathon four-mile National Hunt Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival.
Although 7lb worse off at the weights with the Classic fourth Carole’s Destrier in this, Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount beat his veteran stablemate by 8 3/4 lengths.
He should have no problem confirming the form then, and at 9/1 with BetVictor, who pay five places on the race, Impulsive Star looks another great each-way bet off a nice racing weight.
Pipe’s second string, meanwhile, is Vieux Lion Rouge – often a costly horse to follow. He won this race two years ago though, and there was lots to like about his late running on second in the Becher Chase on reappearance following a wind op.
While Vieux Lion Rouge was pulled up in the Welsh National, regular jockey Tom Scudamore abandoned the hold-up tactics that had worked so well over the Aintree fences.
If ridden with more restraint, then the 10-year-old could be another that goes well in this off the same mark as when last successful and he’s 14/1 with Betfred.
Scottish Grand National runner-up Ballyoptic often attracts support in these staying races, and was an unlucky loser at Ayr last spring. He gave a whole stone away to Joe Farrell in that four-mile contest and went down by a nose.
Also trained by Twiston-Davies, the nine-year-old is 1lb better off for finishing sixth in the Welsh National. While that doesn’t immediately mean he’ll improve, Ballyoptic cannot be ruled out of this at 16/1 best.
Royal Vacation looks best of rest
Tizzard also has Portman Cup winner Royal Vacation engaged and up 6lb for his Taunton victory over established stayers.
A Grade 1 winner as a novice, but the beneficiary of infamous falls from Might Bite and Frodon, the nine-year-old’s rise from the assessor looks fair.
Royal Vacation is yet another who should be in punters’ minds for each-way bets with double figure prices on offer.
Bishops Road won this three years ago for Kerry Lee and, although he’s not getting any younger now aged 11, the booking of a conditional jockey gives him claims of reversing form with Red Infantry.
Mitchell Bastyan takes 5lb off Bishops Road, leaving the horse on 13lb better terms for a 2 3/4 lengths loss over course and distance.
That makes the 25/1 on offer look too big, but the veteran has failed to complete his two subsequent starts and is thus on the comeback trail.
By far the most difficult one to assess in the line-up is The Two Amigos. He has extensive point-to-point experience, but never raced above class 3 level under rules. This former Pipe inmate is improving for current handler Nicky Martin, but others have bigger claims.
Towards the bottom of the weights are Irish raider Ah Littleluck – a nine-year-old like Impulsive Star who has only just broken the maiden tag over fences – and Pobbles Bay. The latter faded two out in the Welsh Grand National last season and has been eased 13lb since.
That leaves Chef D’Oeuvre, who is 3lb out of the handicap here but recorded a course win over an extended 3m 3f last time out. Although beating some useful horses and put up 8lb for that, this demands much more.