Salut flo can bloom in daffodil vase test in-form Maktu has legs to last pace
What have we done to deserve it? Just as we savoured a return to normality, with the ground finally drying out, the weather gods' wrath has returned us with vengeance to the depths of mid-winter. Only mudlarks will thrive at Haydock Park this afternoon.
More's the pity, since the Betfred Daffodil Vase Handicap (3.30) had the makings of an interesting feature. Seasoned handicappers like Montgermont and the evergreen Mister McGoldrick are matched against up-and-comers Fistral Beach, Saphir Des Bois and Will Be Done. It's anyone's guess which of them will cope best with the ground.
In conditions so bottomless, it requires a supreme act of faith to side with high-weighted horses. That rules out Will Be Done and Mister McGoldrick, especially since both like to press the pace in a race that has attracted similar types in Fistral Beach and Saphir Des Bois.
That should hand the advantage to stalkers like Stormin Exit and Lease Lend. The latter is hard to assess, having picked off inferior opponents to post his impressive form figures. This is much harder, however, so I side with Salut Flo, a facile winner on his only English start since he joined David Pipe's stable.
Salut Flo has certainly paid the price. An angry handicapper raised his rating by 14lbs, which was still insufficient for the five-year-old to contest any of the Cheltenham handicaps. Yet the ease of his Doncaster triumph four weeks ago was such that he would probably have won with an extra stone to carry anyway.
Salut Flo has already proved his ability to act on testing ground in France. He obviously has plenty of raw potential and that could see him through -- especially when so many of his opponents are prone to clouting the odd fence.
CLARIETTA to give dunlop happy easter
It's a long time since horses of Time Charter's calibre turned out at Kempton's Easter meeting, which is now an all-weather gig. No other filly has won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes since Henry Candy saddled her to victory at Ascot in 1983.
Time Charter won what is now the 32Red.com Fillies' Stakes (2.05), and we can safely assume that none of today's pretenders will ever match her deeds. Some have shown potential on limited evidence to date, none more so that Clairvoyance, which won her maiden over the course and distance by daylight nine days ago.
Clairvoyance is in the 'could be anything' category, but on this occasion Clarietta is preferred. This one's ambitions were raised after two convincing victories last term and she didn't disappoint, running third behind the Oaks favourite, Timepiece, last time out.
Pipette is an obvious danger but the early-season form of her trainer, Andrew Balding, has not been convincing. Clarietta, by contrast, is trained by John Dunlop, who has long demonstrated his prowess at readying one for this Easter meeting.
John Gosden, who trains Clairvoyance, is off to a fast start and his Chantilly Tiffany is the day's best bet in the Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes (3.15). The five-year-old spent last season with Ed Dunlop, who tried her in a series of Group races for much of the campaign. Although she couldn't cut it, she showed more than enough to win a race such as this and should prove hard to beat.
The Conditions Stakes (2.40) for colts is a real tease. Azizi will be popular from the Lincoln-winning stable of William Haggas. So too will Planet Red, whose sights were raised to Group company straight after he won his maiden back in July.
Classic Colori, for his part, will appreciate the step up to a mile here after he just prevailed in a similar race at Lingfield two weeks ago. His 8lb penalty is prohibitive, however, and Navajo Chief is preferred. Alan Jarvis primed the colt under top weight in a competitive handicap here last week, so he won't lack anything for fitness.
In-form maktu has legs to last pace
BACK at Haydock, I'm keen to oppose Noun De La Thinte, the top-rated runner in the Racing UK Novices' Chase (2.55). Although Venetia Williams has performed wonders to keep this mare on the boil throughout the winter, Noun De La Thinte tackles three miles for the first time on her 11th start in the last 17 weeks. Something surely has to give.
Vodka Brook is another which doesn't quite convince on testing ground over this trip. Conversely, Maktu will be in his element. Although he has something to find on official figures, the eight-year-old boosted his confidence when winning at Chepstow recently. This dour stayer can go in again.