My heart would tell me I should be in Ascot to ride Master Minded in the Amlin 1965 Chase after winning two Champion Chases on him, yet I know Paul Nicholls is quite sweet on the chances of What A Friend in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Last year was a bit disappointing for Master Minded. He didn’t spark in his first run at Cheltenham when Well Chief beat him and they diagnosed him after with a rib problem.
I know he won the Game Spirit Chase in Newbury in February, but he hung quite badly that day and it wasn’t a great performance. When Big Zeb beat him in the Champion Chase, I think it was too quick for him. He couldn’t let himself go in the ground.
If he can reproduce anything like his best form he’s an absolute certainty today, trip or no trip. I think he’ll get the two miles and three. Alright, Voy Por Ustedes beat him over two and a half in Aintree but that was after winning the Champion Chase. I’d say he was over the top that day more than anything else.
I schooled him two or three times before I got injured and he was in great form. If I was riding him, I’d be really looking forward to it.
What A Friend is improving all the time. In his three runs last year he was second to Denman in the Hennessy and won two Grade 1s. It’s hard to fault that form, but then again you are taking on the Gold Cup winner and you have to have massive respect for that.
Imperial Commander ran Kauto Star to a nose in this race last year, flopped in the King George, won the Gold Cup and he might as well have pulled up going to the second fence in Aintree. He was beaten early and you can rule that one out completely. I think he’ll be hard to beat. As hard as he will be to beat, there is only one horse in the race that could do it and that’s What A Friend.
Back in Ascot, Paul runs Woolcombe Folly, who I think is well handicapped. In his first run over fences last year he beat Mad Max in Doncaster. He had a horrible fall schooling about 10 days before Cheltenham and ran badly in the Arkle as a result. He then came back and won at Cheltenham in April. He’s unexposed and he’s one to have a good look at.
In Haydock, I’m a real big fan of Clerk’s Choice who runs in the third. He’s an absolute machine and if he wasn’t trained by M C Banks and ridden by Tom Molloy, he’d be 1/4. I think this fella has it all. He’s a proper horse.
In the fifth, Paul runs Red Harbour. He’s tough and stays forever. He was capable of winning two bumpers and won the Novices’ Handicap Hurdle last March. He’s a great jumper and is going novice chasing but Paul was quite keen on having a go at this race before he does.
Willie runs Quadrillon in the novice winners’ chase in Gowran. He was unlucky in Fairyhouse when he was bumped at the first and fell. But he’s going well at home and will love the trip and the ground. He’s a great chance.
So does Allee Garde in the bumper. He was second on his debut but ran absolutely brutal in Punchestown when we thought he’d win. I wouldn’t be worried about him. He’s in good nick and worked well in Thurles last week. I’d think he’ll win.
I think it’ll be too soft for both Gullible Gordon and Meanus Dandy in the Becher Chase tomorrow but Current Event is not to be missed in the first. He’s a three-year-old running in an open maiden hurdle but he’s a mature sort who would pass for four. He’s tough, he’s getting a stone and one off the rest of them and I know the lads in the yard are happy with him. In Navan, Fionnegas will be no price in the beginners’ chase but his form against all the top novice hurdlers is rock solid.