Weird Al set for Haydock return

Weird Al is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The lightly-raced nine-year-old finished 10 lengths behind Kauto Star last season after an easy win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Donald McCain’s charge failed to complete in his final two starts last term, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and in the John Smith’s Grand National, but is reportedly in rude health for his comeback.

McCain said: “He is in grand form and I am very happy with him.

“He didn’t run in the Charlie Hall Chase this year because I just wanted to give him a bit more time.

“You would not be confident on Saturday when you are taking on horses of that quality but we would be hopeful he runs a big race.

“He likes nice ground but he will cope if the ground is soft as it was slow enough last year.”

Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Long Run and Imperial Commander also appear amongst the nine entries.

Nicky Henderson’s Long Run, who took the Cheltenham highlight in 2011, chased home the rejuvenated Kauto Star in this valuable Grade One event 12 months ago.

It has been a long road back for Imperial Commander, the 2010 Betfair winner who was pulled up on his most recent start in Long Run’s Gold Cup.

Imperial Commander’s jockey Paddy Brennan is excited about the assignment, tweeting: “Had my final sit on Imperial Commander this am before the Betfair Chase on Sat. I jumped 8 fences on him & he felt great.”

Paul Nicholls, who has won four of the seven runnings of the Lancashire highlight, could rely upon recent Charlie Hall winner Silviniaco Conti and Tidal Bay, who bolted up in the John Smith’s Hurdle on the same day at Wetherby.

The Neil Mulholland-trained Midnight Chase and Wayward Prince, now with Hilary Parrott, are still engaged.

This year’s Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster could make his seasonal reappearance for David Bridgwater, while Cannington Brook completes the line-up.

Meanwhile, Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Finian’s Rainbow has been entered for a first start of the season in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old gelding took the two-mile Cheltenham crown when holding Sizing Europe in a lengthy duel on the flat due to a bypassed fence and went on to deliver a fine performance in the Melling Chase at Aintree.

Henderson could also run reliable yardstick French Opera.

Finian’s Rainbow could have a testing comeback, though, as Nick Williams has entered his impressive Aintree winner For Non Stop.

Philip Hobbs also gives a chance to former Arkle hero and King George third Captain Chris.

Paul Nicholls’ Ghizao, fresh from a confidence-booster at Kempton, and Martin Keighley’s stable star Champion Court add further spice along with prolific sorts from shrewd stables in Quincy Des Pictons and Pepite Rose.

Mad Max continues his new career with Neil Mulholland, while Easter Meteor and Kumbeshwar have been entered by Emma Lavelle and Alan King respectively.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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