Donn McClean Previews Some Of The Best Of Saturday's Racing

7 min

Donn McClean runs the rule over the Grand National Trial from Haydock and one of the more intriguing races from Ascot on Saturday.

You can see why they have put Ramses De Teillee in as favourite for the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock on Saturday. David Pipe’s horse ran a big race in the Welsh Grand National last time. He went down by just over a length to Elegant Escape, and he might have even beaten Colin Tizzard’s horse had he not made a fairly significant error at the fourth last fence.

He is only seven and he is progressive, and he relishes a test of stamina and he could come on again for his Welsh National run. The problem is that he is short enough in the betting, and he is up 5lb in the handicap, and he loves Chepstow, home of the Welsh National. His record at the Welsh track now reads 21112.

He has never run at Haydock.

Robinsfirth, by contrast, has. Twice. He finished second to Chase The Spud in a three-mile-one-furlong handicap chase there in November 2017 off a mark of 142, and he finished second to Wakanda in the Peter Marsh Chase there over the same distance last month off a mark of 146.

Colin Tizzard’s horse ran a big race that day. He came under pressure early, but he stayed on well from the second last fence to get up and take second place on the run-in. In the end, he was only beaten less than two lengths by the winner.

The handicapper raised him by just 2lb for that run to a mark of 148, and that was more than fair. It was his first run since December 2017 too, so there is every chance that he will improve for it. He is 10 years old, but he has raced just seven times over fences in his life, and he has raced just 12 times in total under all codes, so there is a chance that we have not seen the best of him yet.

We know that he goes well at Haydock and, while he goes well on soft ground, it was good to soft for the Peter Marsh Chase last month. He should have similar ground conditions on Saturday.

Also, the step up in trip to an extended three and a half miles could bring about further improvement. He could run a big race.

Yala Enki won this race last year, and he goes well at Haydock, but the ground will not be as soft as it was for last year’s race, and he is 10lb higher in the handicap.

Wakanda is only 4lb higher than he was when he won the Peter Marsh Chase last time, which means that Robinsfirth is only 2lb better off with him for a two-length beating. But Colin Tizzard’s horse has more scope for progression and, over the longer trip, he may exact his revenge.

Down at Ascot, Tight Call could run well in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. Tim Vaughan’s horse ran a cracker at Wincanton last time to finish second behind a similarly progressive horse in Tedham.

He was a little keener than ideal through the early stages of the race that day, racing, as he was, over two miles and five and a half furlongs, the longest trip over which he had ever raced.

He still found plenty in the closing stages of the race, despite his early exertions. He couldn’t repel the challenge of Tedham, but the pair of them had it between them from a fair way out, and they finished nicely clear.

The handicapper raised Tight Call by just 3lb to a mark of 120, which was more than fair. He is 2lb out of the handicap here, so he will effectively race off a mark of 122, but that is fine. He is progressive, he is only five and that run at Wincanton was just his third run over hurdles, so he has bags of scope for further progression.

Also, the drop back down by two furlongs in trip should mean that rider Alan Johns can be as aggressive on him as he likes. The Mahler gelding made all the running when he won his maiden hurdle over this trip at Hereford in November.

There are other progressive horses in the race, like Umndeni and Cloudy Glen, but Tight Call could have their measure.

On this week’s Horse Racing Podcast, your host Tom Stanley is joined by Sam Turner and Brendan Powell to look ahead to a bumper Ascot Card, the Grand National trial at Haydock and thoughts on a Percy-less Red Mills Chase.