Haydock Park,Betfair Chase Festival Day One,Friday 22nd November 2013

The sun was out for the first day of this highly established two day meeting,with the attention more on quality than quantity today was definitely a “Future Champions Day” albeit not in name.

A six race card with three useful looking novice events as the main attractions and the major jumps yards had all sent highly regarded horses to take part especially as the prize money was very good indeed.

For this meeting the steeplechases were being run on the inner flat track or for those of us with a memory they were using what was the old steeplechase course albeit without the drop fences whilst the hurdles were being run on the inside due to turf management on the inner hurdle course.

12.50 Polyflor At Homes Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+ (0-130).

The biggest field of the day here with thirteen going to post but it was all about one horse Cyrien Star who picked up the lead with just over a circuit to go and never saw another horse challenge him,Fighter Jet was 3.25 lengths back in second place,the handicapper has his measure of him now but he is still young and is worth keeping an eye on, As for the winner he looks a nice type to watch and was given a good ride by Jake Greenall with his useful three pound claim.

1.20 The Wingate Signs & Graphics Graduation Chase,Class 2,2m1f,13 fences.

Only four but it was a tight looking race on paper but in the end it was a polished performance by Fago who won very easily in what was a much easier contest than his last run in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter,making near enough all the running he easily held off Simply Ned by 3.25 lengths and that included giving he runner up 7lb at the weights, Fago is only five so has plenty left in him but with Sprinter Sacre at the top of the tree he will be campaigned at around 2m4f you would imagine and maybe a race like the Peterborough Chase would be ideal for him,Simply Ned ran a cracking race but was up against a far classier horse,he will probably end up in handicaps.

1.55 The Read Nicholls & McCain Exclusively On Betfair Novices Hurdle Race,Class 1,2m,9 flights,4yo+

Who can make the running,Lead right from the gate,Beat classy opposition and give away lots of weight, Zamdy Man can,yes the Zamdy Man can.

Yes I hear the groans too! A very impressive performance here beating the well regarded Oscar Hoof from Nicky Hendersons,Franciscan from the McCain yard and Purple Bay from John Ferguson this 4yo is improving nicely indeed for Venetia Williams who always does well with her horses at Haydock, Oscar Hoof will certainly improve for the run although maybe a step up in trip will bring about his best,Franciscan isn’t done with yet and could be the new Overturn for the yard while Purple Bay probably didn’t like the pace and struggled to pick up when needed.

2.30 The Betfair Cash Out Novices Steeplchase,Class 2,2m7f,18 fences,4yo+.

Like the other Chase it was a field of four for this race which finished in racecard order of 1-2-3-4 with a nice forecast that all meteorologists would have loved as Black Thunder beat Many Clouds by 2.25 lengths,always jumping well I’ve always thought this trip would suit him as was always running on over 2m4f when hurdling,probably not the main novice chaser for Paul Nicholls this season but he is a nice one in the making and could be moved up to 3m soon,Many Clouds the runner up was trying to follow his recent Carlisle win could prefer going right handed, last of the four was Up And Go for the McCains,he was tired at the last two fences and will be better for the run and dropped in easier company.

3.05 The Brown Shipley Wealth Well Managed “Fixed Brush” ‘National Hunt’ Novices Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,10 flights,4,5 and 6yo only.

Like a bottle of pasteurised milk the cream came to the top here as on the eve of the Merseyside Derby it was the aptly named Spirit of Shankly who had a real battle up the run in to just get the edge over long time leader Urban Hymn (One for fans of a The Verve) to record a nice 5 length win,Classic Move was third on his second start over hurdles,Staidnahanna kept on for fourth while Varom who was a runner up at Wetherby recently didn’t seem to stay and will be happier back at two miles.

Spirit of Shankly is a very nice horse,he may be back here for another go over the fixed brush hurdles during the season,sadly my religion forbids me from backing him (I’m a Utd fan),he will make an even better chaser next season.

3.40 The Polyflor Expona Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 4,2m,4,5 and 6yo only.

A very classy performance here for debutant Desoto County,trained by Donald McCain he travelled well and picked up when asked to quicken away from Wuff,like the winner both are former winners of Irish points,Wiff tried to make all,he was shaken up by Paddy Brennan with 3f to go but got headed in the last furlong,he lost nothing in defeat, Desoto County has a lot to like about him,he could go for another bumper but will end up hurdling and I think he could be a little bit special as they won this in 2009 with Peddlers Cross.

The first day all done then and tomorrow moved to the big one, The 2013 running of the Betfair Chase, eight go to post and what a race it is with the creme de la creme of three mile steeplechasers doing battle around Haydock Park.

Hard to work out who will be the victor in it as it is one of the best ever renewals in this races’ short history,whatever happens I just hope it is a race to savour and one that will make the headlines for all the right reasons with the runners and riders all coming back safe and sound.

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