LOOKING ahead to the weekend action is never easy at this point with horses still not confirmed as certain runners but there are always one or two that look sure to line up.
At Haydock, Jonjo O’Neill’s IRON BRIDGE looks to need to win the Grand National Trial (3.15pm) if he’s to go up enough in the weights to ensure his place in the big one at Aintree in the spring.
Given that predicament, he’s likely to be giving his all here and conditions at the Merseyside venue should be reassuringly testing for this eight-year-old.
With weather forecasts expecting around 40mm of rain to hit the North West between now and Saturday, it’s likely the going will be the famous ‘Haydock Heavy’ come race time.
That should be music to the ears of connections as Iron Bridge clearly relishes bottomless conditions, as he showed when staying on well to finish second to Nassalam in December’s Welsh Grand National.
While he was beaten a long way into second there, he was one of the few left going when most had cried enough, so he’s likely to be suited to this 3m4f slog in the mud.
I think this will be right up his street and given he needs to win off his current rating of 140 to get into the National, he should go close, and a price of 5/1 in places looks worth taking.
Elsewhere on the Haydock card, there’s a chance to have another look at Gary Moore’s Triumph Hurdle hopeful, Salver, who runs in the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle (2.10pm).
The son of Motivator has won his three hurdles starts in convincing fashion, including when bolting up by 21 lengths in Grade Two company at Chepstow last time, and should take all the beating here.
At Ascot, the Grade One Ascot Chase (3.35pm) is set to offer the final clues ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, with hopefuls L’Homme Presse and Ahoy Senor set to line up.
Both horses will be out to better their luck from last season in Jump racing’s blue riband event, with L’Homme Presse forced to miss the race having suffered an injury in last year’s King George and Ahoy Senor crashing out at the 17th fence when in the lead and still travelling well.
Despite L’Homme Presse’s taking return last month at Lingfield, there is the possibility that the dreaded bounce factor could come into play with Venetia Williams’ runner having been absent for a long time before that.
I’m also not sure this 2m5f will be enough of a test for him and I’m happy to take him on at very skinny odds.
In contrast, AHOY SENOR looks too big a price at 7/1.
Lucinda Russell’s runner is always better during the second half of the season and ran his best race for a while last time out in the Cotswold Chase.
He was unlucky there too, when travelling best off the home turn only for one of the rider’s stirrups to snap at the top of the home straight, leaving him with no chance at the finish.
Considering that, it was still a serious effort to be beaten only 10 lengths in a competitive race.
I can see this contest being run to suit too, as the others may well let him get on with things out in front and if he finds his jumping rhythm over this trip it could make him a seriously hard target to pass.
Iron Bridge Haydock 3.15pm
Ahoy Senor Ascot 3.35pm