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Darran

Hunter Chase - 4.45 Haydock

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I thought Risk A Fine won despite not having things in his favour on Friday. Having the best jockey in the race was a big help and he rode him superbly especially to take full advantage of the situation. Makes it easier when you are on the best horse in the race, but even so you need the right man on top. The track didn't suit him and a trip just over 3m was as far as he wants to go, but even though the 2nd ended up 2L behind he was always being held. I think he is much better than he showed today and I fully expect him to win more races this season. Good to take advantage of another drift as well and that makes it 5/7 so far this season. 

Onto one of the bigger Hunter Chases of the season, The Walrus at Haydock. Annoyingly it gets underway at 4.45 just as the football is about to finish and if you read my Non-League tips on here you will know I am at a game tomorrow. It is a fascinating race and having been on Road To Rome 3 times already I have to be on him again tomorrow. The ground is a slight concern as I don't think he wants it too soft, but it will continue to dry out so hopefully it will be fine. No doubt he will be making the running the again and I think he can take advantage out of being fit compared to the others who seem to be using this as a prep.

Pacha Du Polder will be bidding for a hat-trick next month and this is clearly a run to get him straight for Cheltenham. He was woeful in his prep race at Doncaster last season although he had a rushed preparation heading into that race and Nicholls has said he is further forward this time around. He has gone well fresh in the past so he might be up to winning this, but he is 12 now and it isn't hard to think he will come on for the run. He also seems to need a stamina test nowadays. I'm still not a big fan of the jockey either despite the fact she won at Cheltenham.

On ratings Ballotin has a chance here and we know the trainers horses are running better this season. His last start last season was terrible so he would certainly need to improve on that. He clearly handles all sorts of ground and I imagine this might well be Maxwell's Aintree horse. If he is fit he could be the biggest danger to the favourite.

Dineur won the Aintree Foxhunters the last time we saw him in 2017, but as I wrote ahead of the Ffos Las race he was due to run in last week, I think he will need this with Aintree very much the target.

Apart from when Ardea unseated on his Hunter Chase debut he has finished 1st or 2nd on every start under rules. That is some effort and he is a consistent sort. He finished just in front of Pacha Du Polder at Doncaster last year and as much as Pacha clearly needed it, this trip is probably more in Ardea's favour. I'm not sure he is up to winning this, but I can see him running well and he probably shouldn't be as big as he is. It would be surprising if any other the others got involved.

Road To Rome has already been well backed, but I still think the price is fair given he has race fitness on his side given the other main rivals are all making their seasonal return ahead of bigger targets. I am going to a save on Ballotin though. This trip and ground look ideal for him based on his French form and I can imagine he will be in better shape than his last run of last season. He also won on his seasonal/trainer debut last season off a mark of 139 and if he repeats that here he has to be involved at the finish.

Road To Rome 2pts @ 7/4 with Unibet

Ballotin 1pt @ 9/2 with Bet365 and pretty much every other bookie.

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It is amazing that Road To Rome started off by winning a maiden point in November. What a certainty he was that day! Today was a personal best as well and having had 7 runs since November doesn't seem to have affected him at all which is staggering. I'm sort of kicking myself for not having backed him for Cheltenham, but even though I knew he was good I wasn't really expecting him to prove to be this good. Granted you can pick holes in the others given they were making their seasonal returns, but he annihilated them. His jumping was superb and the rest just couldn't cope with him. The only one that could was Ballotin who would have finished 2nd had he not tried so keep with the winner. He should be up to winning Hunter Chases I would have thought. The winner is now in single figures for Cheltenham and deservedly so. It will be harder to make all there, but he is one of the leading contenders that's for sure.

If Pacha Du Polder was meant to be further forward than he was last year then he has no chance at Cheltenham as this was miles behind his Doncaster run. Granted he seems to love the race, but I couldn't back him at all and yet again his jockey was struggling to present him right at his fences. Dineur finished last and was never involved so he has to improve a lot to go to Aintree and Ardea was a bit disappointing as well. 

Sybarite finished 2nd and did what he nearly always does. His connections had said he was retired a year ago so it was odd to see him back, but clearly he does retain his ability.

Next race is at Lingfield on Monday.

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