Haydock Park's Saturday feature is the Grand National Trial over 3m 5f on heavy ground and it goes without saying that it will be a thorough test of stamina.
Well Refreshed won the corresponding race 12 months ago from a 12lb lower mark but he has been out of form so far this season and cannot be supported with any confidence at present.
Hawkes Point went down by a head in the Welsh National over Christmas and is respected from a 6lb higher mark, but my two against the field are Merry King and Emperor's Choice (2.55) with marginal preference for the latter.
The selection bounced back to form at Ffos Las at the beginning of the month when scoring by eight lengths on his favoured heavy ground and he carries a 5lb penalty for that success. Venetia Williams has been carrying all before her so far this season and the selection can reward each way support at 9/1 with BetVictor.
Merry King was finishing best of all over 3m here last month (2lb higher today) and will appreciate the additional 5f. He is taken to reverse Chepstow running with Hawkes Point on the revised terms and McCoy takes over this afternoon. At 8/1 with BetVictor he might be worth a saver.
John Quinn has a very strong hand with his juveniles this season and Aurore D'Estruval (1.45) can follow up her Wetherby success in the opener. She had nothing to beat at the West Yorkshire track when Slipper Satin (reopposes) came down at the first but she looked a natural over her flights and can take this step up in grade in her stride.
Oscar Rock (4.05) steps up to 3m for the first time and if he stays I would be extremely disappointed if he didn't land the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. The selection was below par when third in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas, but is considered top draw by his trainer who is not one for calling geese swans.
At Ascot, their Grade 1 Chase can go to Captain Chris (3.50) who finished runner-up in the corresponding race behind Cue Card last year when he would surely have gone very close but for blundering two out.
Nicky Henderson's Riverside Theatre looks the danger and he is looking for a hat-trick of wins in the race having landed the 2011 and 2012 renewals
Having backed Teaforthree for the National earlier in the week I would expect a big run in the 3m Handicap Chase but marginal preference is for Highland Lodge (2.40) who can race off a mark just 3lb higher than on his seasonal reappearance when he finished runner up to Standing Ovation back in October.
The Reynoldstown Chase can go to chase debutant Gevrey Chambertin (2.05) who has always suggested that he could make up into a top class chaser for David Pipe and gets the opportunity to break his maiden in Grade 2 company.
I'm not convinced three miles on soft ground will suit Third Intention and Oliver Sherwood's Many Clouds is considered the danger in a modest renewal of this prestigious race.
Bourne (3.15) is down to the same mark as when winning the same 2m 4f Handicap Hurdle two years ago and he looks sure to go close for Donald McCain. The selection finished third behind Irish Saint last time and looks to be slowly coming to hand. He can race off the same mark today and can reward each way support.
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