There is a full of day of racing action to savour on Saturday, with top-class jumps action in Britain and Ireland to be followed by day two of the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in the United States.
This time of year marks the changing of the guard in racing, with the Flat ushered out and the jumps starts coming back. The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby is a race that signifies matters and Tom George’s Double Shuffle is fancied in Yorkshire.
Double Shuffle – 2.40 Wetherby @ 7/2
With the likes of Thistlecrack and Bristol De Mai not declared, favouritism has fallen on the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton. He was one of the outstanding novices’ last season and should go well for Bryony Frost, but this is going to be tougher for him.
Double Shuffle is perhaps being underestimated, having finished last season with a couple of below-par runs. He does, however, have a track record for going well fresh and, if reproducing the form that saw him chase home Might Bite in the King George last Christmas, he’ll be hard to halt.
Receiving weight from his rivals, Double Shuffle is the one to side with in the big race at Wetherby.
Wholestone – 3.15 Wetherby @ 7/4
Later on the card, Wholestone can score in The West Yorkshire Hurdle, one of the early-season staying hurdles of note. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge was second to Colin’s Sister in this race last year before ending his season with placed efforts in the big Grade Ones at Cheltenham and Aintree over three miles.
That sort of form is going to stand up to scrutiny if the Naunton handler has him primed for this reappearance. The likes of Old Guard will be expected to serve it up to him but that rival has a stamina question to answer over this trip and is facing a rival that should be seeking to expose any chinks in his armour the longer the race goes on.
Road To Respect – 2.30 Down Royal @ 7/4
The only Grade One race on Saturday is at Down Royal, with the JNWine.com Champion Chase featuring a host of contenders in the Gigginstown colours.
This race has been won in the past by the magnificent Kauto Star and it will be Gordon Elliott’s Outlander defending the crown now. He has not exactly been consistent and is overlooked as a risky proposition.
Balko Des Flos is a danger to all but Henry De Bromhead’s Ryanair Chase winner may prefer an intermediate trip at this stage.
In any case, Road To Respect is a Grade One-winning, high-class staying chaser and, at just seven years of age, Noel Meade’s charge is likely to still be on an upward curve.
Having ended last season with excellent efforts in the Gold Cups at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Road To Respect is tipped to go one better than his placing in this race 12 months ago.
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