The Betfair Chase is without doubt the star of the show on Saturday, and for me it’s the Fixed Brush Hurdle that picks up the ‘Oscar’ for Best Supporting Role.
Looking back over recent years, it’s quite incredible to see the names of future stars that have used the race as a stepping stone from hurdles to fences. Grand National winners Auroras Encore and Mon Mome competed in the race. Welsh National star Halcon Genelardais was runner-up here in 2007. And in 2009 an imminent Hennessy winner Diamond Harry defeated a future Gold Cup fourth Burton Port.
The race in 2011 was probably one of the most notable when a promising young Dynaste defeated that season’s Gold Cup winner Synchronised, with that year’s Grand National runner-up Sunnyhillboy down the field. And in 2012 a certain Holywell; maybe the next Gold Cup winner; came home in second place.
So which potential stars are hidden away in Saturday’s entries? Who are the horses destined for greater things in the months and years that lie ahead?
Volnay De Thaix is top rated having ‘dotted up’ last time at Huntingdon. Nicky Henderson’s French import cruised to victory on soft ground over 2m4f and certainly looks a class act. A further step up in trip to three miles is an unknown, and burdened with top weight it’s sure to be a tough task for a young five-year-old.
Aubusson looks another young horse with a big future. Built to make a chaser in time, he was last seen running a blinder in the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow. Still very much an unfurnished sort, he at least should enjoy the ground on Saturday, and though still a raw looking baby, he is not without a chance.
Spirit Of Shankly and Oscar Rock are a pair of six-year-olds with star potential. The latter is yet to be out of the frame in eight runs under rules, whilst Charlie Longsdon’s gelding was good enough to give Urban Hymn 6lbs and a thumping at the meeting last year on similarly soft ground.
Big Easy is turned out quickly after a terrific run at Cheltenham last week. The ground looks to be plenty soft enough for him, though he is a horse with a huge amount of talent. His nemesis last week is also in the line-up. Katkeau was mightily impressive and still looks to be very favourably handicapped. Whether he can put two solid runs together in such a short space of time has to be a major worry.
Of all the terrific action at Haydock over the next two days, the Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle is a race that continually unearths stars of the future. Saturday’s field, packed with promising young talent, looks set to continue that strong recent trend.