Haydock Park stages its biggest jumps fixture before the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday and one of the features is a trial for the Champion Hurdle. Pentland Hills is the current favourite for the Haydock race and can be backed at +150 with BetOnline. The Peter Marsh Handicap Chase is the main supporting race on the card and Definitly Red is the horse to back at +800. The race is a decent trial for the Grand National at Aintree in April.
The track in the north-west of England is located just off the motorway that links the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. The meeting takes place on the day before Liverpool host Manchester United in the Premier League. The Reds have claimed 61 from a possible 63 points, with their only dropped points coming at Old Trafford earlier this season. There could be some friendly football rivalry at Haydock this Saturday.
The racecourse is 17 miles from Liverpool and 18 miles from Manchester. The M62 and East Lancs Road take traffic to and from each city. The course is a left-handed oval over one mile and five furlongs. In the past, the nature of the drop fences made Haydock a good track for a Grand National prep-race. The fences at Haydock and Aintree have been modified so the unique features are not so prevalent, but the chase course at Haydock still sets a good jumping test.
The New One Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial will be run on testing ground. There was plenty of rain in the area early in the week and more is forecast before the meeting at Haydock on Saturday. Pentland Hills won the two major Grade 1 juvenile hurdles last season for horses aged four, but five-year-olds have a poor recent record in the Champion Hurdle. Katchit (2008) was the last Triumph Hurdle winner to win the Champion Hurdle the following season.
Pentland Hills won The Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and won the equivalent race at the Aintree Grand National meeting the following month. The horse produced a promising run on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham in the International Hurdle, where he weakened in the final furlong and finished fifth behind Call Me Lord. Both horses are trained by Nicky Henderson, who plans to run Pentland Hills but is undecided about Call Me Lord (+400).
Manchester United and Liverpool play home matches in red shirts, so there is a fair chance plenty of fans on both sides back Definitly Red blindly just because of the name. The horse has won 14 races Under Rules in 32 starts. His chase record is eight wins from 22 runs, which is a decent strike rate. Definitly Red has earned over £400,000 on the track and won a novices’ hurdle at Haydock over two miles and seven furlongs in February 2015.
Definitly Red can be backed at +3300 with online bookmakers to win the 2020 Grand National. An impressive run on heavy ground in the Peter Marsh Chase could see that price go, so now is the time to back the horse for the National. Definitly Red started at +1000 for the race in 2017 and was unlucky in running. The horse was badly hampered at Bechers on the first circuit and never recovered, as the saddle slipped and the jockey pulled up the horse before the ninth fence.
Haydock racegoers could see the winner of this year’s Champion Hurdle and the Grand National on Saturday. Pentland Hills is more likely to win at the Festival than Definitly Red in the National at Aintree. However, Definitly Red could be the best-backed horse at the fixture – not because of form and ratings but due to the ‘Red’ in the horse’s name. In any case, Liverpool will beat Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.