TAQUIN Du Seuil is a cautious shout to topple the so-called establishment in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Barely the width of a cigarette paper would appear to separate the first three home from last season – Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti – but Jonjo O’Neill’s improving chaser could feasibly emerge as the surprise package.
Taquin Du Seuil has only raced eight times over fences, winning four along the way, and showed at Wetherby last time out that he can go the distance in races as a good as this. The seven-year-old was moderate at best upon his return to the fray at Newton Abbot, but it was an entirely different story in the Charlie Hall.
Despite having been a little keen early doors, O’Neill’s inmate got to within four lengths of Menorah, who renews rivalry on Merseyside but often struggles for consistency, to justify the mini-gamble of stepping him up to three miles.
The ground at Wetherby was relatively quick that day, so that effort should be upgraded a little as he is at his best on an even more forgiving surface.
That claim was neatly underscored at Haydock in January when he cantered to victory on heavy ground in a Grade Two race that admittedly lacked any strength in depth.
Next up was the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, when he further demonstrated his qualities with a three-quarters-of-a-length defeat Uxizandre, who looked so good at the Open meeting last weekend.
Taquin Du Seuil must take another step up against experienced bruisers like Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti, but O’Neill is renowned for markedly improving second-season chasers from one run to the next.
Proven on the ground and at the track, the appointment of Barry Geraghty, deputising for the injured Tony McCoy, also looks a fine piece of business.
The Betfair-sponsored “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle, if anything, looks even tougher, but 2012 winner Trustan Times is superb value to repeat the dose. Tim Easterby’s versatile eight-year-old was never really given the credit he deserved for his convincing success two years ago, when he outmuscled Holywell by nearly three lengths.
Although Trustan Times has not won since then, his subsequent form – he was not beaten far in the Pertemps at the Festival and in the Scottish National – was solid. Easterby’s representative is probably still a little better over hurdles at this stage in his career, and races at Haydock just 5lb higher than when he was victorious in this race.