2020 Peter Marsh Chase tips – 6/1 shot in Prime position to land Haydock handicap

Jon Vine takes a look through the field set to contest Saturday’s Peter Marsh Handicap Chase and highlights his best bet for Haydock on Saturday 18th January.

While Ascot welcomes a capacity crowd through their gates to enjoy the Clarence House Chase, Haydock stages a bumper card of their own on Saturday, featuring key trials for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle. The biggest prize pot will be up for grabs in the Peter Marsh Chase – a gruelling staying handicap which has been won by future Gold Cup winners like Little Owl, The Thinker and Jodami.

Most bookies are currently going 5/1 the field, with Acting Lass (5/1 Ladbrokes) topping the market in many places. Harry Fry’s mare followed a narrow victory at Chepstow with another solid showing at Ascot just before Christmas, narrowly losing out to Regal Encore in the Silver Cup Handicap. While the heavy ground at Haydock will be right up her street, I don’t think she’s particularly well-handicapped. Plus, only four horses have carried more than 11-03 to victory since The Thinker’s triumph in 1987. A fairly damning statistic for those at the head of the weights.

That stat hasn’t put Brian Ellison off from throwing Definitly Red (6/1 Unibet) into the mix. Performances this season signal Ellison’s 11-year-old is starting to decline as a top-level chaser, failing to get within 26-lengths of Ballyoptic in the Charlie Hall Chase, before a lengthy fourth in the Becher. He could bounce back to top form on Saturday, but there are certainly better-handicapped options sitting on more appealing prices.

Definitly Red finished sixth in the 2018 edition of the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Champers On Ice (8/1 William Hill) has been running consistently well in good-quality handicap hurdles, landing big prizes at Ffos Las and Cheltenham. David Pipe hasn’t pointed his ten-year-old at a fence since he was pulled up in the 2017 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and it would be a big risk backing him on the back of such an absence.

Geronimo (7/1 Unibet) rose through the ratings nicely last season, and even carried a price of just 12/1 into the Scottish Grand National, where he was pulled up well before the end. Sandy Thomson’s charge outstayed his rivals under Ryan Mania to win on his reappearance at Newcastle, but this is an all-together different challenge and I’d rather side a runner with more experience at this sort of level.

Nine-year-old mare, Midnight Tune (13/2 William Hill) has recorded some decent results when bullying small fields on heavy ground. The only time she’s been pitched into a large-field handicap, she was beaten 42 lengths, and that was a race just for her own sex. I can’t see her having the stomach for the fight in a race as attritional as the Peter Marsh.

Midnight Tune is fancied by many to go well in the Peter Marsh.

Vintage Clouds (8/1 Ladbrokes) has been somewhat of a cliff horse for me in recent seasons and I think I’m finally ready to give up on Sue Smith’s ten-year-old. This means he’ll probably hack up by 10 lengths on Saturday, but I just can’t justify tipping the Ultima runner-up on the back of what he’s produced this season.

Claud And Goldie (12/1 Unibet) comes into this on the back of a victory in a Veterans race, but shouldn’t have the quality to get involved.  Flying Angel (11/1 Ladbrokes) has been beaten on all five of his starts over three miles, and I can’t see Red Indian (18/1 Unibet) being good enough on the day to produce a performance worthy of an RPR in the high-140s, low-150s – which is usually required to win the Peter Marsh.

So, having ruled out almost every runner in the field, I’m left looking at PRIME VENTURE (6/1 Unibet). Evan Williams’ nine-year-old may come into this searching for his first victory in nine starts over fences, but he’s come close to landing some big prizes in that time and he’s certainly got the class to win a race like the Peter Marsh.

Prime Venture finished a close second to Ramses De Teillee in the Welsh National Trial in 2018, before running Yalltari close in another big handicap at Chepstow a few weeks later. Williams watched his charge secure a fourth-place finish in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last spring. A result he matched in the Welsh National last month, where Prime Venture crossed the line just four lengths behind impressive winner, Potters Legend, having sat on the pace for much of the race.

The only worry I have here is that the turn around between both of these gruelling races is a little stiff. Yet, I don’t think Evan Williams would throw his charge into battle if he didn’t feel he was 100% ready to go again, and Isabel Williams’ claimer leaves Prime Venture carrying a feather-weight of just 9-10. To me, Prime Venture is the most likely winner this year’s Peter Marsh.

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