Britain & Ireland Preview: Royale Pagaille seeks Haydock repeat

January 22nd, 2022

In the first of a weekly series, Alastair Bull looks at how to play some of the major races in Great Britain and Ireland.

The build-up to the Cheltenham Festival, which features 28 jumping races (24 of them graded) over four mid-March days, hots up this weekend in Britain with six major prep races: four Grade 2 races at Haydock, along with a Grade 1 and Grade 2 event at Ascot.

Exciting match-up at Ascot...

The most exciting is the Clarence House Chase (G1) over 2 1/8 miles at Ascot Saturday, featuring the best two-mile chaser in England, Shishkin, and his Irish counterpart, Energumene. Both are unbeaten in steeplechases; it’s the type of clash usually reserved for Cheltenham, and the winner will likely start favorite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham March 16. However, with just two other runners, it doesn’t appeal much as a betting race.

But better betting at Haydock Saturday

More interesting for players is the Peter Marsh Handicap (G2) at Haydock over 3 3/16 miles. It’s headed by last year’s winner #1 Royale Pagaille, who may be again set for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, after finishing sixth in that race last year.

At his only start this season, Royale Pagaille was a well-beaten second to A Plus Tard in the Lancashire Chase (G1) Nov. 20. A return to wetter footing will help him here, as will the fact he isn’t facing anything as good as A Plus Tard. He does have to carry topweight of 164 pounds, conceding between 11 and 20 pounds to his rivals, but he did so last year and he has a class advantage here.

The toughest horses for him to beat are the course specialist #2 Lord Du Mesnil, #8 Empire Steel, and #5 Remastered.

Lord Du Mesnil seeks to become the first winner of all four of Haydock’s big staying handicap steeplechases, having previously won the Tommy Whittle, Last Fling, and Grand National Trial. He will be a great chance if he’s recovered from his second in the Rowland Meyrick Chase (G3) Dec. 26.

Empire Steel fell in the Rowland Meyrick near the finish when contesting the lead. Prior to that he’d finished second in a Class 2 chase when conceding 21 pounds to the winner, and he will appreciate receiving 20 pounds from Royale Pagaille.

Remastered also fell recently in a major race when contesting the lead, in his case the rich Ladbrokes Trophy (G3) at Newbury Nov. 27. Since then he’s finished second in a Class 2 handicap chase at Haydock.

Behind the leading four, I’m throwing in #3 Sam Brown and #6 Kalooki for trifectas.


Haydock Park, Jan. 22, Race 4, Peter Marsh Handicap Chase

  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Royale Pagaille
  • $1 trifecta: 1, 5 with 1, 2, 5, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8


Thurles, Jan. 23, Race 5, Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase (G2)

$20 win: #1 Allaho: Last season’s Ryanair Chase (G1) winner at Cheltenham who should be improved by his first-up victory in the John Durkan Memorial.