Last Fling Festival 2024: Tips & Preview

Haydock's final meeting of 2023 will be run on deep ground, which brings specialists to the fore and gives punters a sporting chance.

The feature Last Fling Handicap Chase at 1.25 is a bit of a Welsh Grand National in miniature and the Chepstow showpiece might even give us a clue to the winner.

Here are tips for all seven races on the Saturday card at Haydock.

12.15pm – Betfred Nifty 50 Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (3m½f)

Those who backed HILL OF TARA when he was turned over at 2-7 last time might reasonably be reluctant about going in again. That is good news for the rest of us, as this horse remains extremely interesting and his latest defeat might have helped to make his price here.

He came into that race on a hat-trick, but it was his third run in just over two weeks. Before that, he had looked a progressive slow-ground handicap hurdler. Having had time to get over his recent spurt of improvement, he can pick up the thread again.

Selection: Hill Of Tara

12.50pm – Betfred TV EBF 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (1m7½f)

There is no doubt that Norman Fletcher has the best form in this novice, but he also carries a 10lb penalty for having shown as much. BERTIE'S BALLET has got off scot-free by comparison.

He was second on his hurdling debut, but that was his first run since the spring and he had better bumper form than Norman Fletcher. The 10lb pull in the weights could make all the difference in a race that lacks depth.

Selection: Bertie's Ballet

1.25pm – Betfred Last Fling Handicap Chase (3m4½f)

This race will turn into one of pure stamina. The ground is notably deeper than a week ago, when the principals in the Tommy Whittle (a race over slightly shorter for better horses) finished at a crawl.

In those circumstances, FORTESCUE is the sort of horse you want on your side. As it happens, he comes into this race in good form having been a six-lengths fourth to Nassalam on that horse's last start before he won the Welsh National by half of Monmouthshire.

Fortescue has been dropped 1lb for his trouble and the forceful tactics employed that day appeared to keep him sweet. Given the big concern with this horse is application, if you could guarantee him showing some zip he would be clear favourite here.

Selection: Fortescue

2.00pm – Betfred Goals Galore Novices' Handicap Chase (3m1½f)

The string of 2s and 3s beside SOUTHERN SAM's name might invite a few to cast aspersions about his character. That would be rash.

Many of those who have beaten him have been on their way to better things. French Paradoxe, Animal and East Street have all improved since beating him.

Unless Step Above's jumping suddenly clicks, it is very unlikely that Southern Sam faces anything so progressive here.

He is top weight this time, the supposed class angle, and he can make it count to land an overdue maiden win over fences.

Selection: Southern Sam

2.35pm – Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Handicap Hurdle (2m3f)

After a juvenile season that hinted at a high regard from connections that he was unable to quite deliver on, PUNTA DEL ESTE has taken steps forward in handicaps on deep ground this season.

He ran into Richmond Lake, who won by a street at Aintree next time out. Then he ran in a Class 2 at Sandown. That might have been a bit too much for him at his stage, but he finished third and would have been a little closer but for being hampered.

The big names in this field are largely fading forces and it counts as a step down in grade. He can take advantage.

Selection: Punta Del Este

3.10pm – Betfred 'Hot Shots' Handicap Chase (2m4f)

Poor old Ned Tanner has tended to run into trouble and/or improving rivals whenever he has got his ideal conditions of late. The same applies here, as the opposition includes HAPPY AND FINE.

This horse needed the experience of his chasing debut, but put that behind him when winning at Leicester last time. The form of that race feels strong, with promising sorts in second and third. It was on heavy ground, too, so he is well prepared for this test.

Selection: Happy And Fine

3.45pm – Betfred Happy New Year Open National Hunt Flat Race (1m7½f)

Three of the four runners here ran in point-to-points, all managing to win in that sphere. That suggests a fair amount of long-term potential, but in the here and now SAN FRANDISCO has the edge owing to his promising rules debut at Chepstow 36 days ago.

He was among similarly interesting types that day, finding only one too strong. He was sent off favourite there and it is likely that connections foresee setting the record straight here.

Selection: San Frandisco

Take Time to Think | | 18+

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