Haydock
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McCoy booked for Merry King at Haydock

Merry King looked set for a good season when opening his campaign with a promising second to Houblon Des Obeaux at Ascot. He was quietly fancied for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on his next start but stayed on at one pace into fifth behind Triolo D’Alene.

Trainer Jonjo O’Neill felt that the step up in trip at Chepstow would bring about the necessary improvement but he again finished just out of the money in fifth. O’Neill obviously felt that the seven-year-old was keeping a little to himself and applied a visor for his latest appearance at Haydock.

He seemed to run in snatches, losing his position three out before rallying strongly on the run-in to be beaten less than 2 lengths in third.  Richie McLernon has been the horse’s regular rider since 2012 but Tony McCoy will get the leg up on Saturday.

The most notable absentee at the final declaration stage was leading Grand National hope Monbeg Dude. Michael Scudamore was not completely satisfied with a scope on the horse and he has decided against running him as a precaution.

Hawkes Point has been promoted to joint favourite with Our Father after his excellent second to Mountainous in the Welsh National. He is now 7lbs worse off with Merry King who finished around 10 lengths behind him that day.

Our Father finished seventh in the Hennessy on his only start for David Pipe but the grey is known to go best when fresh. Last year’s first and second have both been declared with Well Refreshed now 12lbs worse off for 10 lengths with Rigadin De Beachene.

The latter is one of two runners for Venetia Williams who also saddles recent Ffos Las winner Emperor’s Choice. The weights are headed by Donald McCain’s Across The Bay who beat Wellforth here in December.

One of the best backed horses this week has been Mick Channon’s Loch Ba who races off just 10st with Mr Bannister’s 7lb allowance. Fourteen are set to go to post with the race due off at 2.55.