Last weekend’s racing didn’t disappoint and readers of the preview will have hopefully had the winner of the feature race. Adrimel 11/2 landed the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle in determined fashion under a typical strong front running Richard Johnson ride. On The Blind Side 9/4 and Sky Pirate 6/4 made it three winners on the day with impressive victories. As always there were a few disappointments and a couple hit the crossbar, including Rowland ward 10/1 who ran a blinder behind the talented Edwardstone. Once again I will look to cover as many races as possible including all the feature races. Should the weather not spoil the party, this weekend’s action comes from Haydock, Taunton and Ascot where the latter holds the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase. There is also an interesting card across the Irish sea at Navan where I will highlight a few, including one with an eye to the Cheltenham Festival.
Brian Hughes will be Waiting Patiently in Clarence House
Cracking on with the action and the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase is the feature race of the day. Champion Chaser Politologue heads the betting at 5/4 in a field of 8. Politologue proved his dominant Champion Chase win was no fluke by winning the Tingle Creek in impressive fashion. He is however one of a few horses who like to go forward in this. Duc Des Genievres, First Flow and Bun Doran have all made the running in the past and I suspect this could be run at a strong gallop. If this is the case, I’m hoping Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently 5/2 can pounce late on under Brian Hughes. Waiting Patiently is an incredibly versatile horse and comes into this on the back of a fine second in the King George on his seasonal debut. He drops considerably in trip here but he has form over 2 miles including a rallying third against the re-opposing Defi Du Seuil in the 2019 Tingle Creek. Connections must feel he’s in fine form as he has been supplemented for the race. I really think Brian Hughes can pop him round off the pace then be delivered into the straight for a strong finishing effort. Politologue is the one they all have to beat and an on song Defi Du Seuil would certainly be bang there. I just think the race may play out perfectly for Waiting Patiently and he gets the nod at 5/2.
Follow the Champion Jockey in the two big Ascot Handicaps
Hopefully Brian Hughes will land the big one aboard Waiting Patiently later in the afternoon but I like his chances in the two big Ascot handicaps beforehand. The first comes at 1:50 and is a hurdle race over 2 miles and 3 furlongs. Hughes takes the ride on Kateson 11/1 here and I really like the form of last win at Aintree over a similar trip on soft ground. The third placed horse, Hunters Call has come out and run a blinder to finish third in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. The fourth placed horse, Mint Condition has come out and sauntered to victory in a handicap hurdle before going down a neck in the Grade 2 Leamington Novces’ Hurdle at Warwick last weekend. The firth placed horse, Look My Way has since come out and placed second and the seventh placed horse Navajo Pass has bolted up in a Musselburgh handicap hurdle. It is safe to say I think this is very strong form and the 5lb rise Kateson received for the win looks manageable. The testing conditions should suit, he’s a tough competitor and to my eye looks a cracking each way bet at 11/1 off a mark of 139.
The second big Ascot handicap of the day comes at 3:00, this time over 2 miles 5 furlongs and fences. Once again I’ll be following the champion jockey in, this time aboard Windsor Avenue 9/1 who is held in the highest of regards by trainer Brian Ellison. Windsor Avenue reappeared in an intermediate chase at Carlisle where he ran a fine race to finish second to Imperial Aura before
disappointing in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. Things did not go to plan that day and he duly bounced back with a good third placed last time out behind a talented pair in Canelo and Snow Leapardess, giving them both a fair bit of weight. That run came over three miles and this drop back to 2 miles 5 furlongs looks sure to suit along with the return to a right-handed track. Market leader Good Boy Bobby may want a greater test of stamina and top weight Bennys King has to deal with a 7lb rise after a good win at the track last time out. Dashel Drasher is a horse I like but he too must shoulder a big weight and in testing conditions I believe it’s worth siding with Windsor Avenue who carries a lower weight than all those ahead of him in the betting.
Roksana hard to beat in Mares Hurdle
The second race on the card at Ascot is a Grade 2 Mares hurdle over just shy of 3 miles. I think Dan Skelton’s Roksana 4/5 will take some stopping here up against 2019 Grand National runner up Magic Of Light and 2019 Mares Novices winner Eglantine Du Seuil. Magic Of Light is an extremely talented mare but her best form comes over fences and on official ratings has 4lbs to find with Roksana who has all the right form lines with top stayers Paisley Park and Thyme Hill. Connections of Roksana seem to be favouring a tilt at Aintree over Cheltenham and as a result I think she’ll be primed for this in the knowledge there is time to recover afterwards for the big spring Grade 1’s. Magic Of Light on the other hand has the Grand National in mind and she’ll be coming here in good form. I wouldn’t be surprised if connections have left her a bit more room for improvement. Eglantine Du Seuil took a step back in the right direction at Cheltenham last time out and receives 6lb from both Magic Of Light and Roksana but her form is quite a way off the other two mares and she’ll have to improve significantly for this step up to 3 miles.
Elsewhere at Ascot, I like the chances of Crossley Tender 5/1 in the 2:25. Subject to a bit of a gamble last time out, Crossley Tender did not disappoint and put in a career best performance to win. The handicapper was impressed and raised him 8lbs. Form figures of 5111231 this season has actually seen his mark rise 24lbs in total but the manner in which he won last time out suggested there could be further improvement to come. Cobolobo is towards the head of the betting and Crossley Tender has some nice form lines with him off a similar weight difference. Should Crossley Tender take another step forward, I believe he will be competitive off a mark of 125.
De Boinville can start Haydock card with Grade 2 double
A classy looking Haydock card kicks off with back to back Grade 2’s and Nico De Boinville rides both favourites who look to have very strong claims. The first Grade 2 is a novices’ chase over 2 miles and 3 furlongs. Allart 8/13 has to shoulder a penalty for his Grade 2 success last time out which was in fact his chasing debut. Thrown in at the deep end by trainer Nicky Henderson, Allart was awkward in the jumping department early on but warmed to the task nicely, flying over the final few fences which included a magnificent jump at the last. He beat Fiddlerontheroof that day who didn’t quite have the turn of foot to match Allarts. Going on form lines through Fiddlerontheroof we get to second favourite Silver Hallmark who was narrowly beaten by Fiddlerontheroof at Exeter over a similar trip. Given that was his first start over fences he is entitled to improve but the same can be said for Allart. Given he jumps like he did the final few flights at Ascot, I think Allart will be hard to beat.
Nico also picks up the ride on favourite Llandinabo Lad 15/8 in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial. Llandinabo Lad has to concede weight all round but I still think he ticks plenty of boxes. He has
a course and distance win to his name on soft ground so the testing conditions should suit. I thought his run last time out in another supreme trial was an extremely good effort. He finished a two- and three-quarter length second to the promising My Drogo giving him 5lbs. Despite conceding weight all round, he is still clear on official ratings and just looks the class horse in the race. Minella Drama has shown heaps of potential on his last two starts and is relatively unexposed. He is short enough at 5/2 though and I’d rather back the proven horse in Llandinabo Lad at slightly slimer odds of 15/8.
The return of the King?
The feature race of the day at Haydock is The New One Unibet Hurdle where Buveur D’Air will make his comeback against just the two rivals, Ballyandy and Navajo Pass. First things first, it’s fantastic to see to see Buveur D’Air back after a freak injury in last year’s Fighting Fifth. Since then he has seen his stable mate, Epatante, climb the ranks and subsequently win a Champion Hurdle. If Buveur D’Air is to pose a threat to her, he really needs to be winning this despite the 420 day absence. Ballyandy and Navajo Pass are two very good horses in their own right but the conditions of the race play massively into Buveur D’Air’s hands. He receives 3lbs off Navajo Pass and 6lbs from Ballyandy. We know he’ll handle the testing conditions and reports suggest he’s been working well. If he’s going to contend a Champion Hurdle in March, he needs to win this. This is not my idea of a good betting race but the vote has to go to Buveur D’Air 8/13
Sam Brown the best of the rest at Haydock
Such is the quality of the Haydock card; I am yet to touch on the Peter Marsh Chase where Royal Pagaille is a short priced favourite having impressed at Haydock earlier in the season and last time out at Kempton. In the main he has jumped well but he has made a couple of fairly hefty mistakes and over this trip, carrying top weight, I’m willing to take him on with Anthony Honeyballs Sam Brown 4/1. Sam Brown should relish these testing conditions and proved his well-being with a gutsy reappearance conceding weight all round at Carlisle in November. He finished third in behind the very smart Imperial Aura that day and looks to be crying out for this testing trip. On official ratings he has 4lbs to find with Royal Pagaille but useful claimer Ben Godfrey is onboard to take off 5lbs meaning he’ll run off 9lbs less than the favourite. He looks a nice price at 4/1.
The Mighty Don just might have a chance in Taunton feature
The feature race of the day at Taunton is the Weatherbys Portman Cup Chase over 3 miles 4 furlongs at 2:10. Defending champion Yala Enki is the odds-on favourite after a fine third placed effort in the rearranged Welsh Grand National. As a result, he comes here after just the 14-day break and at the prices I think he may be worth taking on. If The Cap Fits looks a nice price at 3/1 but I’m yet to be convinced about him over fences and as a result I will take a chance on an outsider in the shape of The Mighty Don 14/1. He ran a huge race last time out at Cheltenham in a novice chase behind the smart Happygolucky and stayed on powerfully up the Cheltenham hill. The Mighty Don faces a huge task on official ratings, racing off level weights, but I’m hoping the marathon trip and testing conditions may well bring stamina to the fore. The Mighty Don looks to be crying out for this sort of trip and if he can avoid walking through the odd fence, I think he can outrun his odds of 14/1.
Riviere D’etel can enhance Cheltenham Festival claims in Navan Opener
Gordon Elliott’s 4-year-old filly, Riviere D’etel 6/4 could not have been more impressive when landing the odds on her Irish debut. She was fairly keen in the early stages but jumped slickly
throughout. The form of the race is yet to really be tested but she did not seem to beat much. The time however was very fast and she sauntered through the heavy ground pointing to the fact she may be a filly with considerable talent. Considering she is a juvenile, it is interesting to see connections through her into a novice hurdle. As a result, she will receive the handy allowances in what looks a competitive race. Thedevilscoachman comes here on the back of a fifth placed finish behind Appreciate It in a Grade 1 over Christmas and Willie Mullins saddles Ruaille Buaille who ran a nice race against Crosshill and Power of Pause last time out. I’m happy to side with Riviere D’etel though and hope she can take this before maybe heading to the Cheltenham festival. Antepost backers, it’s worth noting connections own triumph hurdle favourite Zanahiyr, so I’d say her target may be The Boodles or Mares Novice.
Step up in trip to suit Gars De Sceaux
Gordon Elliott’s rangy looking grey, Gars De Sceaux 3/1, looks an exciting chaser in the maker but I’m hoping there are hurdle races to be won first. By Saddler Maker and from the family of Bristol Du Mai, this step up to 2 and a half miles looks sure to suit. Gars De Sceaux ran a race full of promise on hurdles debut against the talented Hook Up giving her 7lbs. Hook Up won quite convincingly in the end but Gars De Sceaux was the only horse to attempt to go with her. I thought he had paid the price for being up with a frantic pace early on when he dropped back to third coming down to the last but he gamely railed and put in a big leap at the last, before running on into second. For a horse who is ultimately going to want a trip and fences in time, I thought this was a highly encouraging debut over the minimum trip. Conditions look set to be testing underfoot which will help Gars De Sceaux and I’m hoping he can run a big race at odds of 3/1.
Navan Handicap Hurdle to hold Cheltenham Festival clue
The 1:57 at Navan looks a particularly hot handicap and features a horse followers of my twitter (@TheTr17pleP) will know I adore. We haven’t seen him since taking a final flight tumble in the Martin Pipe at last year’s festival but Column Of Fire finally returns. He’s a horse I believe has stacks off potential and would’ve won the Martin Pipe in convincing fashion. As a result, his hurdles mark of 145 could still look a lovely one and I think he’ll be a big player in The Coral Cup or Pertemps should he qualify for the latter. He runs in today’s race off top weight but has handy claimer Jack Wildman on board who takes off 7 valuable pounds. It’s hard to tell how well he’ll run in this off such a long break and as with big spring handicaps in mind, I am sure connections don’t want to destroy that mark. I’d want to see him be competitive though and hope to see him finish in the first 5 before going on to Cheltenham Festival glory. Well, that’s the dream anyway!
As also best of luck if you’re having a bet.
By Sam Rideout – Follow me on twitter @TheTr17pleP