Saturday Racing Preview
The weather caused chaos last weekend but touch wood we look set to have some excellent races this weekend with the Grade 1 Ascot Chase the standout contest. A certain Goshen looks to bounce back in a competitive Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton whilst we also have a good-looking card at Haydock. With no action last Saturday, it has been two weeks since the preview struck gold with Heaven Help Us at 33/1 so fingers crossed, we can continue the fine form and pick out a few to go well.
Gallyhill to enhance Ballymore credentials for Henderson and De Boinville
A classy Ascot card kicks off with a novice hurdle over just shy of two and a half miles. Midnight River brings a good level of form into this having placed in a good novice hurdle at Cheltenham earlier in the season and then fourth last time out in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick. One True King had been progressing nicely before failing to deliver on market expectations in the Lanzarote last time out. After 6 races already this season I wouldn’t be confident there is more improvement to come. Improvement is however what I expect to see from £450,000 purchase Gallyhill 4/5 who landed the odds in workmanlike fashion on debut last time out. Running over 2 miles that day, Gallyhill travelled smoothly through the race and sauntered into the lead closing for home. He took a while to get going though and was headed after the last. He duly fought back gamely, indicating this step up in trip was needed. The form of his win is yet to be tested but his Point To Point success reads well having beaten Ballybegg who has come out and won 2 novice hurdles this season and looks a useful prospect. Gallyhill receives a handy 3lbs from his main market rivals and should he progress from his promising debut win, I believe he will be hard to beat.
Look for Demachine in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown
Next up at Ascot we have the Grade 2 Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase over 3 miles and I like the chances of Kerry Lee’s Demachine 11/2. He finished third on his last start but he beat current favourite Sevarano by 3 lengths that day in receipt on 8lbs. The pair meet off level weights here so in theory Sevarano should come off better but Demachine has had a wind op since and I believe the return to Ascot and step back up to three miles will really suit. Looking at the jockey comments post-race it was interesting to see Brendon Powell say Sevarano slipped at the first fence causing a bad mistake and subsequently a poor round of jumping. His confidence will need to back as Ascot demands a serious round of jumping, another factor I am hoping will play to Demachines strengths. Hurricane Harvey has to concede 5lbs to all which looks a tough task to me and I didn’t like the way Full Back jinked to his left at times whilst jumping last time out. Ascot can often suit some horses more than others and Demachine appeared to thrive round here two starts back. He is the only course winner in the field, and I like his chances at 11/2.
Hobbs and Johnson can strike in hot handicap chase
The first big handicap of the day comes at 2:25 and is a chase over 3 miles. 12 runners go to post for what looks a typically competitive contest. Notachance holds strong claims off the back of two impressive wins so far this season and Cobolobo looks sure to go well for the O’Neills. From a win perspective, I like the chances of the Philip Hobbs trained Jerrysback 5/1 whose sole start this season came in a red-hot handicap at the track late last month. He finished third that day, a few lengths behind Dashel Drasher and Bennys King who both take their chance in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase later on the card. Given both Dashel and Benny are seemingly on a steep upward curve,
Jerrysback looks potentially well treated off an unchanged mark of 142. Given he is likely to improve for his first start of the season and the fact connections risk ruining a lenient looking handicap mark so close to the Cheltenham Festival, Jerrysback looks likely to run a big race. I cannot move on without mentioning 13-year-old Regal Encore 9/1 who seems to save his best for Ascot these days, recording form figures of 313123 on his last 6 starts round the track. At 9/1 I wouldn’t put anyone off having an each way play on him.
Gladiateur the pick at the weights but watch out for a late L’Ami Serge
The second of the big handicaps comes over the intermediate trip at three o’clock. Two horses caught my eye in this, and they could not have more differing profiles. The first was the unexposed Gladiateur Allen 6/1 who impressed me when last seen winning in stylish fashion at the track over slightly further. The anticipated softer ground should account for the slightly shorter trip and his form looks strong. His third two starts back has been franked with both the winner, Martinhal, and second, Karl Philippe, winning since. He gets in here off 131 and Chester Williams takes a handy 5lbs off. The signs are there for a very big run.
The other horse that caught my eye is at the other end of his career, but I believe he represents a bit of each way value. L’Ami Serge 16/1 hasn’t been seen for 345 days but has a reappearance record of 11222 for trainer Nicky Henderson so we know he goes well fresh. He does however have to shoulder top weight over a trip that is probably shy of his optimum these days. The heavy ground should help though, and Daryl Jacob can ride him cold and let him cruise into the contest. A Grade 1 winner and officially rated 159 at his peak, a mark of 150 could give him an each way squeak and odds of 16/1 look a nice price to find out.
I can feel a storm brewing in the Betfair Ascot Chase
The big race of the day comes at 3:35 with the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase over 2 miles and 5 furlongs. A classy field of five go to post headed by the extremely talented and 172 rated Cyrname. Stablemate, Master Tommytucker sits second in the betting and has a new partner with Darryl Jacob taking the reins. Impressive Ascot handicap winners Dashel Drasher and Bennys King rightfully make the step up to Grade 1 company and the field is completed by the defending champion Riders Onthe Storm. On ratings Cyrname should take the world of beating at a track that has seen him thrive over the years. He is however vulnerable to throwing in the odd stinker, none so more apparent than last time out in the King George. Reported to have sulked being in behind horses and with that in mind, Cobden looks sure to go forward on Cyrname. Both Bennys King and Dashel Drasher have found great success thus far this season adopting prominent or front running tactics. In order to close the gap on ratings I believe the pair may try to challenge Cyrname early on in an attempt to get him flustered. I’m unsure as to how Daryl Jacob will ride Master Tommytucker but he is another who likes to dominate from the front and all his best form has come from running his rivals into the ground loose on the front end.
As a result, I can see this year’s Ascot Chase being run at a frenetic pace and it may be worth taking a gamble on defending champion Riders Onthe Storm 18/1 who I believe may benefit from how the race could potentially plan out. 2/2 at Ascot we know he loves the track and despite not running to his best form this season he has shown enough to suggest the engine may still be there. I am hoping Sam Twiston-Davies sits in behind the burn up up front and can swoop late, picking off tired horses who have got racing far too early. 18/1 certainly looks a big price in what could be a very tactical race.
Ready, Steady, Goshen!
Over to Wincanton now and the feature race on the card is the 2 mile, Grade 2, Kingwell Hurdle where it is very much a case of last chance saloon for Goshen 11/4. Due to the conditions of the race, he receives 6lbs from his main market rivals, Navajo Pass and Song For Someone. As a result, he is nicely clear on ratings but does have to prove his wellbeing having ran averagely on the flat and then poorly on hurdles reappearance. He had excuses that day and if he is to deliver on last season’s juvenile promise and make a late claim in the Champion Hurdle market, he needs to win this. Song For Someone, in my opinion, is somewhat flattered by his form with Silver Streak last time out. Evan Williams’ grey had a luckless passage up the home straight and was running on unfavourable ground, yet he should’ve beaten Song For Someone. Navajo Pass benefited from a tactically run race last time out against the returning Buveur D’Air and he, like Song For Someone, may be flattered by the bare form lines.
Itchy Feet the pick in riveting Rendlesham Hurdle
The first of two Grade 2’s from Haydock comes at 2:05. The William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle has attracted a classy field of 8 for this year’s renewal, headed by Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet 3/1. Conditions of the race really play to last years Scilly Isles Novices Chase winner as he receives weight from his main market rivals despite lying second on official ratings. The return to hurdles looks a good move and despite jumping poorly over fences, Itchy Feet has still put in some big performances, none more so than last time out when flying home to nearly catch the 158 rated Dashel Drasher. I am hoping the return to hurdles and step up in trip will see him to best effect. For all I think Itchy Feet is a worthy favourite, defending champion Emitom will be a tough nut to crack and On The Blind Side comes here in fine form. Main Fact is looking to get back on the winning trail after disappointing in Grade 1 company and it is hard to ignore Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnigar Oscar who comes here on the back of a wind op. It looks a very competitive renewal, but I am happy to side with Itchy Feet who may well be unexposed over hurdles in receipt of some handy weight from his main dangers.
The second Grade 2 on the card is the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle over an extended 3 miles. I really like the claims of Mint Condition 5/2 here who has been in fine form this season recording form figures of 11412 from 2 miles 3 to 2 miles 5 furlongs. A fast finishing second last time out in a Grade 2 novice event at Warwick over the intermediate trip suggested this step up to three miles will be right up his street. With plenty of form on soft ground we know he will handle conditions and on Official ratings he finds himself clear. I would like to think he is capable of taking this on route to a crack at the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in March for which he is best priced 33/1.
Bold Plan the best of the rest at Haydock
Bold Plan 5/2 looks the pick off the bets elsewhere at Haydock despite having to concede weight all round in the opener. His form with The Big Breakaway looks rock solid and I would be surprised if a mark of 138 doesn’t underestimate his ability. He’s won round Haydock before so we know he likes the track and the soft ground should not be an issue. He goes there with a favourites chance.
I thought Redford Road 12/1 was an interesting runner in the Pertemps Qualifier having disappointing over fences so far this season. A Grade 2 winner over 3 miles at Cheltenham last December, we know Redford handles the trip and he won in the manor of a strong stayer that day, a
quality which is sure to suit on soft ground around Haydock. Officially rated 140 after that Cheltenham win, Redford Road runs off 135 and has the help of conditional jockey Jordan Nailor who takes 3lbs off. Should the return to hurdles see him achieve close to his best he can run a nice race at a double figure price.
As always, best of luck if you are having a bet this weekend.
Not long until the greatest show of turf now!
By Sam Rideout.
Follow me on twitter – @TheTr17pleP