TV TIPS (SATURDAY)
The first race of our televised coverage comes at Ascot with a handicap chase run over two miles and one furlong.
This is an open affair where a chance can be given to quite a few and we have the Evan Williams trained Lancetto heading the market at the moment. The 9yo gelding won this contest last year off a mark of 135 so will surely be capable of going close off a four pounds higher mark. At his current price there is not a lot of value and I think there are one or two who look better handicapped on paper.
Another horse who lined up in this contest last season was the Paul Nicholls trained Ulck Du Lin who finished a well beaten fifth. Although he was beaten a little over fourteen lengths, that was off a five pounds higher mark and he comes out here sixteen pounds better off with Lancetto when you factor in Sean Bowens seven pound claim. The 6yo ran out a very game winner over course and distance at the start of November and although he disappointed on his last start, he should have a say in the finish.
The one that appeals most to me in this contest is the Venetia Williams trained Last Shot who I think looks the best handicapped runner on paper. Even though the seven year old is four pounds above his last winning mark, there is enough evidence from his form to suggest a mark in the 140 bracket could be well within his range. I think the biggest problem with him is that sometimes he lacks a bit of fluency in his jumping, but on the days he gets it right he is a good jumper. With a clear round he is sure to have a say in the finish.
Of the remainder Malibu Sun appeals most but this does represent a fifteen pounds rise in class.
Last Shot (WIN)
For our next contest we head to Haydock for the three mile Tommy Whittle handicap chase.
This looks a very competitive event and I just hope the dead eight line up for each way purposes. The one that I like in this at an each way price is the Henry Daly trained, Safran De Cotte. The seven year old is a frustrating enough sort but does look potentially well handicapped. The fact that he is reunited with Jake Greenall is a huge plus as he gets on extremely well with the horse and has been on board for four of his seven victories. A slight concern is that there will be a battle for the lead and as long as he does not get caught up in it and sits in, he should be alright.
At the head of the market we have Howards Legacy, Broadway Buffalo and Toby Lerone. I think inexperience cost Broadway Buffalo on his last start and that may play against him again here against some battle hardened performers. Toby Lerone ran only seven days ago and while he did not have too hard a race, I would rather a longer break between runs over this sort of trip. Howards Legacy does arrive here in good form though and looks like a horse who is on the improve. With a clear round he is sure to have a say in the finish if he can take another step forward.
Of the remainder Fill the Power is another who looks ahead of the handicapper and his stable has shown signs of returning to form in the last two weeks.
Safran De Cotte (E/W if all eight run)
Next up we head back to Ascot for some Grade 1 action in the shape of the Long Walk Hurdle.
There are really only two horses of genuine Grade 1 quality in the lineup and I think it will be the two that fight out the finish here. Heading the market we have the Paul Nicholls trained Zarkandar who has four Grade 1 victories to his name. While I think he looks the most likely winner of this contest, I am not sure if he is a genuine three mile stayer and I think we will see Reve De Sivola turn this in to a genuine test of stamina. Some may argue that he stayed three miles for the first time in France last time out, but I don’t think races are run over there at that fast a pace, so there is less emphasis on stamina. He looks the most likely winner but at the prices I would be prepared to overlook him here.
The only other horse of Grade 1 quality in the field is five time Grade 1 winner Reve De Sivola who bids to win this contest for a third successive year. While he has twice finished behind Zarkandar, this track does seem to bring out the best in him. It is a track that suits horses who like to force the pace and if he can put in as good a round of jumping like he did here last season, I think he has a very good chance of landing the hat-trick.
Of the remainder Medinas may have a lofty enough mark but he just falls short of Grade 1 level, while the remaining two runners are going to have to take big step forwards to take this.
Reve De Sivola (WIN)
Next we head back to Haydock for a competitive handicap hurdle run over two miles and four furlongs.
The David Pipe trained four year old Taj Badalandabad heads the betting here as he bids for a hat-trick of wins. This will be his first foray in to handicap company and it is also a four furlong step up in trip. He should take the step up in his stride as there is lots of stamina in his pedigree. This is a tricky contest though and there is not much value in his price in such a competitive contest.
The one that appeals most in this is the Tim Easterby trained five year old Run Ructions Run who comes here on the back of a good run. A mistake at the last hurdle cost her dearly and the lack of a recent run possibly cost her too. With that run under her belt she should be arriving here much fitter and the form of that race has worked out well with the fourth winning nicely since. She only got a 3lbs rise for that run so should be still able to compete off her current mark.
Of the remainder Kilcooley looks on a competitive mark and top weight Abracadabra Sivola also has each way claims.
Run Ructions Run (WIN)
The penultimate race on the televised card is a listed handicap chase at Ascot run over three miles.
Heading the betting here is the controversial Badger Ales winner The Young Master trained by Neil Mulholland. Connections got doubly punished for his win as they got a fourteen pounds rise from the handicapper and no prize money to show for it. While the five year old is certainly a horse who is on the improve, this looks a much tougher contest and a fourteen pound hike was a small bit severe. He represents little value at around 5/2 and I would rather take a chance on something at an each way price.
Also prominent in the betting here is the Venetia Williams trained Houblon Des Obeaux who won this last season off a nine pound lower mark. While the gelding comes here on the back of an excellent run in the Hennessy and may go one better here, he might be vulnerable to one down the bottom of the weights as it’s a lot of weight to concede on soft ground.
The one that appeals at an each way price is the Charlie Longsdon trained Up To Something who arrives here on the back of a fall. While the majority of these look held by the handicapper, he at least looks ahead of the handicapper and has at least 10lbs in hand on paper. There is always a chance that he may be given a pop around to restore confidence after a fall but if he isn’t, he has a chance of having a say in proceedings.
Up To Something (E/W)
We finish up the day with the ultra competitive Ladbroke handicap hurdle run over two miles where I fancy two against the field.
My main fancy in this is the Dan Skelton trained Shelford who looks on a very competitive mark at the moment. He ran out a good winner of a handicap hurdle on his last start where he had the now 153 rated Aubusson 3/4L back in second who was in receipt of just a pound. The one concern here is that this represents a four furlong step back in trip on a less testing track. The gelding does look like he has gears and his extra stamina could be a huge asset come the finish as long as he does not get outpaced. He has been the subject of plenty market support throughout the last week and as long as he puts in a good round of jumping, he should play a part in the finish.
My other fancy in the race is the Jonjo O Neill trained Goodwood Mirage who also comes here on the back a win 66 days ago. The form of that win has been advertised excellently by the runner up who has followed up twice since in taking fashion. the form of that win would suggest to me that there could be upwards of seventeens pounds improvement in Goodwood Mirage. The one concern with him is that the stable is badly out of form at the moment but hopefully tomorrow sees a return to form.
With a race like this you could give a chance to many but a horse like Clondaw Warrior would be a popular winner for a few jockeys, given the connections. The horse is owned by the wives/partners of Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, David Casey and trainer John Nash so they will be hopeful he can go closer than he did in the Greatwood where he ran a cracker. Given how well he ran in that race he is sure to have a say in the finish here.
Shelford (E/W if 5/1+)
Goodwood Mirage (E/W)