Ascot’s meeting this Saturday is the feature card on show on ITV Racing. This raceday acts as a appetizer to the main course on Boxing Day where the best-of-the-best face off in a scintillating King George VI Chase.
However, the Ascot card has some great races to look forward to and my main focus is on two hurdle races – The Long Walk and Betfair Exchange Trophy. There was a six race card on Friday with Angels Breath and Master Debonair stealing the show in the two grade two contests. I’ve heard mixed reports in regard to the ground but it definitely will be very testing for the runners and is predicted to be soft/heavy. An inspection will take place at 8am.
On another note, the Rein It In Racing Team would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year . 🙂
12:40 – Foundation Development Novices Handicap Hurdle
MISTER TICKLE was leading at the last over three miles one furlong and just faded close home to be denied a neck. This is the best trip for him and he’s from a good yard.
13:15 – Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase
This race is a really interesting contest. My selection is RIDERS ON THE STORM because he looked like a really smart horse last time in a handicap. He jumps and travels well. Double Shuffle is a grand horse who has ran in Gold Cups and King Georges. Gordon Elliott send over Paloma Blue, whose always been well thought of. On The Blind Side was fancied for the Ladbrokes but flopped and Mont Des Avaloirs pulled up last time.
14:25 – Marsh Hurdle (Long Walk Hurdle) (Grade One)
Six runners got to post for this grade one over three miles for the Stayers. The standout horse in the race is PAISLEY PARK. He won the race last year before going on to win the Cleeve Hurdle and the pinnacle Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. This season, he returned with a win in the grade two Long Distance Hurdle. He’s been unbeaten for his last six runs and no horse has got close to him recently. The ground is going to be so testing.
The Worlds End won at Wetherby in a grade two at the beginning of the season and was third to Paisley Park at Newbury last time. He led that day and set a good pace. He lacked the finishing kick to out-run the aforementioned horse and Thistlecrack, who is on course for the King George. He has place claims in this race.
It is absolutely wonderful to see L’Ami Serge back on a racecourse after an injury caused him to be off for 580 days. When last seen, he was seventh in a grade one at Auteuil. Before that, he won the grade one Aintree Hurdle and he has won six times over hurdles and won his first two chasers. He may need this comeback run.
Davy Russell is a really interesting jockey booking for the Nick-Williams trainer Agrapart. The 145 rated Martaline gelding hasn’t won over hurdles since winning the Cleeve Hurdle by three lengths, with The Worlds End in fourth, in 2018. He won on the flat in May and has had two outings so far this season, both at Auteuil. He was fourth both times and I think he has a bit to find with Paisley Park.
Tobefair was an extremely impressive winner at Cheltenham in late October on heavy ground in a class two. Last time, he was a creditable third off 11st12, a whole stone higher than any rival, in a listed handicap. Connections don’t have many opportunities in handicap company anymore because of his mark. He is rated higher than Agrapart, The Worlds End and Papagana so deserves his place in the race.
Papagana gets a 7lbs allowance from the boys and she has won her last two races. One was in March in a three mile listed and the other was in a similar race at Kempton. She thoroughly stays the trip and is an interesting runner.
15:00 Ascot – Plymouth Gin Handicap Chase
FIRST FLOW is one of my 20 To Watch and I’ve always thought he’d be a good chaser. He finally got off the mark at Hereford seven days ago. That was so easy it wasn’t even a proper race. Before that, he’d been behind Summerville Boy and Angels Breath, who won a grade two recently.
15:35 – Betfair Exchange Trophy
The Greatwood Hurdle could be a good form line into this race. Harambe won the race by a neck. Before that, he followed in Thyme Hill and Getaway Trump, which is good form. His victory last time was the biggest win of his career and he’s been put up 6lbs. Monsieur Lecoq came third and, seven days ago, he ran in the International Hurdle and was a very fast finishing fourth. He’s still a five year old and quite lightly raced. However, he has the burden of top weight.
Quoi De Neuf came fourth. He was in the lead turning in and made a bold bid but he was just held. For that effort, he was raised 4lbs. Despite this, he has the third lowest weight. Piloting him will be Adam Wedge. The jockey had a good day on the seventh, winning a grade one, but he was one of the ‘Sandown Seven’ in the final race on the card. Him and six other jockeys were handed seven day suspensions in the final race for ‘ignoring’ stop signals and finishing the race after the tragic death of Houblon Des Obeaux. In a hearing on Tuesday, the jockeys’ bans were quashed and they are free to ride over the Christmas period.
Zanza finished sixth, one place behind Dame De Compagnie who was a convincing winner at Cheltenham last Saturday. He hit the last, which didn’t aid his cause, but he still been put up 2lbs to a career high mark. Crooks Peak is also trained by Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson rides. He’s ran three times since May and, on all occasions, he has been fourth. One of those was behind Epatante in a listed race. In second that day was French Crusader.
French Crusader is one of two for Nicky Henderson with the other contender being Countister, who was seventh in the Greatwood. French Crusader has remarkable form figures – 1521212. Last time was his first run for well over a year and before that he’d won at Newbury. He’s never raced on ground this soft before but he’s still only six. In 2018, Countister came fifth in the Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and she was third in this year’s County Hurdle, beaten one and three quarter lengths. She usually needs her comeback run.
Mohaayed won this race last season and, in the March, he won the County Hurdle, with Remiluc in second. Since then, he has been beaten a long way, including coming ninth in the Greatwood. Before that, he was last in the Welsh Champion Hurdle behind Monsieur Lecoq. He’s dropped back to 145 and, for a change, he doesn’t have top weight. Remiluc hasn’t been seen for 629 days, when unseating at Plumpton next time out. He’s four from twenty six but he’s 5lbs higher than his last winning mark and will probably need this.
Whoshotthesherriff began his career with Gordon Elliott. He won on the fifth time of asking, then came second before finally being sold to Phillip Kirby. The gelding won his first two starts for them. He fell when travelling extremely well at Cheltenham at the beginning of the season. Next time, he led and just didn’t have enough to give to get past Bold Plan. He’s going to appreciate the drop back to two miles.
Paul Nicholls has two runners – Scaramanga and Tamaroc Du Mathan. Both of these are four year olds but Scaramanga has ran significantly more. He was average for James Fanshawe on the flat in 2018 before making his hurdles debut for Nicholls in January 2019. He won a maiden on his third try and then he came second in a competitive handicap in late March. He ran in a good four year old hurdle at Chepstow before winning well at Wincanton. He’s the second choice on jockey bookings as Brian Carver rides. Harry Cobden rides Tamaroc Du Mathan. The Poligote gelding won over hurdles in April 2018 in France and made his debut Paul Nicholls less than a month ago, when he was second to Master Debonair. This is really strong form as that horse has just hacked up in a grade two. He’s really unexposed.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has Sir Valentine. He ran six times for Alan King before moving to his current yard to go hurdling. This six year old fell when holding a decent chance on hurdles bow then won a novice hurdle at Newbury. Last time, he was second to Ribble Valley, who was an eight length second to Master Debonair. On collateral form, Tamaroc Du Mathan is a little bit ahead of Sir Valentine.
Irish raider Turnpike Trip was a good horse on the flat for Henry Candy before moving to Charles Byrnes in Ireland. He won first time out for the shrewd trainer and then came second in a Listed race. He won at Listowel and Tipperary before coming fourth at Fairyhouse in a grade one to Envoi Allen, only beaten eight lengths. Because of this, he’s got second top weight of 11st8 but he’s a smart individual. He’s never tackled ground of this nature.
Umbrigado achieved a treble on his first three starts for David Pipe and he was thought good enough to run in the grade one Mersey Novices Hurdle behind Reserve Tank. On reappearance, connections tried him over three miles but he didn’t really enjoy that, coming fifth. Two miles is his cup of tea. He’s another who has never tackled this type of ground.
I’m going to go for NOT SO SLEEPY in this race. Not So Sleepy has bottom weight and is a high-level flat performer. He won the Dee Stakes at Chester during his three year old campaign. This seven year old won a novice hurdle in February. Also, last time, he won a competitive handicap by two lengths. He’s a interesting horse and could be well handicapped. He is also a winner on this ground.