It’s been a busy week in the racing world! On Tuesday, the Grand National weights were announced. Tiger Roll has seen allotted 170, top weight, and he is declared to run on Sunday in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan, for his seasonal reappearance. Let’s hope Storm Dennis holds off as there’s some awesome racing this weekend.
Due to the threat of weather there are inspections as follows:-
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The feature contest on Saturday is the Betfair Ascot Chase (15:35 Ascot), a grade one, which comes as part of a cracking card of seven races shown live on ITV.
The headline horse on the day is Cyrname. It was in the aforementioned contest twelve months ago that this horse properly burst onto the main stage. Paul Nicholls’ bold-running son of Nickname trounced a good field of rivals, made up of Waiting Patiently, Fox Norton, Politologue, Charbel and Aso, by a huge seventeen lengths. This emphatic victory earned him, controversially, the title of highest-rated chaser. This accolade once sat with Altior. In November, us racing fans were treated to a showdown like no other – Altior Vs Cyrname. Cyrname jumped and travelled a lot better than Altior to beat him by two and a quarter lengths. Then all eyes were on the King George VI Chase. He went off 5/4 favourite but got beat twenty one lengths by Clan Des Obeaux into second. That was a new test but Ascot is where he thrives. A three times course winner, the rest of the runners are at a disadvantage as this is his home turf.
You could say that Cyrname under-performed on Boxing Day and, if he was to do so again, Riders Onthe Storm would be there to take advantage. He’s seemed a new horse since moving to Nigel Twiston-Davies as he is two from two for them. On stable debut, he won at Aintree smartly, despite being keen, beating Cepage and Oldgrangewood, who’ve won three competitive handicaps between them since. Next time, he won a £31k prize over course and distance. He wasted energy at the beginning of the race and the ground was extremely tacky so to win as strongly as he did was ultra-impressive. I don’t think he’ll beat Cyrname in this but all roads lead to Cheltenham and the Ryanair as it appears unlikely Cyrname will go there because he doesn’t go left-handed.
Completing the small but select field of four are Traffic Fluide and Janika. The latter won over a bit further than this on his final start in France before moving to Nicky Henderson. Last season, his best runs were second in the Stable Plate and fourth in the Topham over the National fences. This season, he won at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup but he’s struggled since against Defi Du Seuil in two races and Summerville Boy, over hurdles. This is a more appropriate trip but he’s not up to Cyrname’s standards. The same can be said for Traffic Fluide even though he’s a smart horse in his own right, having won a grade two and three. We haven’t seen him for 469 days (when he won the Sodexo Gold Cup) and will need the run.
The other graded race on the Ascot card is the Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices Chase (13:50 Ascot) (Grade Two). Six exciting young horses go for glory here. Number one is Danny Whizzbang for the Cyrname trainer-jockey combination of Harry Cobden and Paul Nicholls. Before last time, he was unbeaten in three outings, two hurdle races and a chase. The chase was a grade two in which he beat Reserve Tank, who’s a grade one winner. Last time, he was well-beaten into third by Slate House and Black Op in a grade one. He folded tamely that day. Two For Gold’s last run was the complete opposite to that. I was at Warwick when this horse tenaciously won a grade two. He got headed by Hold The Note at one point in the race and but battled back to win by half a length. He runs from the front and won his first two chases in good style. His attitude is just wonderful!
The Altior colours of Patricia Pugh will be worn by Pym. On his second start, he notched up a course and distance victory after being second to Deyrann Du Carjac at Huntingdon. In the Ascot race, he beat a decent field of rivals and then at Cheltenham he won by eight lengths over three miles and a furlong. As a neat jumper, he has a big reputation but he won’t want the ground to be too soft as he was only ninth in the 2018 Aintree Bumper on soft ground behind Portrush Ted. Copperhead won’t mind the going. The six year old won on soft to heavy in February well. He needed his reappearance but won by four lengths, beating subsequent winner Fingerontheswitch, next time. When last seen, he was prominent and cruised into the lead at two out in the Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury. This race has thrown up some good horses. He showed signs of being a bit novicey but he’s in the most perfect hands, being from the Colin Tizzard yard as they train the likes of Native River, Thistlecrack and Cue Card.
Sam Brown came off a 750 day absence with a twenty two length victory at Lingfield, beating a subsequent winner. There was no bounce factor and he hacked up by fifteen lengths in a grade two at Haydock. I know the yard is delighted that he’s back – and winning – and they are aiming for the RSA with him. I liked what I saw at Cheltenham and I think he could be a serious horse. Completing the line up is Alsa Mix. She pulled up in the Albert Bartlett before winning on chase debut at Bangor, by a small margin. That was a listed race and she ran in a similar contest at Warwick next time but could only manage third. On her first start of 2020, she ran into the high-class Annie Mc and would’ve convincingly been the winner if the younger mare wasn’t in the race.
That race is followed by the Rendlesham Hurdle (14:05 Haydock) (Grade 2) and the race has attracted a decent field. Donna’s Diamond won this in 2018 aged nine. He must have had some sort of issue as he hasn’t been seen for 364 days. He’s ran six times and won once since. He’s up against it with The Worlds End in the line-up. This horse began the season by winning a grade two and then he came third to Paisley Park and Thistlecrack in the Long Distance Hurdle. Next time, Paisley Park pulled out due to the ground and gave The Worlds End a great opportunity to win a grade one. He deserved that and he should relish the test.
His main rivals are Emitom and West Approach. The former is just six years old and won his first five starts under rules. They sent him to the Aintree Grand National Meeting for the Sefton Novices Hurdle when he was only beaten three lengths by Champ. He’s ran once this season when it was obvious he needed the run in the Relkeel Hurdle. He’ll come on for that run. West Approach has ran five times this season. He came second to The Conditional and then won a grade three at Cheltenham, after a long period of being out of the winners enclosure. He unseated in the Ladbrokes Trophy and then followed in Cogry. Last time, he pulled up in the Welsh National and is returning to hurdles for the first time since April 2019.
One Night In Milan is ultra consistent. He’s ran thirteen times, won four, second twice and third on three occasions. He ran on New Years Day and finished third, beaten one and three quarter lengths by Fred The Foot. His ideal trip is probably shorter. Lastly is Clyne. He last won in March 2018. In his younger days, he placed in this grade but this may be a bit competitive for him.
After this race is the Keltbray Swinley Chase (14:25 Ascot) (Listed). My idea of the winner is Domaine De L’Isle. He’s won his last three, including last time on very soft ground over two furlongs less. That was at Ascot and eventually they’re hoping he’ll be a Welsh National type. He’s won over this trip before so there’s no worried there. Valtor and 2018 winner Regal Encore are course and distance winners. It was excellent to see the latter win in December after he struggled to get his head in front for a while. He doesn’t win all that often though. Valtor is number forty six in the Grand National. He ran in a grade two hurdle at the end of 2019 and then came third in an expensive chase. That was a good run. Ballyoptic is number nineteen in the Grand National but carries top weight here which could be difficult.
Red Indian was really well-fancied in the Peter Marsh on seasonal reappearance. That was over slightly further and this is more of an appropriate trip. Captain Drake won at Exeter in January in a three mile handicap chase on heavy ground so he’ll be suited to this. Jepeck has been cleverly campaigned to win over fences, hurdles and in points. Last time, he won the Veterans Final at Sandown. Even though he’s eleven, he can’t be discounted. Like The Sound fell in the Becher but came third at Cheltenham on New Years Day. He still has a bit to find.
The Betway Kingwell Hurdle (14:45 Wincanton) (Grade Two) is the next race and the sole on shown on ITV. Elgin won this in 2018 but he hasn’t been seen for 582 days. After that, he came fifth in the Champion Hurdle. Next, he ran four times on the flat. He’s a smart horse but this is a long absence to overcome. Grand Sancy won this last year and his stable mate Quel Destin runs in this last year, with James Bowen riding. He won at Cheltenham in October and then found the Greatwood and Relkeel a bit too hot. Last time, he beat a few well-regarded horses, including Zambella, at Sandown in a listed race. He should be on fine form for this. Zambella gets weight and is rated significantly lower then the rest. She won twice in France but unseated on yard debut behind Lady Buttons. She’s got a bit to find.
So does Calgary Tiger who has been well-beaten in four starts. Ch’tibello won the County Hurdle last year and then came third in the Aintree Hurdle. On reappearance, he came third behind Epatante. He’s a smart individual and is my second choice behind Quel Destin. Song For Someone can’t be discounted either though. James Nixon gave him a good ride at Ascot in January. He only got denied a length by Thomas Darby after leading all the way. He’s an interesting runner.
Next up is the fifteen runner Give The Gift Of Ascot Annual Membership Handicap Hurdle (15:00 Ascot). I’ve selected five horses who could be players. Eden De Houx was well regarded at one point and won his first two starts. He ran into I K Brunel on hurdles bow and then came fourth in a grade two. He managed to win last time by a short head but it was nothing spectacular. The Con Man has never been out of the top two in four starts. He won on debut and then came second on two occasions. Last time, he stayed on to win by six and a half lengths and Brian Hughes rides.
Jolly’s Cracked It loves it here but hasn’t won since November 2018. Nordano is very consistent and is still only four years old. He’s followed in Allmankind and Goshen on his last two starts which is excellent form as, even though the margins were wide, the placing was good and these horses are leading contenders for the Triumph Hurdle. Dorking Boy completed a double in the backend of 2019 but was left one-paced at Huntingdon last time out.
The final race to mention is the Unibet Grand National Trial (15:15 Haydock). A few of these are in the National. Bally optic, who won the Charlie Hall Chase, is also entered here as well as Ascot but I’m unsure what the ideal race would be if both meetings were to go ahead. I adore Yala Enki and he’ll definitely get the run after a really good victory at Taunton last time. He won this in 2018. Vintage Clouds got back to winning ways last time but I don’t think he is suited to the Grand National obstacles so this race is more up his street. He doesn’t win very often though. One For Arthur won the Grand National in 2017 but since then he’s unseated a few times and been well-beaten on his other three runs. I’m not sure he’ll make it into the big race this year. Elegant Escape has a weight off 11st2 for the Grand National and people always fancy him to win this kind of race. It’s definitely within his capabilities and Robbie Power rides. This suggests he may have the ride for Aintree as Tizzard is increasingly using him.
Lord Du Mesnil is my selection in the race. He’s won all three of his last three outings. The one that attracts me to him is last time when he won on similar going by nine lengths over course and distance. It’s hard to know how much was taken out if him that day but he looks well at home. Geronimo is also in good form and followed in Vintage Clouds in the Peter Marsh to be third. He ran well all the way but stamina is the question. Steely Addition was last seen coming fourth to Santini at Sandown in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase. This trip is a new test. The Two Amigos was entered in the Denman last weekend but connections favour this. He loves the mud and finished fifth in the Welsh National. He won over this trip in the Sussex National. Pobbles Bay and Smooth Stepper are big prices.
13:50 Ascot – Sam Brown
14:05 Haydock – The Worlds End
14:25 Ascot – Domaine De L’Isle
14:45 Wincanton – Quel Destin
15:00 Ascot – The Con Man
15:15 Haydock – Lord Du Mesnil
15:35 Ascot – Cyrname