An intriguing afternoon’s racing with the ITV cameras at Ascot for four races including the days feature the Betfair Ascot Chase which is a cracker plus a brace from Haydock and the Kingwell Hurdle from Wincanton. The ground is currently good (good to soft in places) at Ascot, good to soft at Haydock and good at Wincanton with a predominately dry forecast. Here are my thoughts and ITV racing tips for the seven races.
Just the four novices have declared for this grade 2 3M Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. We have a very warm favourite here in the Nicky Henderson-trained Bold Endeavour who is unbeaten in two starts for the Seven Barrows maestro having joined from Laura Morgan. A winner of two novice handicap chases at Leicester and Doncaster he appears to have a preference for good ground and was pulled out in between his wins at Newbury on soft ground. Officially rated 8lb and 10lb better than his opponents here he will be at prohibitive odds and should win although at the likely odds is no value.
The best of his trio of opponents may well be Sam England’s seven-year-old Kinondo Kwetu who’s won all five of his chase starts on good ground back in the Autumn and this represents a step up in grade for him. Oscar Elite is hard to fancy on recent form whilst Dan Skelton’s Jay Jay Reilly also has a bit to find.
A field of seven goes to post for the grade two 3M 58-yard Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle. Bar rank outsider Inis Orr it looks like an open affair. Green Book is the only horse carrying a penalty here having won the Imperial Cup at Sandown a fortnight ago and that may just tell. Olly Murphy’s veteran Itchy Feet came back to form when winning at Huntingdon last time out and has to be a player here as the joint top-rated alongside Erne River trained by Nick Kent who ran well at Doncaster last time and has had his wind tinkered with since.
He may be the biggest danger to my fancy the Dan Skelton-trained Ashtown Lad. A comfortable winner of the Becher Chase at Aintree in early December he reverted to hurdles when a fine second to Glimpse Of Gala at Warwick the following month. He travelled like the best horse in the race for a long way and can give the Skelton’s another big race Saturday winner.
ASHTOWN LAD 2 points win @ 4/1 bet365
A competitive 3M handicap chase is up next – the LK Bennett Swinley Handicap Chase, a class one handicap that has attracted a decent sized field of fourteen. Christian Williams has struggled for winners this season but his Cap Du Nord looks ready to run a big race off of a favourable handicap mark. Cases can be made for plenty of others including Paul Nicholls’ Danny Kirwan who’s had a break since a good course and distance second last October.
Harry Fry’s JP McManus-owned Phoenix Way ran well at Cheltenham last time out when fourth (beaten 16 1/2L) to Il Ridoto where a mistake halfway through the contest didn’t help his chances. He’s fallen to the same mark that he won here a year ago and has to be on the shortlist. Venetia Williams saddles a brace of runners with chances in Farinet under Shane Quinlan and Laskalin under Lucy Turner. Both have claims on their best efforts. Richard Hobson’s Riders On the Storm is two from three at the track but this is his first try at three miles and sports first-time cheek pieces today. In an open contest, I’ll chance Phoenix Way who’s weighted to run a big race.
PHOENIX WAY 2 points each way @ 11/2 Paddy Power 1/5th 1234
A wide-open renewal of the Betfred Grand National Trial run over 3M 4F 97 yards. Last year’s winner (on a disqualification) Bristol De Mai heads the weights but he’s 5lb higher this time around and surely would prefer deeper ground despite his love for the Lancashire track. Venetia Williams saddles three here with stable jockey Charlie Deutsch presumably choosing Fontaine Collonges, a winner here over half a mile shorter than today back in November and not disgraced since at Kempton. His stablemate Cloudy Glen has a very good record fresh (1411) and following a 385-day absence can make his presence tell with Sean Quinlan taking the ride.
Williams’ third runner Quick Wave also has claims on his best form which came on his re-appearance when a very easy winner at Sandown but he’s bombed out since in the Welsh Grand National and has a bit to prove now. The Welsh Grand National winner The Two Amigos is also in the lineup on 5lb higher terms but he excels when the mud is flying and he may not have his optimum conditions today.
There are plenty of others with claims including Chris Honour’s Grumpy Charley who has a very patchy win record mind and the JP McManus-owned Time To Get Up who was the subject of support on Thursday afternoon. It’s a tough call but I’ll give Venetia Williams’ Cloudy Glen a go-to small stakes each way with enhanced places. Check out MC Clarke’s stats preview for this contest also.
CLOUDY GLEN 1 point each way @ 28/1 Paddy Power 1/5th 12345
Another competitive decent-sized field handicap with thirteen hurdlers facing the starter for the 2M 3F 58-yard class 2 handicap hurdle. Favourite is the Paul Nicholls-trained Irish Hill who appears to have improved since having his wind done preseason having followed up an unlucky Fontwell second with wins at Taunton and Fakenham. The latter being the track’s most valuable race of the season. He’s up 6lb for that and looks the bet here. Nicholls also saddles top-weight Samarive under useful 7lb conditional jockey Freddie Gingell who’s been chasing this season and has it to do off of a big weight.
I’m not sure what to make of the Irish raider Zoffany Bay who’s coming here on the back of a 700 day absence for trainer Peter Fahy having joined him from France. He’s well worth monitoring in the market. There’s nothing between Homme Public and Whizz Kid on recent form at Huntingdon whilst Venetia Williams’ Djelo is still lightly raced and may have a bit more to give. Gary Moore has his string in fine form and his Fifty Ball has shown a liking for this track winning two of his three starts here and is only a pound higher than his latest victory. Irish Hill is on the upgrade and may have another win in him and worth backing.
IRISH HILL 2 points win @ 9/2 William Hill
A small but select field of only four hurdlers face the starter for the grade two 1M 7F 50-yard Kingwell Hurdle. It’s hard to fancy the rank outsider Global Citizen but a case can be made for the other three with Paul Nicholls’ Knappers Hill likely to enjoy this track and surface a lot better than when racing over further last time out at Cheltenham on soft ground. He had previously made all to beat fast ground specialist Sceau Royal comfortably over course and distance taking his record here to two from two. He was eight lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s First Street at Cheltenham who looks like his biggest danger here. James Bowen’s mount had previously looked good when winning the Gerry Feilden Handicap Hurdle at Newbury off of top weight and should be thereabouts.
The third possibility is Nigel Twiston-Davie’s I Like To Move It who also under top weight spread eagled his field at Cheltenham in the Greatwood Hurdle back in November. He also ran in that race at Cheltenham where First Street was ahead of Knappers Hill and was very disappointing back in 6th some 17L behind First Street. He has questions to answer now. A speed track on good ground looks like Knappers Hill’s optimum conditions and he can turn the tables on First Street.
KNAPPERS HILLS 2 points win @ 7/4 BetVictor
Only six go to post for this 2M 5F Betfair Ascot Chase but the day’s feature race is a cracker. Best in the weights by 10lb and more is Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin who if back to his best would beat these, he does have questions to answer mind now having pulled up in last season’s Champion Chase (bone issues) and finished third on his re-appearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown to Edwardstone beaten some 15L. He’s had his wind operated on since and sports a first-time tongue tie here. He’s stepping up in trip today as his shrewd trainer feels he needs a trip and he could easily take this if nearly back to his best.
Last year’s winner Fakir D’oudairies was a lucky winner last time when Haut En Couleurs fell at the last when two lengths clear. Paul Nicholls’ Pic D’Orhy seems better than ever this season winning three times including at Kempton last time when coasting home by 16L. Millers Bank is held by the latter from Huntingdon form earlier in the season but has had a wind operation since so may not be totally out of this. First Flow prefers muddier conditions whilst Aye Right looks out of his depth. A decent renewal that can go the way of Shishkin to prove he’s no back number just yet.
SHISHKIN 1 point win @ 5/2 BetVictor
All odds accurate at time of writing.
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