We’re set for a bumper weekend of National Hunt action after racing resumed from the Equine Influenza crisis last week, with both the Betfair Hurdle and Denman Chase transferred to Ascot’s top class card. With so much racing on this Saturday, I wanted to write up my selections in one place to avoid cluttering my Twitter feed. It also allows me to use more than 280 characters for reasoning! Good luck and enjoy the fantastic racing on offer at Ascot, Haydock, Wincanton and Gowran Park this Saturday – all live on ITV4.
Today’s Horse Racing:
12:30 – Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) – 2m3f
Dashel Drasher has been a model of consistency so far this season, and made a great start to life over Hurdles when finishing third behind impressive winner Kateson in November. His next start came later that month at Newbury’s Winter Carnival meeting when third behind Bright Forecast (Second in the Grade 2 Rossington Main since) and returned to that tack in December when fourth behind Rathhill in a very competitive Maiden Hurdle. That rival disappointed in Grade 1 company after however the form is working out well; 2nd Nordic Combined has finished second in a good race since, 3rd Pistol Whipped won at Fakenham this week, 5th Umndeni has won since and 6th Beaufort West has finished second since. Dashel Drasher finally got off the mark over hurdles last month at Chepstow when stepped up to 2m3½f, easily making all to score by six-lengths back to the promising Tarada. This looks a decent race at Ascot, however the trip is ideal and each of the market principles are equally penalised to 11-5. The ground will suit and I’d expect a bold show from this Jeremy Scott charge under Kieron Edgar at a big price.
Dashel Drasher Each/Way @ 12/1
13:35 – Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) – 2m7½f
Top Ville Ben had some decent Novice Hurdle form when with Nicky Henderson in 2017, including when beating Count Meribel. He’s since switched yards to Philip Kirby without setting the world alight, until he made his chase debut at Hexham in November. He faced a couple of nice horses that day in Senor Lombardy and Grade 2 Hurdles winner Donna’s Diamond, but completely blew them away when making all to score by thirteen-lengths. The way this seven-year-old jumped that day was particularly impressive on debut, and he followed this up with an equally impressive performance at Wetherby in December when beating Dan Skelton’s Red Rising by a massive forty-six lengths. That rival had previously finished thirteen-and-a-half lengths behind Bags Groove (153), which puts the run into context. Again making all from the front, Sean Quinlan was sitting tight five-lengths ahead of his closest rival before being left clear at the third last. He was in no danger of losing the race however, and again put in a fantastic jumping display despite giving 6lbs away to the whole field. Although this is a step-up into Grade 2 company at Ascot, it looks fairly weak renewal of the Reynoldstown. If Sean Quinlan is allowed to jump off out in front, he will take some pegging back.
Top Ville Ben @ 3/1
14:10 – Swinley Chase Limited Handicap (Listed) – 2m7½f
Black Corton looks worth chancing here as Coneygree being in the race allows him to carry 11-6 rather than top weight. Winner of the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase on this card last year, Black Corton ran a great race at Ascot last month when staying on for second behind Top Notch over a trip shorter than ideal. Back up to three-miles today under usual jockey Bryony Frost, the pair can get back to winning ways in what looks a good opportunity.
Black Corton @ 3/1
15:20 – Betfair Hurdle Handicap (Grade 3) – 1m7½f
Didtheyleaveuoutto always had a good chance of winning the Betfair Hurdle when it was due to be staged at Newbury last weekend, but now that we have switched to Ascot, I feel this Nick Gifford charge has an even better chance. After winning an All-Weather bumper in extremely impressive style at Lingfield in November 2017, this JP McManus Gelding went to Ascot and landed a Listed Bumper when beating the likes of Bullionaire. The six-year-old made his Hurdles debut at Fakenham at the end of October when given an ultra-cool ride by Barry Geraghty to get him up in the final strides and was again a small-margin winner when winning over this course and distance in November. This Nick Gifford stable-star beat Supreme fancy Thomas Darby that day in a Class 2 Introductory Hurdle, which represents top form. We last saw Didtheyleaveuoutto at Kempton on Boxing Day when only managing fifth behind Mister Fisher in a hot contest, however this has allowed him to get a mark of 139 over hurdles. This renewal of the Betfair Hurdle doesn’t look the greatest, and getting weight off the market leaders, I would expect this six-year-old to go close at a track where he is still unbeaten.
Didtheyleaveuoutto Each/Way @ 8/1
(6 Places available on William Hill)
15:55 – Ascot Chase (Grade 1) – 2m5f
Paul Nicholls does extremely well with his horses at Ascot and is second on the list of top trainers at the track to only Nicky Henderson over the past five seasons. With Nicky down on runners this weekend due to Equine Flu vaccinations, Paul Nicholls looks set for a big day and can continue that here with Politologue. Already twice a Grade 1 winner, this beautiful grey has only ever lost once in eight starts going right handed, and that was when fourth in the Grade 1 King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day – when he didn’t quite stay the three-mile trip. Back down to an ideal 2m5f today, Politologue can get back to winning ways at a track where he is unbeaten in two starts – including when winning on seasonal reappearance over this course and distance in November. Despite most of his form coming at right-handed tracks, the best piece of form he has in the book is when winning the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree in the spring, seeing off Willie Mullins’ Min by a neck. With Sam Twiston-Davies retaining the ride, I’d expect this John Hales eight-year-old to be the better of the Nicholls pair. Waiting Patiently has only had one run since winning this race last year, when unseating in the King George.
Politologue @ 7/2
16:30 – Challenger Staying Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle Qualifier (Class 3) – 2m7½f
Modern Warfair looks completely unexposed for this Handicap Hurdle, having finished a very decent fourth on Hurdles debut behind Russian Hawk (runs in the 12:30 on this card), Diomede Des Mottes and Shaughnessy at Exeter in November. His next start came at Haydock in December when upped to 2m7f, and he again ran well to finish second behind Kim Bailey’s Newtide. This Tim Vaughan charge won on his Handicap debut last month at Doncaster when beating Kk Lexion by a length, from a mark of 112. He stayed on well to lead towards the finish that day, and a 5lbs rise should still keep him competitive in this weak looking contest.
Modern Warfair Each/Way @ 10/1
13:25 – Mares’ Hurdle (Listed) – 2m2½f
It’s not often that a four-year-old Filly will run in an open company Mares’ Hurdle, but Nicky Henderson has been absolutely raving about this Listed French Hurdle winner. Laskadine won that Listed 3yo Hurdle at Auteuil in September by six-lengths, before moving to Seven Barrows on behalf of JP McManus. This daughter of Martaline made her UK debut at Warwick last month when beating Ian Williams’ Faldo (who JP McManus has also purchased since!) by one-and-a-half lengths. She didn’t jump that well, however Nicky Henderson has put this down to her never jumping a UK Hurdle until winning that day. She has since been extensively schooled over these obstacles, and the trainer has reported she has been flying back at home. This 2m3f trip is a bit of an unknown, however her Listed win did come over 2m2f at Auteuil. If Laskadine stays the trip then she will take all the beating getting a 10lbs four-year-old allowance, and a stone from the second favourite Jester Jet.
Laskadine @ 9/4
14:55 – Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier (Class 2) – 3m
Down The Highway has looked a promising Novice this season, beating Mercy Mercy Me by seven-lengths in good style on Hurdles debut. The Emma Lavelle charge bitterly disappointed when sent off joint-favourite for the Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown in December, but that run came on Heavy ground, so he can be forgiven on that occasion. His last run came at Chepstow last month where he put in a much better run to finish fourth behind Lisnagar Oscar in a strong looking Novices’ Hurdle. Nicky Henderson’s promising Novice Dickie Diver was just beaten into second that day, with Philip Hobbs’ Tuckin Away in third. This point-to-point winner is interestingly going into Handicap company for the first time here, and a mark of 133 looks fair enough on what he has achieved so far. Emma Lavelle is enjoying a successful season so far with twenty-four winners, and this unexposed type can give her another here. If connections are aiming to go for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham then they will need to run well here to get a mark high enough to ensure they get in, and I would be keeping an eye on his price for that race if he goes well here.
Down The Highway Each/Way @ 7/1
13:50 – Red Mills Trial Hurdle (Grade 3) – 2m
Coeur Sublime looks a promising Juvenile for Gordon Elliot but has had some bad luck with opportunities recently, with both the ground and equine influenza forcing connections to be patient. This four-year-old looks to have found a good opportunity here however, getting upwards of 12lbs from all of his rivals in this modest field. This Navan Maiden winner on the Flat (Beating Southern France no less!) made his hurdles debut at Down Royal in November when scoring despite making a few mistakes, before going down a short-head from stablemate Chief Justice in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse. The pair met again at Leopardstown over Christmas in a Grade 2 event, and despite making good headway to dispute the lead at the last, he fell when having every chance. Stepping into open company here will obviously mean he needs to improve; however, his four-year-old allowance and a weak field gives him strong claims.
Coeur Sublime @ 5/2
15:40 – Beginners Chase – 2m4f
Duc Des Genievres isn’t a horse who wins very often, however he had some top class form behind the likes of Samcro over Hurdles last season. This Willie Mullins grey made a good start to life over fences at Naas in December when second to subsequent Grade 3 placed A Plus Tard, and he followed that effort up last month when third to stablemate Cilaos Emery back over two-miles. The second that day Impact Factor has since backed that form up when second to Riders Onthe Storm at Punchestown, and the fourth Ex Patriot franked the form at Thurles when winning by a length earlier this month. Getting his head in front does seem to be an issue for this six-year-old, but back up to 2m4f here, Duc Des Genievres can finally shed his maiden tag under Paul Townend.
Duc Des Genievres @ 11/4
Horses to Follow running Today:
15:00 – Kingwell Hurdle (Grade 2) – 1m7f
Sceau Royal is likely to be a warm order here back over Hurdles, but with this being a prep for the spring festivals, I feel he is worth taking on at such a short price. Vision Des Flos features on my Horses to Follow list, and hasn’t ran badly in defeat since switching back to Hurdles after unriding on his Chase debut at Ffos Las in October. Something that really interests me about his chances here is that he underwent wind surgery again in December, and he seemed to benefit from this when pressing Buveur D’Air all the way to the line at Sandown in the Contenders Hurdle last month. Although the bare form says that he finished two-lengths behind the Champion Hurdle favourite last time out, that rival was barely off the bridle under Barry Geraghty. The way he challenged however gives me confidence that he can go close in a weaker contest such as this, and his record going right handed reads an impressive 12122. Wincanton should suit, and the second wind operation will hopefully allow for further improvement – as was the case when he won at Exeter this time last season after his first.
Vision Des Flos @ 3/1
16:10 – Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) – 3m½f
Kateson is another on my Horses to Follow list, and his run here holds greater significance having been tipped in my Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Ante-Post article. This looks a great trial on ground which will suit, and this Tom Lacey charge should go close despite a competitive field. At his current price he isn’t a betting prospect, however I am eager to see how he gets on stepped up to three-miles.
Good luck! – Jake Price