There is a belt of heavy rain due to sweep across Britain on Saturday and we begin our weekend preview at Ascot which is likely to be run on soft ground if the forecast is to be believed.

In the listed 12f contest Roberto Escobarr would have been the selection had he proven form on soft ground, but I am convinced there are good races to be won with the William Haggas-trained 4-y-o who has had a wind operation since the Gt Voltigeur at York back in August.

The vote, however, goes to dual soft ground winner Without A Fight (2.30) who was no match for Al Aasy in the John Porter on his reappearance, but the winner is a Group 1 animal, and he is unlikely to face anything of that class this afternoon.  I will be disappointed if he does not run a very big race granted suitable underfoot conditions. The ew recommendation is 5s with MansionBet.

My two against the field In the Victoria Cup are both drawn high. Raising Sand – 12s with 10Bet 6 places – is drawn in stall 26 and was drawn in the same box when fourth in the corresponding race 12 months ago from a 1lb lower mark. Trainer Jamie Osborne’s daughter Saffie takes off a valuable 7lbs today and this four-time course winner looks sure to be spot on for his reappearance.

Ropey Guest (3.40) is less than half the age of 9-y-o Raising Sand and has never won on turf, but trainer George Margarson has always spoke in the highest terms about his 4-y-old who finished fourth in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot on his reappearance last year. He does have good form on soft ground, has been gelded over the winter and can reward each way support at 22s with MansionBet.

Louganini (4.15) found the combination of fast ground and 10f against at Pontefract on his reappearance but the return to a mile-and-a half on soft ground is ideal for Roger Charlton’s 4-y-old – 3s with William Hill – who has a career record of 112 on soft ground. Nuits St Georges is considered the main danger in this hot handicap.

Plenty of rain also due at Haydock where I hope to see Brando (2.35) roll back the years in the 6f Conditions’ event. The selection – 13/8 from 15/8 with BetVictor – finished runner up in the G1 sprint at Ascot on Champions’ Day back in October – beaten a nose – and has already had a run this season finishing third at Doncaster in a listed event at the end of March.

Cape Bryon looked a future sprinting star when landing the Wokingham at Royal Ascot back in 2019 but he finished last on his sole start last season behind Brando at Ascot in October and has a bit to prove. The same can be said of Khaadem who is also on a retrieval mission having finished last at Meydan in Group 1 company last time and has run moderately on both starts on soft/heavy ground in the past.

The Swinton Hurdle is one of my favourite handicap hurdles of the year and Copperless would have been a confident selection had the ground been no worse than good to soft, but he was taken out of a race by trainer Olly Murphy on soft ground at Taunton back in March. He would have gone very close to winning at the Grand National meeting at Aintree had he not come down three out. The first two – Rowland Ward and Camprond – are in the field again today but both have taken a big hike in the weights and others are preferred.

Cormier is interesting for Brian Ellison having his first start of 2021 while the handicapper has taken few chances with Irish raider Shanroe although the latter would have been the selection had he been able to race from his current mark in Ireland of 137. He must race from a 7lbs higher mark today and the each way vote goes to Any News (3.10) who disappointed at Aintree in Grade 1 company last time.

Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies looked down at the horse’s legs at the end of the back straight and quickly pulled up his mount. Neil Mulholland is obviously happy that his 6-y-o is over what was ailing him last month and he has winning form on soft ground. He gets the each way vote at 18/1 with BetVictor.

Senior Citizen finished an excellent third in the Topham last time and this excellent jumper has been dropped a couple of pounds for that effort. He must go close, but Champagne Court (4.55) also ran well in defeat at Newton Abbot last time and will certainly cope with underfoot conditions if they become testing. The selection is 9/2 with 10Bet.                

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