The ground was officially good to soft at Ascot on Friday and there is no further rain forecast ahead of todays feature card.
Gordon Elliot brings Pencilfulloflead across the Irish Sea, and he is undoubtedly the one to beat having run some excellent races on heavy ground in top novice chases in Ireland last season.
He was, however, taken out of his intended comeback – over hurdles – at Clonmel at the beginning of the month when the yielding ground was considered too quick. He ran well enough on his sole start when the word good appeared in the official description over hurdles, but he is well served by plenty of dig in the ground; he is reluctantly overlooked.
I backed Gunsight Ridge at Exeter last time when he jumped and travelled beautifully but was readily brushed aside by L’Homme Presse (1.15) and I vowed to back the winner next time wherever he rocked up.
The selection did not jump as well as Gunsight Ridge at Exeter but was very well backed and I thought he was a good thing to follow up off an 8lbs higher mark next time. That was when I thought he would go down the handicap route, but he receives 7lbs from the Elliot horse and he gets the vote. The 4s was too big on Friday but he is into 5/2 with William Hill on Friday evening at the time of posting.
The 2m 3f handicap chase is a competitive heat but I hope to see Guy (1.50) go one better than when runner up from a 3lbs lower mark here last month over an additional couple of furlongs. The ew selection – 5s with William Hill – may well have won that contest but for clouting the second last and the drying ground is also considered a positive.
Palmers Hill looks the obvious danger having scored with a bit in hand at Wetherby last time from a 4lbs lower mark. That wasn’t the best race ever staged at the track, however, and he is short enough in the betting at 10/3.
There is a terrific renewal of the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle with Paisley Park looking for a third win in the race. If Buzz stays this extended 3m he will win, but that is not certain despite his Cesarewitch success on the level over 2m 2f and his fluent Ascot Hurdle win over 2m 3f+ last time. A watching brief for me.
Jerrysback only got as far as the third here last month and I have long thought he was a winner-in-waiting of one of these big handicaps. Step Back and Phoenix Way are respected but I hope it’s a good day for Venetia Williams and the vote goes to Belami Des Pictons (3.00) who ran a terrific race after a long absence at Bangor-on-Dee last month in a race won by subsequent Becher Chase winner Snow Leopardess.
I remember the ew selection – 5s with MansionBet 4 places – running a tremendous race in the BetVictor Gold Cup of 2019 when he finished like a train in fourth having been badly hampered at the second. He can race from a mark 11lbs lower this afternoon and is lightly-raced for one of his years.
A mix of heavy and soft ground at Haydock and Ben Pauling had a winner at Ffos Las midweek for Harry Redknapp and they can follow up courtesy of Shakem Up’Arry (1.30) who was jumping well when coming down on his chase debut at Ffos Las last month.
The selection – 15/8 with Boylesports – has always promised more than he has delivered but I remember him tanking through a valuable handicap hurdle here over 2m 3f last year and Luca Morgan’s 5lb claim is useful. If his confidence has not been affected than I do think he will take a good deal of beating.
Remastered would have won the Ladbroke Trophy but for coming down four out at Newbury and he can race off the same mark this afternoon. He must go close, but I have backed a couple against the favourite Enquarde and Buzz De Turcoing (2.40) with the latter getting the each way vote.
The ew selection – 10s at William Hill 5 places – won at Ayr from a 6lbs lower mark last time – Jack Tudor’s claim halves the rise – and won a 3m Novice hurdle on heavy ground last season under todays jockey.
Enquarde – 12s with William Hill 5 places – was a beaten favourite in the Grand National trial here in February, but he was going best before the petrol gave way over that additional half-mile and he is 4lbs lower this afternoon.