Today’s feature card comes from Ascot where conditions are likely to be soft. Storm Eunice is due to batter the country on Friday, but the meeting is not under threat at the time of writing with conditions due to improve on Saturday.
In the opener I would be sweet on the chance of the unbeaten Skytastic – 11/10 with 10Bet – on a decent surface, but he is unproven on soft ground, and he is best watched although he is a smart prospect. I would like to see him take his chance at Aintree in the spring.
Of more interest this afternoon may be his stablemate Good Risk At All (3.00) who steps up in trip for his handicap debut and that is the key given he got going too late over two miles when beaten a neck at Warwick last time.
A listed Bumper winner on soft ground he has finished second in all three starts over timber, but he is potentially very well treated off his opening mark and the excellent Charlie Deutsch takes over in the saddle for the first time. right.The 15/8 with 10Bet looks about
Cap Du Mathan was a rare winner for Paul Nicholls in the month of January, but he has been raised 9lbs for that facile Taunton success – his first run in almost two years. He must go close, and he and French import Piccadilly Lilly are considered the main dangers to the selection. That said I do feel the Sam Thomas 6-y-old is potentially very well treated.
The feature race is the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, and all eight runners can be given a realistic chance including Waiting Patiently the outsider of the field at 25/1. The market is headed by Fakir D’oudaries who was never travelling after an early mistake behind Allaho in a Thurles Grade 2 last time. He is a personal favourite of mine, but I have always thought he was a better horse going left-handed and I think the Melling Chase – which he won last year – will again be his best opportunity for another Grade 1 success this spring.
Mister Fisher would have been the selection on good ground and the each way vote goes to Saint Calvados (3.38) who travelled very well on his first start for Paul Nicholls when failing to stay over an additional half-mile in the King George. He looks to have his optimum conditions this afternoon. Harry Cobden takes over in the saddle for the first time after Nicholls’ was singularly unimpressed with the ride given to the 9-y-old by Gavin Sheehan at Kempton. The 4s with Boylersports looks fair ew three places.
Haydock must pass what is described as a precautionary inspection at 8am on raceday although conditions are sure to be testing if the meeting is given the green light.
The Grand National Trial is the feature race, and it is a top-class renewal with three-time Grade 1 Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai heading the weights.
Teenager Blaklion has turned back the years in recent starts and he and Sam Brown are big dangers, but the 2020 Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve (2.40) looks sure to come on for his first start in 12 months when he finished fifth back at Chepstow when looking to win that great race back-to-back over Christmas.
The Evan Williams’ trained 8-y-old is unlikely to get into the Grand National – number 83 in the weights – so this valuable prize looks a key objective for connections, and he has been dropped 2lbs since Chepstow. The selection – 7/2 4 places with William Hill – has not won in two starts at Haydock, but he did run well here when runner up over an inadequate trip a couple of seasons ago.
He is entitled to come on for his run in the Welsh National and the 9/2 available earlier in the week was appealing. He is a best price of 11/4 at the time of writing although I do believe there will be slightly bigger available on Saturday given it is such a deep race.
Warren Greatrex has his string in better form than was the case earlier in the season and I like the booking of Brian Hughes for Bill Baxter (3.15) in the 3m handicap hurdle.
The grey was no match for the progressive Art Of Diplomacy – runs at Ascot today – at Catterick last time and this slightly shorter trip should suit. He carries just 10st 3lbs this afternoon and the 9/1 with William Hill looks a fair each way price although they are the only firm with prices on the race at the time of writing.
Mr Glass could be a handicap snip in the 2m 5f handicap hurdle at Wincanton for Paul Nicholls from an opening mark of just 127. He was no match for Constitution Hill over the minimum trip in a Sandown Grade 1 last time but that looked an inadequate test, and it is just his skinny odds – 2/1 -that is the negative.
Master Debonair remains fairly treated on his best form for Colin Tizzard and he ran well reverting to hurdles last time for Harry Fry. A market move would be worth noting.
The each way vote, however, goes to Sizable Sam (3.58) who has a good course record and ran well – reverting to hurdles – at Taunton last time over three miles a trip which taxes his stamina. This intermediate extended 2m 5f distance is ideal and I hope to see him reward each way support. The 13/2 with 10Bet looks fair.