There is further rain forecast for Ascot ahead of today’s feature card and the ground looks sure to be extremely testing if the meeting gets the green light.
In the Graduation Chase Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side’s record going right-handed reads 1124 and he receives weight from his four rivals, but will his jumping hold up in this company? Paloma Blue ran well at Gowran Park on his reappearance, but I didn’t think that was much of a race and preference is for Riders Onthe Storm (1.15) who was an impressive winner at Aintree on his British debut and was scratched from the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup when antepost favourite at Cheltenham last weekend in error.
In the 2m 3f handicap chase Espoir De Gueye has been raised 9lbs for scoring at Exeter last time and represents the stable of Venetia Williams who has been carrying all before her in recent weeks. My two against the field, however, are Garde La Victoire and Golden Whisky (1.50) with preference for the latter who gets the each way vote – 8/1 at BetVictor.
Garde La Victoire has a good record fresh and has been given a chance by the handicapper, but I think he may be best going left-handed. It will be interesting to see what the market makes of his chances.
Golden Whisky did us a favour when scoring at Ffos Las last time when he showed a tendency to jump out to his right. With that in mind this track should suit, and he is a progressive young chaser who might still be ahead of the handicapper despite a 6lbs hike for his win in south Wales.
The 3m valuable handicap Chase is a cracker and Yaltari (11/2 at BetVictor) has been very well supported for Venetia Williams in recent days despite making his seasonal reappearance. Marginal preference, however, is for Jerrysback (3.00) who disappointed on his first start this term but finished second to Vinndication in the Grade 2 Novice chase over C&D at this meeting 12 months ago.
Sixteen go to post for the £150,000 handicap hurdle and it is an ultra-competitive heat as befits such a valuable contest. Harambe did us a favour when winning the Greatwood last month but I hope to see Quoi De Neuf (3.35) reverse Cheltenham form on 2lbs better terms.
The each way selection is 6/1 at BetVictor and gets the narrow vote from David Pipe’s Umbrigado who drops back to the minimum trip having faded from two out over 3m at Haydock on his first start this term.
At Haydock Fin And Game (11.50) finished runner up over today’s C&D at the corresponding meeting 12 months ago off today’s mark. The horse who beat him by two lengths – receiving 2lbs – was non-other than subsequent Grade 1 winner Cornerstone Lad who is now rated over two stone higher in the weights.
In the Tommy Whittle Vintage Clouds will find these fences more amenable than the National fences in the Becher Chase earlier in the month when he did not have a cut at those unique obstacles. He obviously remembered having come down at the first in the National back in the spring!
I like the booking of talented 5lbs conditional Ben Jones for Big Shark (2.05) in the 3m handicap hurdle for Philip Hobbs. The selection made most to score at Hereford last time having won at Worcester on his first start under rules. Neither race was the strongest of contests, but he could be well treated for his handicap debut especially taking his jockey’s claim into consideration.
Daklondike won this corresponding race 12 months ago from a 4lbs lower mark and at 4/1 with BetVictor he will have his supporters, but the each way vote goes to the Aintree Foxhunters’ winner Top Wood (2.40) who is 15/2 and is only 2lbs higher than when runner up at Ascot on his reappearance.
The selection turns 13 on the 1st January, but he has finished in the frame at the Cheltenham Festival for the last two years and his sound jumping should be an asset in what looks sure to be war of attrition.
For all your racing odds go to betVictor.com