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ROKSANA ran against Paisley Park and Thyme Hill at the track last time and only got beat two lengths. A repeat of that performance would see her win again here, as she handles the ground and handles the track.
She likes soft ground, so you’re struggling to find a negative with Dan Skelton charge. Our biggest opposition will come from Magic Of Light, who won this contest last year and is a very strong stayer who mixes hurdling with chasing. She went a really strong gallop last year and burned the others off, but I just don’t believe she’ll be able to do that to Roksana, who will sit on her tail and ease past after the last hurdle.
The Tom Symonds team continue in very good form and LLANDINABO LAD comprehensively beat Minella Drama in Bangor-on-Dee in October. Minella Drama is getting 5lbs and is 10lbs better off, so Donald McCain will fancy his chances though.
Lightly Squeeze is favourite on the back of a very good outing in the Betfair Exchange Trophy over 2m. Meanwhile, the step in trip looks like it will suit Kateson. He is one that I like as this lad stays really strongly, he will also be riden aggressively and has the services of champion jockey Brian Hughes.
But, the one that I fancy is JANIKA, and he has some very good chase form to his name. He won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter of a mark of 162 and he races here off a mark of 147 as his hurdle rating is different to his chase one. I just feel he is a bit of value in this tough contest as an each-way bet.
ROCK THE KASBAH was second last year and has the beating of Yala Enki now. He is a fresher horse too.
Venetia Williams has her team in very good shape at the minute, and Yalltari ran a very good race against Secret Reprieve at Chepstow. He has run well previously at this track, when he was placed in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. I feel this will turn into a little bit of a slog and it might just suit him.
The one I am going for though, is ENQARDE. He was travelling okay when blundering his rider away at Haydock, but he bolted up at Newcastle over hurdles and this former French chaser can win at a price.
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Royal Pagaille should be favourite and a deserved one based on performances at Kempton and here at Haydock. His odds will be prohibited though, and I would rather have a little on SMOOTH STEPPER each-way. This lad won the National Trial in similar conditions last year. He ran a good race at Sandown when the ground was too quick and gets the each-way nod from me here.
Venetia has another strong contender here and ESPOIR DE GUYE looked like he didn’t stay at the track last time. But, prior to that, he won very nicely over the course and distance. He is a very strong traveller, he really handles this type of ground well and will be hard to elbow out of the way.
Dashel Drasher is really interesting, he won a three-runner race at the track last time. He did jump a little left, which is not ideal, but he is a tough nut to crack and he is the danger in here.
The ground is not ideal for a horse coming back from 420-day lay-off, but BUVEUR D’AIR should be fit enough for this. He is in receipt of weight from his two rivals. I know the ground is not ideal, but so many things in his favour and it is hard to see past him.
You have to remind yourself how easily Defi Du Seuil won this race last year before you get too carried away by any of the others. He pulled up last time at Cheltenham, when a few of the Philip Hobbs-trained horses were not performing that well.
If he had not run at Cheltenham, he would be a lot shorter price than he is at the moment. You are just hoping that the same horse turns up as did Defi Du Seuil at the track last year.
There is very little between Politologue and Defi Du Seuil on some previous runnings, and Paul Nicholls’ charge comes in here as favourite on the back of a good win in the Tingle Creek Chase. WAITING PATIENTLY ran a hell of a race in the King George Chase and has been supplemented into this race.
He is a Grade 1 winner at the track, he handles soft ground and with some pace in this race, it should help him. The only problem you have with Waiting Patiently is if he gets behind and if they don’t go quick, then he may not be able to peg him back. But, he is a very smart horse, he is only a 10-year-old and he can win here.
13:15 Ascot – Roksana
13:30 Haydock – Llandinabo Lad
13:50 Ascot – Janika
14:25 Ascot – Enqarde
14:40 Haydock – Smooth Stepper
15:00 Ascot – Espoir De Guye
15:15 Haydock – Buveur D’Air
15:35 Ascot – Waiting Patiently
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