Mick Fitzgerald: Take the hint on this 4/1 shot at Ascot while Cue Card should deliver at Wetherby

Paul Nicholls' Saphir Du Rheu had a few options this weekend and the decision to go for the Byrne Group Plate should pay off.

I’m glad I put Thistlecrack at the top of my list in our 10 to follow. I’d spoken to Joe Tizzard and he’d said the reigning World Hurdle champ was a natural over fences – and he proved it at Chepstow on Tuesday.

Tom Scudamore summed it up best when he said that Thistlecrack can do things other horses can’t.

Sometime you see horses fall late in races and there is always a part of me that asks how much petrol had they left in the tank? Were they running on empty and that was why they fell? The difference with Thistlecrack is that he’ll have loads left judging on what we saw at Chepstow.

He proved last year that despite being a wide-margin winner many times he was still fresh and well within himself when the big tests came in the Grade One races at Cheltenham and Aintree at the end of the season.

And I think he’ll do the same again this year en route to the Gold Cup next March.

Novice mistakes?

There’s always the arguement that novices don’t win the Gold Cup? Tell that to 2015 winner Coneygree’s connections. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Tizzards took a similar path to the Festival next March, waiting until possibly the Denman Chase at Newbury in February, before letting him take on the big boys out of novice company.

People say he’s a ‘short-price’ for the Gold Cup. But let’s put that in context. Reigning champ Don Cossack won’t be seen until the New Year, we have yet to see if Coneygree retains his zest when he returns, Vautour could be detoured if things don’t work out in the King George VI Chase and Douvan is odds-on in the Champion Chase market.

If anything, Thistlecrack could have most to fear from his by then 11-year-old stable mate, who was arguably an unlucky loser when travelling sweetly when tipping up at the third last in last year’s Blue Riband!

Speaking of which …

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Cue Card returns in the Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday and will love the good ground.  He goes well fresh and won this contest last year. But he did have six tough races last season and at 10-years-old, he’ll need to have retained all his ability to repeat last term’s successes.

He should be good enough to get off to a winning start here as RSA Chase winner Blaklion usually improves for the run and Dynaste has been frustrating of late. The one that could out-run his odds is Irish Cavalier. He’s yet to win at graded level, but likes good ground, has a run at Chepstow under his belt and trainer Rebecca Curtis’s horses are flying.

The rest of Saturday’s card at Wetherby is full of talent and there’s a few tricky contests chucked in at Ascot (below).

Malcolm Jefferson’s Double W ‘s got his chasing career off to a winning start last time out at Carlisle. I just prefer him to the more experienced Fouu Et Sage who won in France this summer in the 1.35pm.

In the Mares Listed Hurdle at 2.10pm I like Pass the Time who reverts to hurdles for the Neil Mullholland yard. She holds a few of these on form from her previous runs and the stable is in flying form.

Nigel Twiston-Davies Ballyoptic should be hard to beat in the Grade 2 3m Hurdle at 2.45pm having won on debut at Chepstow. The Romford Pele can out-run his price.


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The Novices Chase at Ascot 1.55pm could come down to who is the better jumper. Crimson Ark makes his debut over the larger obstacles but ran a cracker behind Ballyoptic (runs 2.45pm @ Wetherby) in a good hurdle race at Chepstow last time. This former point-to-point winner could be the one to beat if he transfers that sort of form to fences. Top-weight Master Dee could be a bit of value to chase him home.

The Byrne Group Chase at 2.25pm is a cracker and I like Pearls Legend as a solid option where Croco Bay could outrun his odds despite un-shipping his rider at Cheltenham last weekend.

Diego Du Charmil is the one for me in the handicap hurdle at 3pm after his win at Chepstow.  Modus makes his seasonal debut and is one to watch in the market, while John Constable wasn’t far off the likely favourite, Ch’Tbello, when last seen at Haydock in May.

Bite the bullet

The feature chase at Ascot is a real chance for Saphir du Rheu 3.35pm to get back in the winning groove. Paul Nicholls could have taken the easy option of sending him over hurdles if he wasn’t pleasing him, but he’s bitten the bullet and sent him back over fences. Colin Tizzard’s Buckhorn Timothy could be the value play each-way.

What do you think?