There’s some really high-class action at Ascot on Saturday as the UK gets back to normal after the Equine Flu outbreak. There’s only four weeks to the start of the Cheltenham Festival from next Tuesday, so trainers will be putting the finishing touches to their plans – as well as trying to win some big contests in their own right.
I’m at Gowran Park where there’s a decent card with a few graded races, but we’ve only a handful of runners.
We’ve nothing in the 2m Grade 3 Hurdle at 13.50 but Gordon Elliott’s Coeur Sublime gets a handy weight allowance as a four-year-old and can prove too good for Farclas.
I’m looking forward to riding Killutagh Vic in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at 2.30pm. He has schooled really well during the week since running a blinder behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle last month.
While there’s only four runners, three of them, Anibale Fly, Killultagh Vic and Edwulf, would ideally need more of a trip than Saturday’s 2m 4f test. On ratings Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly is the one we have to beat, but over this 2m 4f trip, Monalee may have a bit too much pace for all of us – despite being ‘wrong’ at the weights.
I’m on C’est Jersey in the beginners chase at 3.40pm. He has plenty of experience, but ideally would like another half a mile rather than 2m 4f. Allblak Des Places should run a better race as he slipped into the first fence at Fairyhouse last time, so you could almost ignore that run. Burrows Saint is a gorgeous horse with a big future but probably wants a little further in trip too,
However, Paul Townend rides Duc De Genievres who ran a really good race behind Cilaos Emery here on Thyestes Day.
He could be the best of the Mullins quartet.
Over in the UK, Mister Malarkey looks a strong stayer and could be the one to beat in the 3m Novice Chase at Ascot 1.35pm.
While the top-weight Coup De Pinceau and Top Ville Ben have done nothing wrong, none of these were top-class novice hurdlers, but seemed to improved over fences.
Coneygree is a wonderful servant and Ascot will suit him. Black Corton will keep him honest, but they’re both having to give more than a stone (14lb) away to an improving runner of Philip Hobbs in Reikers Island. That’s a big ask and he can win the 3m Listed Chase at 2.10pm.
Paul Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux was very good when winning the King George VI Chase. He traveled and jumped superbly throughout the race and if he’s going to be a leading Gold Cup contender, you’d be expecting him to make further claims by winning the Grade 2 Denman Chase at 2.45pm.
The Betfair Hurdle at 3.20pm has been dominated by novices recently and this year is no different. Paul Nicholls’ Getaway Trump and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Al Dancer head the market. While plenty of others will fancy their chances, I’m siding with Getaway Trump.
The Ascot Chase at 3.55pm looks a really good contest and Cyrname comes into it having left a field of handicappers in his wake over course and distance last time.
These are proper Grade One horses he’ll have to outrun this time – not handicappers.
His front-running style will really help Politologue and Waiting Patiently get into the race, but Fox Norton must improve a bit on his last start to get involved.
I’m a big fan of Waiting Patiently and he can get his season back on track after his mishap in the King George VI Chase at Christmas.
Of the other feature races in the UK, Yanworth runs in the 3m hurdle at Haydock 1.55pm and is a high-class horse on his day. Alan King’s runner will be looking to lay down a marker in what has traditionally been a pointer to the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival. I’m not sure that it will have too much impact with the form Paisley Park has shown this season, but Yanworth looks well treated here against some of his rivals.
A small but select field for the Kingwell Hurdle at 3pm where likely favourite Sceau Royal hasn’t run since finishing fourth to Altior in the Tingle Creek. He reverts to hurdles and is a slick little jumper.
If he wins, connections may even feel he’s worth trying in the Champion Hurdle rather than playing second fiddle to Altior in the chasing division. Wincanton’s flat track should really suit him and he looks better than the opposition.
He’ll be hard to beat.