Merry Christmas! My last column before we all get presents next week but remember to pop back December 26th for all the top news.
Last weekend we banged in a lovely treble, and that would be nice again on Saturday when ITV show six races – weather permitting – from Ascot and Haydock.
Let’s get straight to it, and the 13.50 at Ascot is a handicap chase over 2m 3f. I’m a huge fan of Kim Bailey and FIRST FLOW, who is going to love the conditions however muddy it may get. My selection won well at Hereford last time and was a very decent hurdler. This is not easy and it’s competitive.
If he jumps well he’ll take some stopping.
Next at Ascot is the 14.25, the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle over an extended 3m. Not a great betting heat, as clearly PAISLEY PARK is the best horse in the race and unless something goes very wrong he’ll hack up for Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman. I’ll take The Worlds End to plod on for second in the forecast position.
The 15.00 is a Listed handicap chase over 3m and what a tough heat it is! My each-way selection is the Ladbrokes Trophy (old Hennessy) sixth MISTER MALARKEY, who bounced back to a bit of form last time after a hopeless seasonal debut. He stays and goes in the mud for Robbie Power and Colin Tizzard.
Finally at Ascot the 15.35 there’s a handicap hurdle with Grade 3 status over nearly 2m. Another truly competitive affair. I’ll have a few quid each-way on QUOI DE NEUF, who I tipped up at Cheltenham last time when he finished a fine fourth behind the re-opposing Harambe. I thought the Evan Williams runner was going to score for much of that race and this track might just suit him better.
Meanwhile, over at Haydock the 14.40 is a handicap chase over an extended 3m 1f. A strong stayer needed here, and CROSSPARK is certainly that. He pulled up at Cheltenham first time this season, but this will suit him much better and the Scottish National runner-up will keep going when others have cried enough.
And finally at Haydock, the 15.15 is a handicap hurdle over 2m 3f. CHTI BALKO goes well at the track and was given a peach of a ride by Will Kennedy when scoring at Bangor last time. I was there that day and with conditions and fitness in his favour, he can overcome a rise of 9lb in the weights.
So best of luck and have a happy Christmas.
*Prices correct a time of publishing