Howden Challenge Cup tips and runner-by-runner guide to Ascot 3.35 on Saturday

The prolific Quinault goes for glory in the UK's richest 7f handicap.


*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

Quinault goes for an incredible eighth win of the season when tackling a maximum field of 17 rivals in the Howden Challenge Cup on Saturday.

The three-year-old gelding has been one of the stars of 2023 after rising from a handicap rating of 59 to 102 and heads into his latest assignment off the back of a course-and-distance success when beating the reopposing Popmaster by a neck in the bet365 Handicap last month.

The Howden Challenge Cup is the most valuable 7f handicap in the UK so it’s no surprise that a competitive line-up has been assembled with a stack of C&D scorers in the mix including hat-trick seeker Baradar and Fresh.

Escobar landed the spoils in last year’s renewal but has been badly out of form since and is set to race off a 13lb lower in the ratings.

The horse at the bottom of the weights, Hickory, is another leading contender for the 15:35 at Ascot after going close over C&D on his last two starts without taking a hefty hit to his handicap mark.

The latest Howden Challenge Cup odds are on the Paddy Power website and Paddy Power app, otherwise Timeform’s guide to the runners as well as betting tips from the racing boffins can be found below.

Howden Challenge Cup tips

Timeform: A typically competitive renewal of this valuable handicap and FRESH is taken to register a belated first success of the season. The 6-y-o is now 3 lb lower than for the second of his two C&D victories in 2022 and again shaped as though he’s ready to strike when sixth at the Curragh last month. The David O’Meara-trained duo Orbaan and Pearle d’Or both merit respect, while the hat-trick seeking Baradar, recent listed winner Popmaster and consistent types Quinault and Maywake all have claims, too.

Howden Challenge Cup runners and riders

The following horses have been declared for the Howden Challenge Cup 2023.


Trainer: Ed Walker Jockey: Tom Marquand Age: 5 Weight: 9st 13lbs Draw: 11

Winner over 6f here in July and just touched off by Quinault with several of these rivals behind over C&D last month. Better than ever when landing a 7f Newbury listed contest (heavy) 13 days later and, 3 lb well-in under a penalty back in handicap company, he’s a must for the shortlist.



Trainer: Ralph Beckett Jockey: Rossa Ryan Age: 6 Weight: 9st 12lbs Draw: 8

Second in C&D Victoria Cup during the spring and took his form up another notch when landing the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket in July. Not at his best in 3 subsequent starts, though, and it could be that the handicapper has his measure for now.



Trainer: George Boughey Jockey: Hector Crouch Age: 5 Weight: 9st 12lbs Draw: 15

Built on earlier promise in first-time cheekpieces when landing 25-runner International over C&D at the end of July. Further improvement when following up at Doncaster (6.5f, good to soft) and major chance off this 5 lb higher mark, provided the ground isn’t on the quick side.


Blue For You

Trainer: David O’Meara Jockey: Paul Mulrennan Age: 5 Weight: 9st 9lbs Draw: 4

Resumed winning ways in good style at York (1m, good) in July but has failed to make an impact in 3 runs since, leaving the impression that he’s probably in the handicapper’s grip at present. One of several representing the David O’Meara yard.



Trainer: Stuart Williams Jockey: Luke Catton Age: 3 Weight: 9st 7lbs Draw: 1

One of the success stories of the season so far, completing a remarkable six-timer at Newmarket in July. Back on the up when narrowly seeing off Popmaster (2 lb pull) and 12 others over C&D (firm) last month and, with no rain forecast, another bold show is on the cards.


Bless Him

Trainer: David Simcock Jockey: Hayley Turner Age: 9 Weight: 9st 7lbs Draw: 3

Still a smart operator on his day, running well in big fields in the Royal Hunt Cup and the Bunbury Cup in the summer. Not seen to best effect the last twice and he’s an each-way player in a race that will almost certainly be run to suit.



Trainer: David O’Meara Jockey: Jason Watson Age: 5 Weight: 9st 7lbs Draw: 17

Dropped in the weights and back in excellent order during the summer, winning brace of 7f handicaps at Goodwood in August. Hit the target again at that Sussex venue (1m, soft) recently but more on his plate under a penalty here.



Trainer: James Fanshawe Jockey: Jack Mitchell Age: 6 Weight: 9st 6lbs Draw: 18

Solid record in big 6f/7f handicaps here in recent years and, though yet to get his head in front this season, his turn appears to be again near judged on eye-catching efforts at York and the Curragh on his last 2 starts. Very much one to consider.


Ropey Guest

Trainer: George Margarson Jockey: Tom Queally Age: 6 Weight: 9st 6lbs Draw: 5

Bagged a second success of 2023 with a career best in 19-runner handicap at York (1m, good to firm) in August. Best not to read too much into his latest effort behind Quinault over C&D (left poorly placed) but he looks vulnerable all the same.



Trainer: Charlie Fellowes Jockey: Harry Davies Age: 4 Weight: 9st 3lbs Draw: 13

Found ease in weights/drop in grade liberating and bounced back to best when landing share of the spoils at Doncaster (7f, soft) in July. However, below par both starts since and while he’s dangerous to completely rule out, one or two of these are more appealing.



Trainer: David O’Meara Jockey: Neil Callan Age: 9 Weight: 9st 1lbs Draw: 10

Sixth in this race in 2021 and right back to his best when coming from off the pace to land last year’s renewal off an 11 lb higher mark. 0-11 so far this season, though, and he was well down the field in the C&D handicap won by Quinault on penultimate start.



Trainer: Richard Fahey Jockey: Billy Garritty Age: 5 Weight: 9st 0lbs Draw: 6

Has proved a model of consistency this year, finishing out of the frame in just one of his 9 starts since returning to action in April. Looked better than ever when scoring at Sandown (7f, good to soft) last month and couldn’t rule out, for all that he’s now 6 lb higher in a much tougher race.


Lethal Levi

Trainer: K. R. Burke Jockey: Clifford Lee Age: 4 Weight: 9st 0lbs Draw: 12

Yet to score this term but has posted some good efforts in defeat, including when ninth of 24 in the 6f Ayr Gold in the first-time visor (retained here) a fortnight ago. Not sure that stepping back up to this trip is what he wants, though.


Ancestral Land

Trainer: Clive Cox Jockey: William Cox Age: 3 Weight: 8st 13lbs Draw: 14

6f novice winner at 2 yrs who ran up to his best when third (in first-time cheekpieces) at Sandown (7f, good to firm) in June. However, he was below par tried in blinkers (discarded here) back from a break at Doncaster, which was his first run since being gelded. Cheekpieces refitted.



Trainer: Andrew Balding Jockey: Pat Dobbs Age: 3 Weight: 8st 13lbs Draw: 16

Well suited by the emphasis on speed when gaining his first win of the year in an 8-runner minor event over C&D (good to firm) last month. However, found out off this mark back in handicap company at Newmarket and this is not any easier.



Trainer: David O’Meara Jockey: Jason Hart Age: 8 Weight: 8st 11lbs Draw: 7

Good fifth in the C&D Balmoral off 10 lb higher last October and, not for the first time this season, he caught the eye when putting in good late work in first-time cheekpieces (retained) at York (7f, soft) a fortnight ago. Needs considering. Engaged 3.22 Ascot Friday.


Pearle D’or

Trainer: David O’Meara Jockey: Jim Crowley Age: 4 Weight: 8st 11lbs Draw: 9

Better than ever since refitted with a hood, scoring over C&D (good to soft) in July and added to his tally under testing conditions at Newbury 2 weeks ago. This is more demanding under a penalty but he’s respected with Jim Crowley in the hot-seat.



Trainer: James Fanshawe Jockey: Benoit de la Sayette Age: 5 Weight: 8st 10lbs Draw: 2

Completed hat-trick in 7f handicap at Kempton in December. Unable to add to tally in 2023 but solid efforts in C&D handicaps won by Baradar and Quinault the last twice, and likely to be in the thick of things once again if taking his chance. Engaged 3..22 Ascot Friday.


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