Good morning all,
Sad news this week for fans of the Fibresand, like myself, as Southwell is going to be ripping it up next Spring, and having it replaced with Tapeta.
Whilst I understand the business decisions behind this, it is very disappointing to see this unique test come to an end. So many smaller yards buy horses specifically with this surface in mind, it gives them the chance of a winner in the winter, and now they’ll find themselves taking on some of the bigger Newmarket yards, which can only make life more difficult.
Anyway, this is very much a personal moan, as I love the track as it is, and it has given many people much pleasure over the years. It will be something of a sad day when we have the last race on the surface next year, which I hope will be a mile contest for veterans.Yes, I am hoping they get General Tufto out of retirement for a fitting finish. Won’t happen, though.
More bad news yesterday came in the shape of some new tiering, with a few of the bigger Christmas fixtures now set to take place behind closed doors, including Ascot. They could have had spectators today but decided against it, as from Saturday they won't have that option. Very sad news indeed.
My thoughts on a few of today's races are on the main piece.
12.45 Ascot – 2m5½f Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
Two that catch the eye here are Jacamar, who has done this column a couple of each-way favours in the last year or so (thank the Lord for extra places, eh?) and frequently runs well in these mid-grade handicaps, especially when they are well-run, which this promises to be. He steps up in trip, which he looks about ready for, having again stayed on very well late over 20f at Newbury last time. He’ll handle the ground, and looks sure to give you a run for your money.
Chazza, in retrospect, was facing a very difficult task on his handicap debut at Leicester, giving weight to Cheltenham winner Breffniboy and with third home When You’re Ready running to a similar, if not better level, on his next start, the form looks solid. It wasn’t missed by the handicapper, who puts him up 6lb for it (four of it here, another 2lb on Saturday) but that was his first handicap and he can really only improve. Worth remembering he beat the now 141-rated Llandinabo Lad on heavy ground in a bumper – more on that form later on…
1.55 Ascot – 2m1f Novices Limited Handicap Chase
Editeur Du Gite ran a very good race here two starts ago, going from the front, and although held when making a mistake at the last, a second to Sully Doc reads well. Not so good at Newbury last time out though, so needs to bounce back, and ultimately is probably going to set this up for Mack The Man, who looks nicely treated on the best of his hurdles form (a defeat of Protektorat at Sandown reading particularly well) and will handle the conditions well. Never put in the hunt on his chase debut at Ffos Las, he’s surely capable of a lot better than that, and under ideal conditions, looks the one to beat.
2.30 Ascot – 1m7½f Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle
Some promising sorts on show, but I’m a big fan of Llandinabo Lad, who looked a thorough stayer at this trip when wearing them down at Haydock last time out and although he gets a 5lb penalty for that, he really can’t have the ground deep enough and this week’s rain will have improved his chance of giving it away.
My Drogo took advantage (or, whisper it, is Flinteur Sacre not as good as was first thought?) of the favourite misfiring to win at Newbury but that form requires plenty of improvement, and this ground couldn’t be more different. He may improve for it, of course, but that is an unknown. Similar comments apply to bumper winner No Ordinary Joe, impressive (despite the tail flashing) at Sandown, and Soaring Glory, set for victory when coming down at Wetherby.
Today’s selection – Mack The Man, 1.55 Ascot
Good luck with all your bets today,