The first of two days of racing at Ascot gets underway with seven race card that contains some decent looking handicaps. There are also jumps fixtures this afternoon at Catterick and Chepstow. The days action concludes with all-weather cards at Kempton and Dundalk this evening.
Inside today’s main piece I look at the two handicap chases on the Ascot card.
Saturday’s Declarations Are Out
A Plus Tard faces four rivals in his bid for back to back Betfair Chase wins.Meanwhile Constitution Hill will also take on four rivals in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot (2.40).
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Two other Cheltenham Festival winners L’Homme Presse and Edwardstone also take up their engagements on the Ascot card. The first named takes on four rivals in the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase (2.05). However, two of his rivals Do Your Job is entered on Friday and Hitman is entered at Haydock on Saturday.
Arkle winner Edwardstone who missed last Sunday’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, due to quick ground, will carry top-weight in the Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Handicap Chase (3:15). He takes on eight rivals and faces the toughest test of the Cheltenham Festival winners.
It’s going to be important to keep an eye on the weather over the next few days in particular Haydock.
The recent rain has eased the ground to good to soft at Ascot. There doesn’t look much more rain from Thursday evening onwards although I would still expect the ground to be closer to soft than good.
It’s officially good to soft, soft in places at Haydock. The going stick suggests its soft. However, if the forecasters are correct there could be another 10mm at the track on Friday. If those levels of rainfall do arrive the ground is likely much softer come Saturday.
Venetia Williams is struggling for winners this autumn 0-23 in the past 14-days. However, her record with handicap chasers at Ascot in November & December is a healthy – 6 winners from 21 runners 29% +12.75. She has a couple of runners here this afternoon: Espoir De Guye (2:05) and Kapga De Lily (2:40).
The Royal Ascot Racing Club Handicap Chase (2:05)
This Class 2 contest attracted the biggest line-up with thirteen declared for this Class 2 contest. Venetia Williams has won this race three times since 2015 including the last two renewals.
Espoir De Guye won this in 2020 and the softer the ground the better for the 8-year-old who’s form figures when returning from a 121 to 365-day break are 211. He’s got top weight to carry here but is just 2lb above his last winning mark.
Both Revels Hill and Flegmatik will win races this season. The former needs 3m+. Whilst the latter has a decent record fresh, is suited to going right handed but might not want the ground too soft.
Do Your Job developed into smart novice chaser last season winning three of his seven starts. Usually a solid jumper of a fence. He was still going nicely when making a bad mistake four out in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on seasonal return. Better expected and to early to dismiss.
Nicky Henderson is another trainer to note here in November/December. He saddles Janika & Bothwell Bridge. The first named has the back class to be involved and he ran better than his 24 ¼ length 7th of 29 in Topham Chase at Aintree in April suggests. The first time blinkers he wore that day are replaced by the first time cheekpieces and can get involved from a career low mark. Bothwell Bridge is less exposed than his stablemate, just the four starts over fences. The 7-year-old didn’t build on his chase debut success at Sandown last December, but he is 3-3 when returning from a 90+day absence and first time could be the time to catch him.
Foxboro was rewarded for some consistent efforts over fences when getting off the mark at the 10th attempt at Sandown in March. Up 4lb but very much in the mix for a trainer who is 3-7, 4 placed with his handicap chasers at Ascot in November/December.
Not Forgotten Handicap Chase (2:40)
Kapga De Lily won this on her seasonal return 12 months ago’ However, she is 10lb higher this time around and this year’s renewal looks a deeper contest,
There are four more C&D among the ten runners. Copperhead, Cat Tiger, Regal Encore and Larry.
Copperhead has struggled for form since winning the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase in February 2020. Just the one start last season, but he’s tumbled down the weights to a good mark when he does rediscover his old form.
Cat Tiger won a similarrace herein January, from 3lb lower, and then went close in the Foxhunters at Aintree.
Regal Encore has reserved some of his best performances for this track. And he probably needed the run when 11th of 13 over C&D last month. This is a bit of a drop in class for him. However, he is now a 14-year-old and maybe age has finally caught up with him.
Larry doesn’t always impress with his jumping, but he got it right when winning over C&D last October. Can race off the same mark here and if they go hard enough up front, he could pick up the pieces.
Trainer Kim Bailey is 2 winners from 6 runners 4 placed with his handicap chasers at Ascot in Nov/Dec. He saddles two here: Bobhopeornohope and the unreliable El Presente. You can never totally rule out the latter who ran well for a long way last time, but I will concentrate on the former. The 7-year-old Bobhopeornohope is 2-6 over fences and is well suited to soft ground. Although the top-weight is 5lb higher than when beaten a short head at Ludlow in March. He’s got a likeable attitude and remains unexposed over 3m. High on the shortlist.
I’m going for one in the 2:40 at Ascot. Kapga De Lily could easily make it back to back wins in the race and despite his age Regal Encore is getting to very tempting price. However, preference is for Bobhopeornohope.
2:40 – Bobhopeornohope – 9/2 @ Bet365.
Good luck with your Friday bets.