Good morning all,
Apologies for the lateness this morning, one or two issues, all sorted now.
Without delay, let's crack on with a great day's racing.
2.00 Haydock – Champion Hurdle Trial
This has rather lost its lustre as anything resembling a Champion Hurdle trial but the appearance of Tommy’s Oscar, mentioned in dispatches as a possible outsider for the big one come March, brightens this up and he’s going to take some beating.
It’s been a tale of steady improvement for Ann Hamilton’s 7yo this term, winning his last three and although this represents his stiffest task to date, it isn't that stiff, and although he might fall short come March, if he wins here – and he should – then he deserves to take his place at Cheltenham.
For all Hunters Call looks the one on form to follow him home, he’s 12 now and might be susceptible to younger legs. With Nanajo Pass not looking the same horse as last year, I’m tempted to try a small straight forecast with Rockadenn, who has plenty of ground to make up with Tommy’s Oscar on their December form but that was his first run after his summer break, and he showed the benefit of it by finishing second in heavy ground here last time. The ground won’t be as bad here and a repeat of it might see him in the money.
2.35 Haydock – Peter Marsh Handicap Chase
Royal Pagaille is a horse that splits opinion. Is he really worth his mark, or has the handicapper overrated him? I’m of the opinion that Venetia tends not to call her geese swans, so for him to try his hand in the Gold Cup after his romp in this last year says to me that she believes him to be a quality horse, and worth the weight here.
You can easily argue he’d have won last year with another 7lb on his back, which is what he has this time around, but equally you can say that this year’s race looks tougher as well, with Remastered and Empire Steel both looking as if they have more to offer over fences, and it’ll be some performance if he can give the weight away again.
I’m a big Fortescue fan but he’s 3lb out of the weights here, and that makes life tougher, but there must be a danger that with an extra place on offer, Haydock specialist Lord Du Mesnil gets completely overlooked here and ends up going off a double-figure price. A mark of 152 is as high as you’d like, but he’s proven under conditions and tacky ground bounced right back to form in the Rowland Meyrick. He’ll need it all to drop right to win, but equally I can’t see him out of the four and he might be the one for each-way doubles and trebles on the day.
1.45 Ascot – 2m4f Handicap Hurdle
Competitive little race but the selection almost picks itself at the prices.
Stellar Magic ran well to finish second to Up For Parol at Haydock last time out and given that was only his fourth start, there ought to be improvement to come. That may well be the case, but there’s no way that N’golo, fourth in that race, can be almost three times the price.
He gets an 8lb pull for 11½l here, which obviously gives him a chance regardless, but he went well throughout that race and but for a terrible mistake two out, which stopped him in his tracks, he’d have gone a lot closer. Ann Duffield has done very well this year with these castoffs, and N’golo is going to win one for her before long. It might well be here, and 14-1 looks a terrific price.
Smurphy Enki is another that falls into the “improvement to come” bracket and has chances, and if this was 3m and not shorter then Skandiburg would have been interesting at a huge price. He’s left Jamie Snowden to join Charlotte Fuller (her dad owns it) and his fifth for the yard at Newbury two starts ago showed he retained his ability. He disappointed at Taunton last time out but any horse can be forgiven a bad one. The problem is that he stays very well and seems to need all of three miles these days, so unless they go very quickly, he’s likely to find the winning post coming too soon.
Golden Whisky is likely to go from the front here and might be hard to peg back if he’s in the same mood as he was at Chepstow. That looked competitive and a 4lb rise for it looks more than fair. He looks the one to beat.
Palmers Hill is improving quickly now he has gone over fences and followed up a ready Wetherby win with another over 2m3f here last month. That was despite quite a bad mistake mid-race, which might have done for a few horses but it barely got him off the bit and he won as he liked. Another 8lb means he needs more but he’s a worthy favourite.
Killer Clown dotted up at Wincanton but I didn’t think that was much of a contest, and a 7lb rise looks plenty.
Today's selection – Lord Du Mesnil (e/w) 2.35 Haydock
Good luck with all your bets today,