Our racing expert gives his verdict on the four Ascot races being shown live on ITV4, including the feature Long Walk Hurdle.
1:50 2m3f (2m2f175y) My Pension Expert Handicap Chase (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145)
This is tricky to say the least but we should at least get a run for our money out of Suzy Smith’s RED DEVIL STAR as he’s been running well of late and won at this meeting 12 months ago off just a 2lb lower mark. While he’s failed to add to his tally in seven starts since, he only found the progressive Workbench a half length too good last time and he gets in here off a nice racing weight of 10st 6lb, with Jack Sherwood (who last won on him) claiming 3lb off his back. Soft ground holds no terrors for him either, so all things considered he rates a solid each-way bet at Betfair’s 10/1. Nicky Henderson’s Pougne Bobbi should come on for his reappearance run here last month over slightly further and will be suited by the drop back in trip, so he heads the long list of dangers.
2:25 3m½f (3m97y) JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry had excuses when beaten into second at Newbury last time and he looks the one they all have to beat. However, he’s hardly improving at the age of nine and might therefore prove vulnerable to a younger, improving sort. Step forward SAM SPINNER whose wide-margin victory in a Haydock handicap last time entitles him to a crack at this level. The Jedd O’Keefe-trained five-year-old has yet to finish out of the first two in eight starts and having routed his rivals at the Lancashire track, his handicap days are effectively over for now. More improvement is required of course, but Unowhatimeanharry won off a similar mark (138) on his last venture in handicap company, and his rise up the hurdling ladder showed it is possible to make the transition to Grade 1 level. The selection can be backed at 8/1 with Hills and appeals to me as the each-way value.
3:00 3m (2m7f180y) Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Go Conquer was so impressive when winning over track and trip last time and that makes him hard to pass over, despite the fact he is now 15lb higher. However, I’m convinced there is a big handicap in SINGLEFARMPAYMENT and while he’s coming off a fall in the Hennessy – he was staying on at the time and would surely have been at least third – his jumping is usually pretty good. After being just touched off at the Cheltenham Festival in March and having had to settle for second again when returned to Prestbury Park on his reappearance, he certainly wouldn’t be winning out of turn. He’s no Cheltenham specialist either as he has twice finished runner-up at this track, including when chasing home Beware The Bear, who is favourite for next week’s Welsh National, last November. That was on good to soft but he’s won in more testing conditions and still only seven, there may be a little more improvement in him. I’m taking Betfair’s 9/2 as I can’t see him going off much bigger and it comes with a best odds guarantee besides.
3:35 1m7½f (1m7f152y) Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Nicky Henderson had a 1-2 in this race 12 months ago and he could repeat the feat as he has CHARLI PARCS and Verdana Blue running for him. They are both single-digit prices but the former horse gets the vote having made a highly encouraging comeback behind a race-fit rival at Newbury recently. A winner on his only start in France and impressive on his British/stable debut at Kempton last November, he could turn out to be better than a handicapper in time and, indeed, the Champion Hurdle has been mentioned, such is his trainer’s confidence in his ability. In which case, he really ought to win this handicap off a mark of 146 and while he’s giving stacks of weight to the fancied Silver Streak, I’m not sure that horse wants it as soft as this.
Divin Bere is a former Henderson inmate who is having his first start for Paul Nicholls and his form in the spring, which includes a narrow defeat in the Fred Winter and a second in an Aintree Grade 1, entitles him to plenty of respect. At 14/1 with Hills, he’s one for each-way backers and is worth a saver if you’re considering following me in on Charli Parcs at Ladbrokes’ 11/2.
Ascot 1.50, Red Devil Star each-way @ 11/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 1.2.3)
Ascot 2.25, Sam Spinner each-way @ 8/1 Hills (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
Ascot 3.00, Singlefarmpayment @ 5/1 Betfair
Ascot 3.35, Charli Parcs @ 11/2 Ladbrokes / Divin Bere each-way @ 14/1 Hills (1/4 odds, 188.8.131.52)
All odds were correct at time of posting.