What are the best bets for Ascot on Saturday?
The Channel 4 cameras are at Ascot where the feature is the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, one of four races to come under close scrutiny here.
13:50 Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Ascot Appearance Money Scheme Race) (Grade 2), 2m7f180yds
Philip Hobbs’ Onenightinvienna sets a fair standard having run well on all three of his chase starts, including when beating Fletchers Flyer on his debut at Exeter in November. But DRUMACOO beat that horse by much further on his chase debut at Huntingdon, where he jumped for fun and won eased down by 38 lengths, and he is taken to improve past him. A progressive triple bumper/hurdle winner in Ireland before joining Ben Pauling, the sky’s the limit for him over fences and victory here would put him in line for the RSA Chase, for which he gets a 20/1 quote from Paddy Power. For the record, O’Faolains Boy was the last horse to do the double two years ago.
Of the rest, you have to respect the chances of Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc as he has been crying out for a step up to three miles, but the remaining three runners are harder to fancy on what they’ve achieved over fences and recent form.
14:25 Appletiser 50 Year Celebration Chase (Listed Limited Handicap), 2m7f180yds
A tight handicap despite there being just five runners and a win for the rank outsider, Bally Beaufort, wouldn’t come as a total surprise. Twice a winner at Aintree earlier in the season, he was outclassed in the Feltham won by Tea For Two on Boxing Day and seemed to resent being taken on for the lead at Warwick last time, dropping right away and being pulled up. If Ryan Hatch can get him jumping up front the partnership could be hard to catch, but nonetheless I’m going to take him on with SPOOKYDOOKY, a value 5/1 shot with bet365.
Jonjo O’Neill’s charge finished a long way behind Bally Beaufort on his chase debut at Aintree in November, but that was his first run back since March and he rather spoiled his chance by pulling too hard. He was much better in that respect when winning at Newbury on his next start and was then a strong-finishing second in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock before Christmas. The third Cloudy Bay franked the form when winning the Peter Marsh and there should be more to come from the selection, who has been left on the same mark and is running over what looks like his ideal trip. Furthermore, his stable has been back amongst the winners of late after a quiet spell.
Sausolito Sunrise and Waldorf Salad are disputing favouritism currently and should go well, with the latter just preferred given his progressive profile and low racing weight. The other member of the field, Vieux Lion Rouge, looks high enough in the weights and was well beaten when unseating at Cheltenham last time.
15:00 Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle, 2m3f58yds
A tough handicap to solve but DEBDEBDEB could be the answer. A three-time winner on the flat with a peak rating of 90, she showed plenty of promise when with Donald McCain last season, winning a small race at Catterick with an accurate round of jumping from the front and showing a willing attitude in the process.
Switched to Dan Skelton for the start of this season, her slick hurdling was again in evidence when making a winning debut for the trainer at Kempton at the end of January. The second that day has won since to frank the form and, while she’s gone up 11lb, she is still very much at the right end of the handicap, with Bridget Andrews taking 5lb off. Given she stayed 2m on the flat, there is every chance today’s extra three furlongs will bring about some further improvement and her jumping might just make the difference for her in this more competitive race.
Of the rest, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Montdragon could give her most to do. He is chasing a hat-trick after wins at Warwick and Haydock and a 7lb rise for the latest of those seems fair. Top weight Different Gravey is also respected after winning three of his starts over hurdles, though he’s seen more as a future chaser and mat his need the run after a 309-day absence.
15:35 Betfair Ascot Chase (Grade 1), 2m5f8yds
Favourites have a good recent record in this race with the market leaders since 2006 finishing 111151111F for a £1 level-stakes profit of £5.99. But I’m still struggling to warm to this year’s likely favourite Silviniaco Conti, who has been put in at 3/1 by the race sponsor. The problem being he has shaped like a shadow of his former self this season and is coming off a pulled up effort in the King George, a race he has won twice previously and had no apparent excuses. This shorter trip is a worry too as is the stable form. While Nicholls is still training winners, he’s had several run below expectations and any punters still prepared to keep the faith in the ten-year-old are banking on first-time blinkers doing the trick.
The David Pipe-trained DYNASTE is equally struggling for form and has only beaten Silviniaco Conti once in six attempts, but all of those defeats came over three miles or further and the 2014 Ryanair winner (2m5f) is the most likely of the pair to be suited by this trip. As mentioned, he’s not been at his best in recent starts but the ground was probably too heavy for him when a well-held third in the Betfair Chase behind Cue Card, and his latest dismal effort in the Long Walk Hurdle in December was just too bad to be true. Rested since and having undergone a wind operation to correct his breathing, we can expect a much improved display and a repeat of his second to Cue Card in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby in his reappearance would most likely suffice.
Nicky Henderson’s Trio D’Alene is preferred of the remainder. He has proved a fragile sort since winning the Topham and Hennessy Gold Cup in 2013, but he returned to winning ways at Kempton last month, albeit against just two rivals. An exuberant jumper who is being aimed at the Grand National, he could make his presence felt having regained some of his old sparkle.