Our resident tipster has his sights firmly set on a double under the floodlights of Wolverhampton.
This afternoon’s card at Ascot looks bookmaker-friendly with several tight handicaps on offer and punters should tread carefully.
I was going to swerve the meeting for the delights of Wolverhampton, where I fancy a couple (read on), but when I saw that 8/1 was available on MOONRAKER for the 6f handicap (3.25pm) I simply couldn’t resist – Mick Channon’s charge is a more realistic 6/1 shot generally and just 11/2 in a place.
There’s a lot to like about the lightly-raced son of Starspangledbanner and not least the fact he’s unbeaten in two runs at the track: he won a 5f maiden here on his racecourse debut in 2014 and a 6f handicap when making his seasonal reappearance in August. He’s been beaten twice since, but he did best of the hold-up horses when fourth over an inadequate 5f at York two starts back and was then far from disgraced in a 6f Listed sprint when returned to that track last time.
He’s definitely worth another try in that sort of company again and was considered good enough to contest Group races last autumn. That’s what makes him so irresistible now dropping back into handicap company over his best trip and on a track he clearly loves. The drying ground won’t be an issue either as it was fast when he won here in August and it doesn’t harm his chances that connections have booked the services of champion jockey-elect Silvestre De Sousa.
Now on to those Wolverhampton fancies and, first up, my idea of a banker in David O’Meara’s USTINOV, who is making a quick reappearance after landing a 6f handicap at Ayr on Monday. He carries a 6lb penalty for that success, but he seems sure to go up by much more when reassessed after scoring more cosily than his half-length winning margin would suggest.
Having finished third on his previous start at Redcar – his first outing since joining O’Meara – he was well backed on Monday and his supporters had few worries as he was always travelling powerfully and found plenty when getting in the clear. He won like a horse who is well ahead of the handicapper and is certainly in the right hands to keep improving. I will be very surprised if he doesn’t follow up this evening with the extra furlong possibly suiting him even better.
The other ‘good thing’ of the night is the Keith Dalgleish-trained SCURR MIST, whose latest success here could not have worked out any better. The runner-up French Press is unbeaten in four subsequent runs, third home Diletta Tommasa looked unlucky when fifth at Lingfield on her next outing, the fourth was beaten a head next time and the seventh and sixth finished 1-3 in a race here last Friday. Consider the form well and truly franked!
The selection is now 8lb higher and up in grade, but he’s clearly still improving (121 since joining his current stable) and his trainer did say in a recent Stable Tour that he thought there was more to come from him off his revised mark of 72. Phillip Makin, who has guided him to both his recent successes, is back on board and he should be able to take advantage of what looks a cracking draw in stall two.
Sadly, the early 9/4 lasted about five minutes – I missed the boat – but the current 15/8 on offer at Paddy Power is not too bad all things considered. The double with Ustinov pays nearly 10/1 with the same firm.