The Victoria Cup is the feature contest, this Saturday, which was won by Ripp Orf in 2018. Mark Johnson’s Cardsharp was far from disgraced, when competing in a Listed contest recently though and Seymour Biz believes the 4-year-old can get the better of rivals in this rich Ascot handicap. Find all of his UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
With the Guineas meeting out of the way we have the Derby and Oaks to look forward to. At Lingfield this Saturday we have the latest round of trials being shown on television but there looks to be better value elsewhere. Ascot has got some cracking handicaps on offer with the Victoria Cup being the best of the lot. Ripp Orf will be well fancied to take this contest again after his fine win in the race last year, he was 20/1 that day, I don’t think you will get that price this time around. Haydock hosts a mixed meeting, the only one on the racing calendar, and the highlight is the Swinton Hurdle the first big race of the new jumps season. Yes, that’s right, the jumps season has officially started, I know it doesn’t get properly going until November but for purpose of deciding champion jockey, owners and trainers the stats have begun. As the TV cameras are at Haydock for this race I have included it in the Lucky 15.
So I will start with the big hurdle at Haydock, the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle at 3.10. This race was won by John Constable in 2017 and he certainly knows his way round the Haydock course having run in this race three times previously. But he had a poor season last year, hitting the frame only once in ten starts, he has dropped down the handicap and though his trainer Evan Williams has a good record in this race, I feel the horse is no longer good enough to take this. Top weight is Le Patriote trained by Dr Richard Newland who was a dual winner last season including a fine win at Cheltenham last month. But he is high enough in the weights now and that counts against him. Paul Nicholls sends out his fine hurdler Christopher Wood a winner of two lower class contests earlier in the year. He then aimed him at a top class juvenile hurdle at Aintree where he ran a very creditable third just over 6 lengths behind the Triumph Hurdle winner. Alan King’s Dino Velvet has a major chance on the strength of his two wins earlier in the year but this is a big step up in class. My choice here is Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher, a course winner here at Haydock in January. He didn’t take to Cheltenham at all on his final run of last season in the Supreme Novices, it has been noted he prefers flat tracks such as Kempton and Haydock. He can show he is a real class act an take this important contest.
Moving south to Ascot we have an excellent flat meeting starting with the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap at 2.15. Top weight is Clive Cox’s Now Children, a dual winner last year including a fine victory at Goodwood in October. He will want some give in the ground and I think there are better handicapped horses in the race. One of which is is Setting Sail who won on the all-weather last month proving the fitness of Charlie Appleby’s charge. Eddystone Rock ran well last time out at Epsom when running on to take second near the finish. Sextant from Sir Michael Stoute’s yard is a notable entry, he has tasted victory as a three-year-old at Newbury last August. If he has wintered well he could be a danger but I feel he may well need the first run of the season. One who has had a prep run is Autumn War, he was fourth over 10 furlongs at Doncaster. This race is two furlongs more and his place at the bottom of the handicap shows it is a major step up in class, he could however run into a place at a nice price. I will go along with Setting Sail.
At 3.25 is the St. James’s Wealth Management EBF Premier Fillies Handicap on Ascot ‘s straight mile. The clue to this race could be a Nottingham race a fortnight ago won by Daddies Girl. Rod Millman’s filly saw off the opposition reasonably easily that day and had Existential, who was favourite and runs here, well behind. She looks the sort who can go on to to bigger and better things. Red Starlight was another beaten favourite last time out at Newbury, she had run a good second previously at Doncaster in March but disappointed at the Berkshire track. She is high enough in the handicap anyway. William Haggas’s Adorable started last season well winning two out of her first three races proving she goes well fresh but she is top of the weights and that may hold her back.
The big race of the day is the Tote Victoria Cup at 4.00 with Ripp Orf out to defend his crown. He won this race last year in some style but his two runs this year have not shown him to be the force he was last season. Blue Mist won here last October and trainer Roger Charlton sends him out for his first run of the campaign with some confidence, but I have a worry about him dropping back in distance. Kynren was second in the Lincoln and always puts in a good effort but he hasn’t won since September 2017, he always seems to find one or two too good. Summerghand has been a prolific winner for David O’Meara and has started this season with two fine seconds but he looks rather high in the handicap. Another O’Meara runner, Remarkable, ran well in defeat recently at Doncaster. That was his first run for over 18 months and I am still not sure about his fitness. Cardsharp was a close third in a Listed race at Leicester last time out and now trainer, Mark Johnson, has dropped him back to handicap company he must have a great chance here.
Saturday Lucky 15
3.10 Haydock. Mister Fisher
2.15 Ascot. Setting Sail
3.25 Ascot. Daddies Girl
4.00 Ascot. Cardsharp