National Hunt fans will be in their element, this weekend, with some serious contests to get their teeth stuck into. Ascot hosts the pick of the action and Seymour Biz believes Dan Skelton will be celebrating a big win, in the feature contest at Ascot. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
The jumps season really gets going this Saturday with two cracking cards on television this week. Ascot has four televised races including two Listed races and a Class 1 Handicap Chase. It should be a great day out if you can get there. Moving north to Wetherby, television show another four races including the Class1 Charlie Hall Chase which has had winners like Cue Card, Bristol De Mai and Menorah recently. Meanwhile across the pond in Santa Anita the Breeders Cup takes place. It may pay to follow Fleeting, McKinzie and Omaha Beach on Saturday as they look outstanding in their respective races. But as to the British racing on Saturday afternoon here are my thoughts for this week’s Lucky 15.
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We start at Ascot with the 2.10, the Byrne Group Handicap Chase, over 2m 1f. The favourite and top weight here is Nigel Hawke’s Speredek who tried to make all here first time out last season. He was caught on the line that day and was highly tried thereafter but ended the season without a victory, even trying to go back hurdling without success. The horse who defeated him that day was Caid Du Lin trained by Dr Richard Newland. That horse came back to Ascot in March and was just headed in the final strides over this distance before finishing his season running down the field in the Aintree Hurdle. He had a run at Chepstow three weeks ago finishing second and he will be fit after that contest. Clondaw Castle won a couple of small races last year but when Tom George moved his charge up to Grade 1 company he was unable to make the frame. Ballywood from Alan King’s yard comes back in trip after failing over two and a half miles but he would need good going. Capeland goes well on any going but seems to find one too good too often including when running behind Caid Du Lin here last March. I expect those placings to be confirmed and Newland’s grey to take the contest.
The Sodexo Handicap Hurdle is at 2.45, a Class 1 Listed race at just under 2 miles. Paul Nicholls has the favourite here with Red Force One, a gelding who was unsuccessful last season but has a win under his belt already this year. That was in a small race at Fakenham and this contest is a huge step up in class for him. Nicky Henderson puts up Adjali here who was highly tried last season after winning at Market Rasen in December but was unable to add to that victory. Phillip Hobbs’s Gumball has had a run this year finishing third at Market Rasen in September, he had Flashing Glance and Jacamar behind him and should confirm those placings. Didtheyleaveuoutto was one of my 12 To Follow last year and won his first two contests but failed to add to those victories. He had a run at Galway over nearly three miles in August, a distance that didn’t suit, he ran down the field but could well put in a better run here. Top weight is Lisp who won first time out last season and then was highly tried running 5th in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham. Trainer Alan King intends to send him novice chasing and this run over hurdles is to take the ‘fizz’ out of him, the weight may hold him back.
The big race of the day at Ascot is the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at 3.20 over 3 miles. Top weight here is Venetia Williams’s Aso, a dual winner last year who ran a fine second to Frodon in the Ryanair at Cheltenham but I think the weight will be against him here. The bookies choice is Mister Malarky from Colin Tizzard’s yard, a course and distance winner in February. But I think he will step up to longer distances this season after being outpaced in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March. Go Conquer won this two years ago, he won at Doncaster in January but has been pulled up in his last two starts and that is a worry. Paul Nicholls has Black Corton in the lineup who had a fine win at the end of last season at Sandown. He ran second At Galway in July but seems to find one to good on most occasions. Cobra de Mai was pulled out last week because of the going he will find it better here and more suitable. Dan Skelton’s charge won three times last season culminating in a fine win at Cheltenham in April and can take this with not too much cut underfoot.
Wetherby’s big race of the year is at 3.40, the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, Grade 2 over 3 miles. La Bague Au Roi is the bookies choice and Warren Greatrex’s fine mare is a class act. She won four of her five races last season, only going down to Kalashnikov at Aintree. But that was her novice season and she will be meeting some seasoned performers here. One such animal is Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape who ran sixth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham but the gelding was over the top in his final race at Aintree, I am wary of him first time out. Last year’s winner of this, Definitely Red, was brought down in the Gold Cup and runs well fresh but has a couple of pounds more to carry than last year. Ballyoptic has tasted victory already this season with success at Chepstow three week’s ago but he is moving up in class here. The one I will be on is Top Ville Ben, on of my 12 To Follow this year. He is a dual course and distance winner and seems to love this track. In his final race of last year at Aintree he only lost second in the dying strides and trainer Phillip Kirby will have him spot on for this.
Saturday Lucky 15
2.10 Ascot. Caid du Lin
2.45 Ascot. Didtheyleaveuoutto
3.20 Ascot. Cobra de Mai
3.40 Wetherby. Top Ville Ben