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Alex Hammond Racing blog ahead of Clarence House Chase weekend


Botox Has looks a good bet in the big handicap hurdle at Ascot this weekend, according to Alex Hammond.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse this week with Storm Christophe causing havoc up and down the country and more race meetings under threat in the coming days.

I can testify to those dismal conditions owing to the fact that my ‘Run 50 miles in January’ mission is increasingly becoming a slog in wind and rain.

Why any sane person would sign up to that challenge in the bleakest month of the year I don’t know, but there you go. It could be worse, the paltry distances I’m covering in pursuit of my own personal goal takes 30-45 minutes a pop, so I have huge respect to all the stable staff who turn out in all weathers to care for and ride the racehorses that we follow day in, day out.

It looks like Haydock will struggle to stage Saturday’s meeting and have called an early inspection, which is a shame because it looked like Buveur D’Air was to make his, what seemed at one stage to be an unlikely, comeback.

You will recall the dual Champion Hurdle winner suffered what we believed to be a career-ending (and possibly life-ending) injury in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in November 2019. However, thanks to the excellent care afforded to racehorses, he is back and firing on all cylinders apparently.

This is a wonderful curve ball and just what was required to liven the Champion Hurdle up.

If Haydock is abandoned then Nicky Henderson is going to send him to Sandown in early February for the Contenders Hurdle, a race he has won three times in the past. He’s 16/1 with Sky Bet for the Champion Hurdle at the moment and that might look like an insult after we see him back on track.

Ascot seem pretty confident they are going to beat the inclement weather, albeit conditions will be heavy, so I’m going to concentrate on that meeting for this week’s preview.

I’m lucky enough to be heading to Ascot on Saturday for Sky Sports Racing where you’ll be able to watch all seven races live with us.

Speaking of curve balls, it was exciting to see that the Ruth Jefferson trained Waiting Patiently has been added to the feature Clarence House Chase field at a cost of £5,000 (mind you he won over £43,000 for his performance at Kempton so it may not have been that hard a decision to make).

His trainer said he was so well after his excellent staying on second in the King George she had to ride him out a couple of days after that race, so when owner Richard Collins suggested supplementing him for this Grade 1 they went for it.

The heavy ground will help him and I think his presence will add real spice to the race. His record at Ascot is excellent too with a win in the Ascot Chase (2m 5f) in February 2018 beating Cue Card and he was second in the same race to Cyrname in 2019.

He is 9/4 second favourite, but faces no mean feat with Champion Chaser Politologue Sky Bet’s 6/5 favourite. The grey returned to action this season with a win in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and at the age of 10 looks as good as ever.

So the two market protagonists are both into their dotage having reached double figures and it seems surprising that another potential rival, Defi Du Seuil, isn’t of their vintage as he seems to have been around for ages.

He is still just 8 years old, however, and seems to have been written off a bit too quickly by people who consider his defeat in the Champion Chase and subsequent disappointing effort when pulled up in the Shloer Chase to be the start of his demise.

Yes, it’s a concern that his last two starts haven’t seen him in the best light, but he’s no back number and his win in this race last year, when he beat Un De Sceaux, was impressive.

This time last year we all thought he was getting faster with age and if trainer Philip Hobbs can get him back to his best, he’d beat this field easily. He will relish conditions as will First Flow who has been on the up in handicaps.

Not only will he act on this ground, it’s crucial to him, but can he progress again to compete against top level two-milers? His jumping will be tested severely in this grade which is a concern.

We don’t know everything about Fanion D’Estruval just yet with the horse having just had four starts in the UK since joining Venetia Williams in November 2019.

He was smart as a 4 year old in France and was going well when falling late on in the Peterborough Chase last time out. We haven’t seen the best of him I’m sure and at 10/1 might be each-way value for a team that financially are worth following at this track.

It should be a superb race and a real conundrum and despite the presence of a relatively short priced favourite I think it’s a deeper contest than that.

Also at Ascot, I’m looking forward to seeing if the wonderful Magic Of Light can win the Grade 2 mares’ hurdle for the third successive year.

The presence of Dan Skelton’s Roksana will make life harder for her, but I’m sticking with the 2019 Grand National runner-up to claim the hat-trick for Jessica Harrington.

The plan is the new mares’ chase at Cheltenham before another crack at the National in April. What a wonderful mare to be involved with. She’s 5/2 second favourite behind 10/11 shot Roksana.

The Grade 3 Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle is wide open as usual and we don’t have the final field just yet. One horse I will be keeping on side if he lines up is Botox Has.

Trainer Gary Moore is flying recently and this horse has always promised to deliver something decent over hurdles, but was well beaten at this track last time out on similar ground. He has some decent form to his name already and if the ground isn’t a negative he looks capable of running well for his in-form team and is 25/1 with Sky Bet.

Another horse I want to keep on side if he runs at Ascot on Saturday is Espoire De Guye who holds an entry for the 2m 5f handicap chase at 3.00pm.

It was worth taking the chance that he would stay 3 miles at the track last month, but he didn’t and can bounce back over this more suitable trip. He is another Venetia Williams inmate who loves the ground and already has decent course form on his CV.

Right, today’s 3-mile shuffle won’t wait any longer, so time to pull on the hi-viz and add to that monthly total! See you at Ascot Saturday.


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