Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to Ascot's Betfair Exchange Trophy on December 21 with a recommended bet at 25/1 for the Phil Kirby team.
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Not many show improved form for leaving Gordon Elliott but WHOSHOTTHESHERIFF is on a real upward curve and can be backed at 25/1 (general) for Ascot’s Betfair Exchange Trophy on December 21.
The race has been run under several guises over the years but remains one of the most competitive handicap hurdles this side of Christmas and is bound to attract a huge final field. That kind of scenario immediately makes Whoshotthesheriff of interest as he’s a seriously strong traveller who should thrive off a proper gallop at Ascot.
It should be acknowledged that such an eventuality doesn’t always materialise these days, the competitive nature of big Saturday races meaning nothing wants to effectively act as hare, but there are some confirmed pace-forcers signed up at this early stage (Not So Sleepy, Magic Dancer, Darver Star, Sir Valentine et al) so hopefully a few stand their ground to make it a true test at the trip.
Whoshotthesheriff's current trainer Phil Kirby immediately got a good tune out of the five-year-old after the stable switch in the spring, adding a second and third novice hurdle successes to the one he landed for Elliott at Ayr back in January.
The latter victory under the double penalty at Carlisle in April was achieved in particularly impressive fashion and while the runner-up hasn’t done anything for the form subsequently, third home Pagero won well at Huntingdon this week to offer a bit of substance.
This season hasn’t completely gone to plan yet for Whoshotthesheriff, but he was still seemingly full of running and moving menacingly when falling two out at Cheltenham on his comeback (rather dived at the flight), while in fairness he was pick-pocketed quite superbly by Robbie Power on the well-backed Bold Plan at Haydock last time.
Sean Quinlan probably couldn’t believe quite how well his mount was going coming to the second last so he committed for home, only to get cut down late in the piece on the long run-in by an evidently well-treated rival.
That came over two miles and three furlongs and, on reviewing the replay several times (you can do that at your leisure here), it’s hard to argue a drop back in distance at a course like Ascot won’t be a positive move.
The handicapper has stepped in, inevitably, shifting the selection up from 132 to 136 (began the campaign rated 130) so he’ll need to pull out a bit more again to be successful, but the way this horse gallops gives the distinct impression he could be a 150 horse in the making and with that in mind he should be backed accordingly.
A couple of others merit a mention, not least fellow 25/1 shot Lust For Glory, who didn’t take up her Friday engagement at Cheltenham but remains in line for a potential shot at Saturday’s mares’ handicap hurdle at the same course.
Without quite knowing the plans for Nicky Henderson’s charge, she’s begrudgingly passed over as her Ascot comeback second smacked of massive potential.
It’s worth noting that the Waley-Cohens went to £235,000 at the Goffs sales in May to secure Lust For Glory and no doubt Henderson was in their ear as to her raw ability, of which she showed plenty early on last season before her form tapered off slightly.
Her profile isn’t too dissimilar to that of stablemate Epatante who is now up to a mark of 150 in light of her Newbury stroll and could be rerouted towards the Christmas Hurdle or another Graded option instead of this handicap.
Dan Skelton’s Protektorat is 16/1 in a place but much shorter generally and could easily become one of the market leaders on the day. He looks to have improved plenty for a summer breathing operation and a 4lb rise for his Sandown second to Mack The Man is more than fair on the face of it.
The shortlist is completed by the inexperienced Tamaroc Du Mathan (25/1 across the board), who would be a fascinating runner for Paul Nicholls and Johnny de la Hey, who openly targets these big Ascot prizes, although connections might look to get a first British win on the board before throwing him into the heat of this kind of battle.
Posted at 1310 GMT on 12/12/19.
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