Daryl Jacob won't be at Wincanton on Saturday as Fusil Raffles misses the Kingwell, but he will be at Ascot where he has three rides.
Fusil heads straight to Cheltenham
I’m riding at Ascot on Saturday as we’ve decided to keep Fusil Raffles at home instead of running him in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
It’s simply down to the ground. It was soft when he disappointed at Kempton over Christmas and it’s soft at Wincanton this weekend, so he won’t be running.
He’ll go straight to the Champion Hurdle now and will probably have a racecourse gallop somewhere to get him ready for the big day.
Nicky Henderson is a master of that and he’s already done it with this horse, as Fusil had a setback after winning the Adonis last year before turning up pitch perfect at Punchestown.
I’m sure he will turn up to Cheltenham in the best possible shape and he’d have a chance this year in a wide-open Champion Hurdle. Hopefully we get some nice good ground for him.
Janika – Ascot Chase
As for the horses I will be riding on Saturday I’m really looking forward to Janika in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase.
He’s ready to step back up to two-and-a-half miles over fences now, two miles was just a bit short for him, and this small-field scenario suits as he’s pretty straightforward.
The pressure is off him taking on Cyrname who is fully expected to win for Paul Nicholls. This is clearly what he loves, 2m5f around Ascot, and he must be a monster around here to beat Altior over the course and distance.
You want to take on these good horses though and Janika deserves to be there. He schooled well this week, he’ll love the ground and I expect him to go well.
Valtor – Swinley Chase
Valtor has a good each-way chance in the Keltbray Swinley Chase earlier on the card.
It was his best run of the season at Taunton last time and the good thing is he has dropped down to a competitive handicap mark again now.
We know he likes Ascot, he’s two from two at the track, and he’s only 2lb higher than when he won over the course and distance in a handicap on his British debut.
He hosed up by eight lengths that day, so we have to be hopeful he can run well on Saturday. He seems to be in good form at home and he’ll love the ground, so fingers crossed he can run well.
Shakem Up’Arry – Thames Material Novices’ Hurdle
I kick off the card with a nice ride, too, on Shakem Up’Arry for Ben Pauling.
He chased home Shishkin, favourite for the Sky Bet Supreme, at Newbury last time so on form he must have a good chance in this race.
The handicapper has rated him 127 but he looks a bit better than that, he’ll love the trip and the ground and I don’t think he’ll have any problems with the track.
He’s owned by King of the Jungle Harry Redknapp who is a great guy to ride for, he’s a very funny man.
Hopefully his horse can Shakem Up on Saturday!
Fix Sun – Fakenham 2.45
Fix Sun was entered in the same race as Shakem Up’Arry at Ascot but we’ve decided to go to Fakenham on Friday instead.
It looks the easier option and it’s with hope that he can take his record to four from four. He was good at Market Rasen last month and is building a nice CV.
Hopefully he can win again before going for a bigger prize somewhere in the spring.
Sceau could step up in trip – at Aintree
Although I was at Warwick and didn’t ride him, it was great to see Sceau Royal run so well in second against Altior at Newbury last Saturday.
He’s a different horse on better ground and you could see that last week, he travelled so well and I reckon he’s got an each-way chance in a hot Champion Chase, especially if we get some good ground.
That will obviously be tough, but we could try something different after that and stepping up in trip to two-and-half-miles at Aintree is an option.
We wouldn’t try it in a Ryanair, a tough race with the hill at the end, but on a flat track like Aintree he could be very useful over such a distance on good, spring, ground.
I have no doubt he’ll get the trip and he could be an interesting speedy type in the Melling Chase.
Plenty in National mix
I watched the Grand National weights being unveiled with interest on Tuesday and, who knows, maybe Bristol De Mai could take his chance this year?
He has the Gold Cup or the Ryanair at Cheltenham first, but the National could come into the reckoning as he’s a good jumper and I’m sure he would enjoy the unique test.
Of the others Valtor is interesting. He had a big weight last year and didn’t quite get home, but he’d have a chance off a 10lb lower rating as he took the fences well – he was pinging round there.
Kildisart is another possible, he’s struggled with the ground a bit this winter but he’s dropped back down the weights again and he won well over the Mildmay fences at Aintree last year.
He’s one to look out for in the Cheltenham handicaps, but obviously he’ll be heading back to Aintree, perhaps even in the National itself. It’s nice to have plenty of possibilities for the great race anyway!