Stu Williams has four selections for Saturday's racing, weather permitting, and among them is Portrush Ted for Warren Greatrex.
Wincanton are set to stage a good seven-race card on Saturday and when glancing through the declarations I was immediately drawn to the progressive CLOUDY GLEN, who looked set to land a decent prize at Sandown two weeks ago before falling victim to a similarly progressive novice in the form of Deise Aba.
The seven-year-old earned a 3lbs rise for that effort, but he was pitched in against seasoned opposition and he acquitted himself well, and I am sure that the experience won’t be lost on him going forwards.
It’s possible that the three-mile trip and steep uphill finish caught Cloudy Glen out that day, especially given how keen he was during the race. He should enjoy returning to two and a half miles (011712F1R) on ground that will suit and he remains open to plenty of improvement in this sphere.
It should also be noted that he was also entered in novice company at Haydock - a track at which he boasts an unblemished (2-2) record. It may therefore be significant that connections have elected to head to Wincanton instead.
Competitive three-mile handicap chases at Ascot seem to suit some more than others, perhaps none more so than Regal Encore, who was successful over this course and distance in December.
However, VALTOR has also demonstrated his liking for the Berkshire track since arriving from France and he looks fairly treated on the pick of his form.
This 11-year-old is only 2lbs higher than when routing his opposition over this course and distance on his British debut in December 2018, and he again displayed his liking for Ascot when defeating subsequent Grade Two scorer Redford Road over hurdles in November.
Valtor bumped into the classy Yala Enki when placing third at Taunton last month, a run that will have got his eye back in over fences, and he will arrive here with his yard in good form.
Connections have been shrewd in exploiting his novice status over hurdles, but he is clearly a much better chaser than he is a hurdler and with trip, track and ground firmly in his favour he is undoubtedly a huge player.
The following handicap hurdle looks wide open on paper. However, I expect handicap debutant EDEN DU HOUX to rate much higher than his opening mark of 130 and he looks sure to be suited by stepping back up in trip after getting off the mark at Chepstow last month.
David Pipe’s impressive point scorer readily dispatched the 136-rated On The Slopes on his racecourse debut at Plumpton before following up in a Listed bumper at Ascot three weeks later, where he stayed on well to get the better of the 139-rated Imperial Alcazar, Aintree Grade Two bumper scorer The Glancing Queen and the 140-rated Enrilo, who landed a Grade Two prize at Sandown in December.
Runner-up on his hurdling debut at Fontwell in October, connections elected to send Eden Du Houx for wind surgery following a disappointing effort in Grade Two company at Cheltenham in November, and he seemingly reaped the rewards of that procedure when making a successful return to action at Chepstow last month, where he scored a narrow success over the 135-rated Mario De Pail, with the front pair pulling 24 lengths clear of the third.
All six of his lifetime starts have come on soft or heavy ground and the fact that he is proven at this track is a huge added bonus. David Pipe has already surpassed his tally of winners in each of the last two seasons and the master of Pond House, like his father before him, has a habit of exploiting lenient handicap ratings. Therefore it would be no surprise should Eden Du Houx turn this hotly contested heat into a procession off a mark of 130, which looks generous given what we know about his formlines.
It is also worth noting that Tom Scudamore has elected to go to Ascot to ride Eden Du Houx instead of partnering Ramses De Teille in Grade Two company at Haydock, which may be significant in itself.
I'm normally not inclined to dabble in Pertemps qualifiers but it's interesting to see that Warren Greatrex has left PORTRUSH TED in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, which is an indication that connections feel that he could prove to be more than a mere handicapper in the fullness of time.
The promising eight-year-old defied a 519-day absence when scoring at Ayr last month and he could easily be well-handicapped off a mark of 138 given the form of his Grade Two bumper victory at Aintree in 2018, where he proved too strong for the likes of Harambe, Al Dancer, Thosedaysaregone, Pym and Mister Fisher.
Portrush Ted made a successful hurdling debut at Perth prior to injury and he looks sure to be suited by stepping back up in trip to three miles. He will also relish the soft ground as three of his four victories to date have been achieved in such conditions.
The same connections are responsible for current Rendlesham Hurdle favourite The Worlds End and if Portrush Ted can match the ability of his brothers Shantou Village and Bun Duran then he too could be competing at Graded level before too long.
Posted at 1615 GMT on 14/02/20
We are committed in our support of responsible gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.