Matt Brocklebank fancies a 25/1 chance to outperform market expectations at Ascot - check out his three Saturday selections.
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For all he’s very much the most likely winner, taking a short price about Politologue in Saturday’s Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase looks fraught with danger.
He just about brings the best form to the table having looked as good as he ever has in his two most recent racecourse appearances, but it’s not like he’s miles clear of Waiting Patiently, who has also posted big numbers on his last couple of outings – albeit a little over a year apart from one another.
Quite whether the northern star steps forward from his fantastic King George second is another matter, though it’s hard to envisage the significant drop back in distance proving the undoing of such a strong-travelling, classy jumper who loves soft ground.
And then there’s Defi Du Seuil, an impressive 11/10 winning favourite in this race last year, since when he’s put in two fairly miserable efforts at Cheltenham.
His trainer Philip Hobbs would be the first to admit the yard hasn’t quite been sparking as hoped this term, but two winners at Newbury on Thursday could be the sign we’ve all needed that all is rosy once more in the Hobbs garden.
If that’s the case Defi Du Seuil looks a massive threat and is likely to lure plenty in around the 9/2 mark, while First Flow and Fanion Destruval add further layers to an intriguing feature.
It’s one I’m happy to let go from a punting perspective, especially with races like the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle to weigh up.
Danny Kirwan goes handicapping for the first time and could have something in hand, though probably not as much as high-class chaser Janika.
He’ll probably win if fit and firing after a year off and wind surgery, but he’s not been missed in the betting, unlike KATESON (11/1 bet365), who looks a cracking bet to follow up his Aintree success off just 5lb higher.
He’s been called a few names in the past as he carries his head high but he really toughed it out from the front under Tom Scudamore in the first-time cheekpieces (retained) last month, battling back after being headed to win on the nod from Eternally Yours, to whom he was conceding a stone.
Two winners have already emerged from that race – fourth Mint Condition has gone up fully 10lb after scoring at Wetherby (from Aintree fifth Look My Way) and then getting within a neck of Adrimel in a Grade Two at Warwick, and the seventh home Navajo Pass has since been raised 7lb for bolting up at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.
They aren’t the only form boosts either as Hunters Call – third to Kateson – filled the same place in the Lanzarote at Kempton off the same mark last weekend, giving the reasonable impression that Tom Lacey’s grey may have got off rather lightly.
He’s always had a touch of class in fairness, having finished third to Champ in the 2018 Challow, and he’s just the kind of horse who could really click with champion jockey Brian Hughes, who is better than most at kidding his mounts into thinking they’re having an easy time of things.
The bet365 Handicap Chase over two miles, five looks another fantastic race on the card but barring Dashel Drasher you wouldn’t say it’s one in which too many of the participants possess a huge amount of potential to be way ahead of their marks.
Jeremy Scott’s horse scrapes into that category after just the five chase starts and he comes into it with one of the strongest pieces of form after beating Itchy Feet and Caribean Boy in a three-runner Graduation Chase over course and distance last month.
The considerable issue with that, however, is that not only is he well found in the market, but he received a hefty whack from the assessor, who shunted the eight-year-old up 9lb to a mark of 152.
He might still be able to shrug off the rise but his occasional jumping out to the left worries me a bit in this bigger field and, at a massive price, I’m more interested in COLORADO DOC (25/1 General), who has had just the three starts over regulation fences in his life.
He was prolific in the point-to-point scene, winning six of his 10 appearances between the flags, and, after two promising hurdles efforts plus a chasing debut second at Hereford, he bolted up by 15 lengths on handicap debut at Plumpton last February.
He didn’t beat much but the manner of victory, coupled with absolutely deadly jumping from the front, was pretty striking so his belated return to action in Newbury’s Mandarin Handicap Chase last month was eagerly anticipated.
He ultimately pulled-up (jockey dismounted) as an 18/1 chance, but that doesn’t tell the whole story as he was ferociously keen under Connor Brace for the first circuit and a half, and he’d again jumped faultlessly until stumbling badly four-out, after which he looked to have hurt himself and the tank unsurprisingly emptied quite quickly.
But there were definitely positives to take from it and although a couple of pounds back from the handicapper (he went up 8lb for the Plumpton victory) might have been nice, I’m inclined to agree that overall the comeback was far from conclusive in terms of where he stands ratings-wise.
He won’t feature at all here if he’s just as keen early on, but Newbury should have taken that initial freshness out of him, while dropping back from 3m2f to 2m5f looks a good move as this race has often been won by prominent racers who get a bit further - Cyrname the most high-profile, but he’s far from alone.
Colorado Doc is not the only wanting to get on with things in this field – Young Wolf, Good Boy Bobby and Dashel Drasher could all be thereabouts in the early part of the race – but it’s hoped he might be able to get loose under his low weight if popping the first few fences as well as he can.
The Peter Marsh Handicap Chase is the key betting race if Haydock survives another raceday inspection and Royale Pagaille is a skinny price despite being clobbered 16lb for winning so well at Kempton over Christmas.
If he’s up to the mark (156) then he’s surely a Grade One winner in-waiting and his victory here earlier in the season shows he’s going to be more than capable of what the course conditions have to throw at him.
However, he’s not the only vaguely interesting novice in the line-up and, at the odds, ACEY MILAN (10/1 BoyleSports) has to be the bet despite being 1lb wrong.
He was fourth when sent off 9/2 favourite for Relegate’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2018 and while he didn’t quite scale the heights as a hurdler, has done in enough in three chase starts to think he could be dangerous now sent handicapping.
He hasn’t really enjoyed the tactical nature of the small-field novice chases on his last couple of outings but won well enough first time out over fences at Aintree on October 25, and if you go back through his form over the smaller obstacles, most of his better efforts came in bigger fields.
He looks a horse who comes alive in more competitive company and he’s definitely another one who will relish the underfoot conditions.
He may not be thrown in off a mark of 135 (effectively runs off 136 in this instance) but, give his unexposed profile in this sphere, looks open to plenty of improvement still and the very fact his shrewd trainer has aimed him at this pot with cheekpieces refitted for the first time this season speaks volumes.
Published at 1600 GMT on 22/01/21