Two cracking cards in prospects and our long-rage expert Chris Day has four early bets across the action at Ascot and Wetherby.
1pt win Ajero in 2.10 Ascot at 8/1 (bet365)
1pt win Master Tommytucker in 2.30 Wetherby at 6/1 (bet365)
1pt win Belargus in 2.45 Ascot at 8/1 (bet365)
2pts win Vinndication in 3.20 Ascot at 5/1 (General)
The jumps action stepped up a gear at the weekend with Cheltenham and Aintree putting on some great racing and the show rolls on to Ascot and Wetherby on Saturday, who stage their own big early-season chases.
Course specialist Regal Encore will no doubt be primed to run well under conditions which suit him in the Bateaux London Gold Cup Handicap Chase and Anthony Honeyball’s 13-year-old could be hard to keep out of the frame having won this race off a 4lb lower mark last year.
At the other end of the age scale, Ian Williams' seven-year-old One More Fleurie must be on everybody’s shortlist as a handicapper to follow after hosing up at Ayr in April for which he has gone up 10lb in the ratings. That alone shouldn’t be enough to stop him but the two negatives are that he’s never won first time out or on a right-handed track so he may be one to watch next time, perhaps at Newbury where he will be a spectacular sight.
Mister Malarky has won the other big pre-Christmas chase at this track in recent years and warmed up for this at Chepstow last time for which he has been dropped 3lb, but he was beaten 82 lengths there and doesn’t really hold any secrets from the assessor.
Dan Skelton showed his second-season novices are in form with Allmankind winning Sunday's Old Roan Chase and his Shan Blue, a Grade One winner at Kempton last Christmas, looks reasonably treated off 150 - but he is seemingly bound for Wetherby.
The trainer also has Benny’s King, who usually needs a run, and Captain Chaos, who was taken out at Aintree on Sunday and presumably needs plenty of rain if he is to emulate his victory here back in March.
The one who has absolutely everything in his favour is Kim Bailey’s VINNDICATION, who is 7/8 on right-handed tracks, unbeaten in three visits to Ascot, has won first time out in three of his four seasons racing and is back down to the same mark from which he ran such a great race at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
The stable were seemingly left scratching their heads after his defeat that day, clearly expecting him to win, and he started last season with a second to Cyrname in the Charlie Hall which prompted them to take in the Ladbrokes Trophy where he was going well when unseating at the 17th fence.
Off five months, he returned with a solid enough sixth in the Stayers’ Hurdle before disappointing in Aintree’s equivalent race where he may have bounced.
To be fair, if you’ve got a top-class staying chaser who needs to go right-handed options are pretty thin on the ground but connections have always thought he’s very good which means he can win off 159 here and top weight won’t be any hindrance to this massive beast who makes the fences look like hurdles when he’s on song. He's well worth a bet at 5/1 to repeat his 2019 victory in the race.
Bailey might also have the answer to the Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle with his six-year-old Red Jazz gelding AJERO, who won four times in his novice season last year before failing to fire at Aintree. All of his wins were gained right-handed and all post-race interviews concentrated on the fact he’s a very quick horse (reportedly quicker than Charbel, who was graded level).
He should be ready to go here on ground he likes so any early 8/1 looks worth snapping up, particularly as horses like Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory might have bigger fish to fry as the season progresses.
The other race with a nice shape to it from a betting point of view at Ascot is the Listed Byrne Group Handicap Chase over the minimum trip.
Sully Doc AA and Editeur Du Gite fought out the finish of the novices’ handicap chase on this card 12 months ago and went on to repeat the feat in Aintree’s Red Rum Chase in April where the roles were reversed. They take out a sizeable chunk of the market at this stage.
BELARGUS won the race named in after trainer Nick Gifford's father Josh at Sandown on the last day of the season and appeared to have plenty in hand when coming clear in the closing stages. He’d previously fallen in a Listed handicap at the same track in March, a month after winning comfortably there from a mark of 121.
He was highly regarded as a juvenile hurdler, winning here in his novice season and right-handed tracks clearly bring out the best in him. Odds of 8/1 again look attractive for a horse who may be about to fulfil his longstanding potential.
Up at Wetherby the cards are less appealing from an early perspective with last year’s winner of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Cyrname one of the biggest enigmas of recent times. He's priced up at 6/4 although I feel it’s worth waiting until the final declarations are known before deciding how to play the race.
The contest I do like at this stage is the bet365 Hurdle over three miles, a traditional starting point for Stayers’ Hurdle candidates.
Paisley Park is chalked up as the 2/1 favourite but I like the chance of Paul Nicholls' high-class chaser MASTER TOMMYTUCKER, who wins races in that sphere despite not being the most predictable over a fence.
This is a race which has been used as a warm-up for some of his good chasers by the trainer in recent times and I can see his runner this year giving this field lots to think about. He's a horse with plenty of good performances to his name when fresh so he looks the value call at 6/1.
Published at 1930 BST on 25/10/2021
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