A terrific running of the Ascot Chase is without doubt the highlight of Saturday afternoon’s racing. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’ve come down on the side of Coney Island.
He’s a horse about whom you might be sceptical because he only beat two rivals in a minor race here over Christmas, but that’s hardly his fault and his progressive from as a novice combined with the ease with which he overhauled his one meaningful rival in that race suggests that he’s still very much on the upgrade.
My reading is that he needs a test at this trip and I’d be fairly sure this will be run at a good, swinging gallop with out-and-out trail blazer, Speredek (25/1) in the field and Cue Card (9/1) likely wanting to play his stamina card to exploit a potential frailty of Top Notch (2/1).
That said, Top Notch (2/1) doesn’t really have any frailties: he’s as solid and reliable a performer as there is and deserves to be favourite.
At 10/3, my selection is a bigger price, is not far behind in terms of ability and has the most scope for improvement of any horse in the race.
I can hear plenty of you crying “what about Waiting Patiently (9/4)” and that’s fair enough, but this is a tougher race than Kempton and I just felt that he could have been a little quicker away from his fences there. It might be that he wants really soft ground to be seen at his best, but that’s purely speculation.
In the 3.00 Handicap Hurdle I’m hoping Kildisart (10/3) can go one better than when second at Kempton over Christmas. His Stable has come roaring back into form of late and this horse looked a really useful prospect when winning as a Novice at this track earlier that month.
He bumped into a seriously well handicapped horse in Golan Fortune on boxing day and he might be able to make amends here.
Gold Present (2/1) is confidently selected to follow up his good victory here last time out, particularly now that the Grand National weights have been revealed. I suspect that this horse will run a massive race at Aintree in the spring and he might just show himself to be very well handicapped in the meantime.
If I were to take a flyer at one at a big price anywhere across the country it would be at Wincanton in the Kingwell Hurdle. The horse in question would be Cliffs Of Dover (14/1) who’s got a bit to find on official ratings but looked really smart as a Juvenile Hurdler.
His victory over Nietzsche at wetherbuy last year now looks pretty good form and his jumping got really slick with each start.
Clearly it’s asking a lot after a massive lay off to come and beat three horses his superior, but I’m interested that the Trainer is starting him off here and I just wonder if he thinks he’s got a bit of a secret weapon on his hands.
Nick’s Picks for Saturday…
2.25 – Gold Present 2/1
3.00 – Kildisart 10/3
3.35 – Coney Island 10/3.
2.45 – Cliffs of Dover 14/1.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.