Friday, December 16, 2016

Ascot assignations

The decision of connections to send Thistlecrack chasing has opened up the three mile hurdle division this year.

The market may suggest Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle (2.25) is a one horse race but to me this looks more competitive than a number of recent renewals.

Lil Rockerfeller wouldn't be the most obvious one to start a preview with but back in September trainer Neil King named this race as the target for his five-year-old and ever since I've had the chestnut pencilled in for this race.

Lil,  having missed a couple of early season targets including the Silver Trophy at Chepstow, on account of quick ground, made his seasonal debut in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby where he came home third, three and a half lengths behind Silsol and subsequent Hennessy winner Native River, conceding the pair eight pounds.

Decent form and three weeks later he made Yanworth work hard enough to collect the Coral Hurdle over a trip that probably didn't play to his strengths; pilot Trevor Whelan looked to be chasing his mount for much of the final mile but the gelding kept fighting and finding more.

With Whelan currently suspended, Richard Johnson accepted the ride earlier in the week but then opted for Ballyoptic instead. That's disconcerting, as is the fact there has been no significant rainfall recently.

A more orthodox preview might begin with the chance of market leader Uknowhatimeanharry.

Unbeaten since moving to Harry Fry's yard during the summer of 2015, 'Harry' has won six on the bounce (including the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival) and has seen his official rating rise from 123 to 165; he is top-rated but is priced accordingly and looks worth opposing on grounds of value.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who has sent out six winners from six runners in the past two days, is represented by Ptit Zig and Zarkander.

The former provides a yardstick for Alex De Larredya having finished nine lengths behind the French runner in the Grand Prix D'Automne Hurdle at Auteuil last month.

Previously Ptit Zig had beaten Alex in the French Champion Hurdle at the same track - Sam Twiston-Davies will need to show better form than he did for the jump jockeys team in the Markel Champions Challenge at the London Horse Show at Olympia earlier this evening...

Reve De Sivola has won three of the last four renewals and last year finished second to Thistlecrack. That said, Nick Williams' charge celebrates his twelfth birthday in two weeks' time and is another who would have preferred more rain - the favourite would appear to hold him (and Ballyoptic) on Long Distance Hurdle form at Newbury last month.

My heart tells me Lil Rockerfeller but since Baracouda's victory in 2000 only two other five-year-olds have come home in front (My Way De Solzen in 2005 and Punchestowns in 2008) while my brain tells me Alex De Larredya is the percentage call against the favourite. Daryl Jacob's mount is generally a 6/1 chance this evening.

I couldn't believe Wolf Of Windlesham was priced up 40/1 the day before the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. I've followed Wolfie since watching him win a lowly Ludlow juvenile hurdle on his first run over the sticks in October 2015.

Rated a modest 60 on the Flat, he runs off 137 tomorrow, a mark from which he won a Sandown juvenile handicap hurdle in April and the same mark from which he started in the Greatwood where he came to grief two from home while still in with 'every chance'. By off time that day his price had contracted to 20/1 and plenty more took note of what happened.

He goes in the Ladbroke at 3.35 - now named the Wessex Youth Handicap Hurdle. I shall place a highly speculative each-way wager at odds of 16/1.

Another well-known acquaintance, Johnny Og, goes in the 1.50. In January this year Martin Keighley's inmate won over this course and distance off a mark of 116 with amateur rider Mr H Hunt claiming seven; tomorrow he starts off 138.

Johnny Og is at his best when left alone in front over two miles plus on soft ground. In a field of 15 that contains the likes of Ultragold, Captain Conan and course and distance winner Dark Flame, he's unlikely to get his own way so I'm not going to partake of the 25/1 currently on offer...


Anonymous said...

Great post, and I agree the Long Walk is more competitive than the market suggests but as I cannot decide what to take on the favourite I’ll take a watching brief.

I’ve backed Wolf Of Windlesham (16/1+) and I’ve also had a saver on a horse that has not seen a racecourse for 721 days. Chesterfield a £32,000 purchase from Godolphin / John Ferguson he looked to be really going places when last seen and could possibly be on a lenient mark here. He’s had a trip to Kempton for a gallop recently which will hopefully help on the fitness front and with the yard’s conditional claiming a full 10lbs I was tempted in at 33/1.

I’ve also backed Johnny Og (he did not have his preferred 2m+ or soft ground LTO) along with All Together as both look potentially over-priced at 25/1.

I’ll try not to get in the habit of quoting from Trainer Blogs but my Hennessy hopeful Triolo D'Alene tops my ratings again today and after reading Nicky Henderson on his Stan James Blog:

Triolo D’Alene is a real favourite of mine and ran very well in the Hennessy last time behind Native River. This horse has got absolutely everything in his favour and you would have to be confident he can put up a bold show. Good ground, 3 miles, and a run under his belt all bode well and I’m very hopeful. I’m not saying he’s going to win but everything is right for him and I think this is his time; he has an outstanding chance of finishing in the first four, that’s for sure!

I could not resist stepping in again at 20/1+.

Best of luck


GeeDee said...

Good luck, TW!

GeeDee said...

No early Christmas presents here, I'm afraid...

The reduced visibility on account of the foggy conditions helped assuage the pain only a little.

Uknowhatimeanharry (6/5f) remains unbeaten. He put in a tenacious performance, slowly making his ground in the final half mile and would probably have held the brave front-running Ballyoptic (8/1) who came to grief at the final flight with a tired-looking fall. Lil Rockerfeller (8/1) stayed on for second, a respectable distance behind the gutsy winner while Un Temps Pour Tout (16/1) claimed third. There was a point a mile or so out where Barry Geraghty looked to be in a spot of bother but the favourite answered everything asked of him.

I was more than a tad disappointed with Alex De Larredya (5/1) who eventually finished fifth, two lengths behind Ptit Zigg ((8/1), a horse he had beaten nine lengths at Auteuil last month. After the race Channel Four reported Daryl Jacob saying his mount had travelled well in the race but he hadn't really stayed the stiff three miles.

In the Ladbroke / Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle Josh Moore had Wolf Of Windlesham (20/1) prominent in fifth for much of the trip but he was swallowed up by the chasing pack two from home, eventually beaten into ninth behind Brain Power (12/1). Chesterfield's run, his first in nearly two years at odds of 33/1, caught the eye.

I was surprised to see Johnny Og (20/1) allowed his own way out in front but he came back to his field quickly enough in a race that went to the well-backed Poker School; golfer Lee Westwood and Chubby Chandler own a share in this one trained by Ian Williams.