Friday, November 03, 2023

The 2023 Seat Unique Handicap Hurdle at Ascot

With Wetherby apparently in a race against time to save the Charlie Hall card, I've opted to take a look at the Seat Unique Handicap Hurdle (3.15 Ascot) run over a trip just shy of two miles; twelve have been declared.

The going on the hurdle track is currently described as soft, good to soft in places, with more rain forecast; Turftrax predicts a further 7-12 mm before the opener.

Should Wetherby fail its morning inspection, I'd imagine we might see one or two revised jockey bookings in Berkshire. 

Market leader Our Champ won the first race on the card at Cheltenham's two-day Showcase meeting last Friday, beating Black Poppy an eased-down seven and a half lengths; it looks as though connections have decided to roll the dice again.  

After that race handler Chris Gordon said:

"I came here pretty confident. I'm usually a pessimistic bugger but I rode Our Champ myself in a bit of work the other day with Aucunrisque [2023 Betfair Hurdle winner] and he went extremely well. We don't usually have them off the bridle but Aucunrisque was struggling and I weighed two stone more than the lad on him."  

The handicapper has raised Our Champ 11 pounds for that effort to 128; his mark has gone up 19 pounds since moving to the Gordon yard over the summer.

With connections talking about the Dovecote as a possible target, the gelding holds an obvious chance and the stable won this last year with Highway One O Two.

Two concerns: the soft ground at Ascot; and the fact that Cheltenham conditional jockeys' handicap took place just eight days ago. 

In the same Cheltenham race Teddy Blue got no further than the second flight, making a bad mistake and unseating Caoilin Quinn. Back in May Teddy finished second to Black Poppy in the Swinton at Haydock.

The Paul Nicholls trained Rare Middleton cost 215,000 guineas and went into the notebook last January after winning the first division of a Taunton maiden hurdle in a time 7.2 seconds faster than stablemate Afadil won the second division.

He was hampered by the fall of Sarsons Risk when finishing third in the Adonis at Kempton but subsequently didn't jump well on handicap debut when fourth behind Parramount at Fakenham and underwent wind surgery in July. 

All the winners in the past decade have been aged either five, six or seven. 

In the same timeframe the favourite has obliged on four occasions and the winner has come from the first three in the market on eight occasions. 

Two have their first start in a handicap - the filly Greyval (121) and Altobelli (131).

The former ran with credit in the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in the spring, fading in the closing stages to finish eighth. 

The latter will certainly get the cut in the ground he needs; writing in the Weekender James Stevens thinks the gelding could prove much better than his opening mark. He's an unexposed sort but his hurdling to date hasn't been fault free and I see connections have opted to fit a tongue-tie for the first time.

Just how good is Bad?

Following three runs in France Bad moved to Ben Pauling's yard at the beginning of this year and was sent off 5/1 second favourite for the Boodles at the Cheltenham Festival on this first run in this country.

With Rachael Blackmore in the plate, the grey was bang there with every chance too before being headed on the run to the last and fading to finish down the field in thirteenth. The vet reported the gelding had lost his right hind shoe.

On his only other start for Pauling he finished sixth behind Blueking D'Oroux (won the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Cheltenham last Saturday) in a juvenile handicap hurdle over course and distance in April, beaten just under ten lengths. 

Bad ran off 126 in the Boodles; he goes off 122 tomorrow.

Dan Skelton saddles two. 

Knickerbockerglory is a front runner whose hurdle mark (130) is three pounds lower than his chase mark. He likes soft ground and in the past has gone well fresh. His second to Iceo in the Imperial Cup at Sandown last March reads very well.

Faivoir is a hold-up ride whose hurdle mark (139) is six pounds lower than his chase mark. 

This one won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March on soft ground and had a pipe-opener in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las three weeks ago. Underfoot conditions appear key - he ran no race at all on quick ground behind Aucunrisque in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Back in 2019 bottom weight Chance A Tune finished second behind Tea Clipper in a novice hurdle at Warwick and then third behind Edwardstone in a novice hurdle at Aintree; at the beginning of 2020 he held a rating of 129. 

Subsequently off the track for 476 days, the beast has clearly been difficult to train; handler Nigel Twiston-Davies is currently the sole owner.

Following a further break of 759 days off the track, Chance A Tune reappeared in September to finish third behind Liverpool Knight at Market Rasen. Two weeks later he won a Chepstow handicap hurdle eight lengths on heavy ground off 108. He runs off 116 tomorrow - James Turner can claim a further seven - and could be rather well handicapped. 

There is no doubt Thereisnodoubt will be suited by underfoot conditions. In a Weekender stable tour [RP Weekender 25-29.01.23] handler Lucinda Russell told readers her charge 'tanks up the gallops' and 'loves soft ground'. At ten years of age he has a few miles on the clock but will run his race.   

Top weight Camprond needs further these days to my mind - he finished third in the Coral Cup - but he didn't jump well the next time at Aintree while Carbon King has just his second run for Evan Williams since coming over from Declan Queally's yard in Ireland.

Two make the short list for an each-way play.

Chance A Tune appears ahead of his mark but the layers aren't taking too many chances at 10/1 whereas previous course winner Faivoir is double that price with William Hill.

A few in the field like to race up with the pace so I'm hoping Faivoir can take advantage at the business end, weave his way through - much as he did in the County Hurdle - and at least make a place.

Faivoir is the each-way suggestion, with William Hill offering 20/1 at the time of writing and paying four places. 


TW said...

156,15.56,CHANCE A TUNE(FR)
155,14.03,OUR CHAMP(IRE)
155,13.12,TEDDY BLUE(GER)

Conditions should suit Faivoir and he has a good strike rate but as an exposed 8yo the system feels he is unlikely to out run his 147 system rating which leaves him 7lbs+ short of the top rated runners.

Chance A Tune, the other one on your short list, has a top rated 156 and the best system win chance at 15.56%. Also an 8yo, he has less miles on the clock, is suited by conditions and 12/1 4 places 1/5 odds looked a bet to me.

It should be an interesting renewal.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Thanks for providing your ratings, TW.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

Held up, selection Faivoir (16/1) had just started to weave through a runner or two coming to the home bend when jockey Fergus Gillard, er, pulled him up, reporting the gelding had lost his action.

Stablemate Knickerbockerglory (10/1) raced with Our Champ at the head of affairs for much of the trip but comprehensively put the race to bed off the home bend, eventually winning by four and a half lengths with Altobelli (100/30) second, Bad (8/1) a further eight and a half lengths away in third and TW's top rated Chance A Tune (12/1) fourth.