Ascot Race Preview, 15/02/2020

Ascot
Saturday February 15th

Ascot 2.25
Keltbray Swinley Chase Limited Handicap Class 1 Listed
2m7f180y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 8 runners

Ballyoptic
Cracking start to the campaign with two wins including Charlie Hall at Wetherby, but lost form since, badly tailed off in Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree, midfield, pushed along 13th, mistake 14th (Foinavon), ridden along approaching 16th, struggling passing omitted 17th, losing place when mistake 3 out, weakened markedly approaching home turn, tailed off 2 out behind Walk In The Mill. In the 2018 Becher it was ‘prominent travelling comfortably’ when he fell halfway, in the latest at about the same point it was ‘midfield pushed along’. Best watched
Valtor*
Seasonal debut-win in novice hurdle at Ascot in November. Returned to fences, probably still a little below his Ascot-winning form of December 2018 but still improvement on most recent efforts when 3rd to Yala Enki in conditions’ chase over 3m4f at Taunton on January 18th, rear 8th, made a place 12th, headway and tracked leaders from 15th, blundered 17th, niggled along, back on terms and going comfortably 4 out, chased winner turning out of back straight, pushed along home turn, outpaced going to 3 out, hard ridden, kept on, hard driven and stuck to task between last 2, lost 2nd last, ridden and kept on, no further impression run-in. Maybe stretched by the trip, it was a good run to the fourth last, and he showed enough there to suggest he can be competitive here
Domaine De L’Isle
Up in class, completed a hattrick when winning Class 2 handicap chase at Ascot in January over 2m5f, midfield 10th, niggled along in Swinley Bottom as leaders pressed on, mistake 12th, pushed along 13th, firmly pushed along from 4 out and struggling to get to leaders, stayed on under a ride 3 out and now started to close on 1st 2, every chance on outer 2 out, put under pressure, stayed on approaching last, a length down jumping, hard driven, effort last 150 yards, led 75 yards out, changed legs a stride from the post, all out. Needed all of the trip to prevail, coming under a ride three quarters of a mile out and struggling to get to the leaders for all of that, having a very hard race to say the least in beating Bennys King, but won more comfortably over 2m7f at Newcastle the time before and looks to need this step up in trip
Regal Encore*
It’s common knowledge that he reserves his best for Ascot and he duly took the Listed handicap chase here on December 21st, moved comfortably before 10th, with leaders from 11th, disputed lead 4 out, pushed along after 3 out, caught a bump home turn, ridden, upsides 2 out, hard driven, stayed on, narrow lead last, driven out, found the most last 150 yards, stayed on well to beat Acting Lass. Could go well again (could have gone up more in the weights than he did – he’s 146 here and he won this in 2018, beating Minella Daddy, off 150)
Red Indian
Belated reappearance, ran well for a long way in Peter Marsh at Haydock in January, tracked leaders 5th, nudged along after 10th, ridden into 12th, nudged along 13th, almost moved upsides leader 15th, ridden and hung left home turn, outpaced and put under pressure after 4 out, faded from 3 out, steadied into 2 out, weakened further approaching last, lost 4th close home behind Vintage Clouds. Has seemed best fresh and often goes in snatches; high in the weights too for what he’s achieved
Captain Drake
Progressing hurdler last season; finally cracked it over fences when winning in the fog at Exeter on New Year’s Day, disputed lead from 4th, ridden into 13th, steadied into 14th, travelled best of the field home turn, niggled along approaching 4 out, pushed along, stayed on, not fluent 2 out, hard ridden, sustained effort, led approaching last, soon all out, led 2 lengths jumping last, driven out, stayed on well, hard work but decisive in the end from The Kings Writ. For me it didn’t earn the 13-lb rise in the weights that somehow the handicapper’s seen fit to give him, but he’s unexposed
Like The Sound
Ended last season with a win over Pobbles Bay over 3m4f at Taunton, led 4 out, pushed along, stayed on to draw clear by 3 out, sustained effort going to 2 out, firmly pushed along to maintain approaching last, driven out, all out, was closed on last 125 yards but always holding on – looked like winning well at the third last but clearly came to the end of his tether in the last few strides. First-fence faller in Becher Chase at Aintree, but best of the season last time out when 3rd to Doing Fine at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, prominent 16th, pushed along 17th, led 4 out, niggled along ater 3 out, was closed on approaching home turn, stayed on, led a length 2 out, hard driven and headed approaching last, 2 lengths down jumping, looked heavy-legged coming up the hill, stuck to task but lost 2nd in last 100 yards. Not put up for that, can be competitive
Jepeck
Third win of the season (two over hurdles) when taking the Veterans’ Series Final at Sandown on January 4th,  led 11th to 12th, in close to 13th, briefly niggled along going to 18th, pushed along home turn, led and went right 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on to go clear, hampered by loose horse approaching last, was strongly challenged, hard driven run-in, found a bit more last 100 yards, just got up from Regal Flow. With four wins and two runner-up finishes from his last seven runs his profile is progressive, despite his age (11), and for that reason he’s hard to dismiss

Shortlist: Valtor, Regal Encore

Ascot 3.00
Give The Gift Of Ascot Annual Membership Handicap Hurdle Class 2
2m3f58y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 15 runners

Blu Cavalier
Maximum mark but was going on a bit at the end at Sandown behind Mill Green last time, lost place after 3 out, well back under a ride home turn, kept on a bit from 2 out, and is proven at 2m3f and on heavy
Malaya
No form in two runs this season; found little and/or stamina stretched when 4th to Brio Conti in this race last year – can’t see a win happening
Jolly’s Cracked It
Better run than expected when 3rd to Thomas Darby over this c/d last month but still didn’t get home, hard ridden home turn, no extra when mistake 2 out, put under pressure and faded approaching last, and opposed again therefore
Myplaceatmidnight*
Good run at Taunton last time, opened up a 2- to 3-length lead approaching 2 out, stayed on, some 4 or 5 lengths up when steadied into and blundered last, hard ridden, went left, all out, readily headed 175 yards out, kept on but no impression on Limited Reserve close home. Arguably should have won that and realistic chance of compensation
Air Horse One
Won this in 2017, tailed off 6th to Brio Conti last year. Arguably best run of the season when 3rd to Limited Reserve (and Myplaceatmidnight) at Taunton last time, shied at the tape in the standing start and slowly away but made up ground to track leaders after 1st, disputed lead 3 out and niggled along, soon hard ridden turning out of back straight, put under pressure home turn, stayed on approaching 2 out and had 3 or 4 lengths to find jumping, hung right and hard driven approaching last, no extra under strong pressure run-in, just kept on, was closed on final strides. Having had to use a bit more energy than ideal after getting the worst of the start there, realistic chance
The Con Man*
Best to date when winning Class 2 handicap at Kelso in which few hurdles were jumped because of the sun, chased new leader approaching 6th and last (normally 3 out), niggled along home turn, travelled best as rider did the Green Cross Code between the omitted hurdles in the home straight, shaken up 300 yards out, ridden and stayed on well to draw clear, ridden out, decisive. Unexposed and may well find the improvement needed
Fleur Irlandaise
Was a 100/1 winner of a Pertemps Qualifier at Kempton in November. Seemingly proved that was no fluke when, this time going off 50/1, ran a good 5th to Lady Buttons in Grade 2 mares’ event at Doncaster last month, niggled along after 5th, started a move and headway into midfield approaching home turn, challenged for 2nd 3 out, niggled along, looked strong going to 2 out, narrow 2nd jumping, hard driven, swamped by rivals and faded approaching last, well held 5th over it, ridden, ran on last 150 yards and was closing on those ahead at the post. Needs to get back to this trip; unproven on the ground
Garo De Juilley
Hasn’t cracked it over fences, mistakes once again when 4th to Simply The Betts at Cheltenham last time, well in rear home turn, ran on approaching 2 out, made ground and places, nearest finish. After a drop in the weights he’s under his winning mark when taking the 2018 Silver Trophy at Chepstow, but he’s unproven on this ground (double digit defeats all starts on soft or heavy)
Eden Du Houx
Listed bumper winner, at this track too. Best so far over hurdles when winning a novice at Chepstow on January 31st, momentarily went right start, went on, clear, niggled along home turn, pressed on before hit 3 out, a length up when in close to 2 out, at most niggled along after it, reminder approaching last, 1st 2 clear, was strongly challenged nearing last, the better jump, ridden out, was closed on last 75 yards, only just held on from Mario De Pail. Should stay this trip on pedigree
Dorking Boy
Fortunate winner at Newbury two starts ago, off the bit a long way out, a lot to do 3 out, pushed along, stayed on and passed a few to get into contention going to 2 out, jumped it in 5 lengths 5th, ridden and sustained effort to chase leader when mistake, left in lead then hampered last, changed legs, put under pressure, picked up well last 175 yards to beat The Wolf. Travelled better – actually took a keen hold – but never reached challenging position in Pertemps Qualifier at Huntingdon won by Phoenix Way last time, not much ground when ridden along after 3 out, put under pressure approaching 2 out, within 4 lengths and keeping on when mistake last, got 4th late, no impression. His hold-up run style isn’t ideal in a field of this size at Ascot
Distingo
Ran okay last two starts including when 5th behind Mill Green at Sandown last time, although it was a case of getting going eventually, mistake 4th, pushed along, stayed on after 5th and midfield, mistake 3 out, ridden home turn and stayed on, in contention for a place approaching 2 out, ridden within 6 lengths of leader, in contention under a ride when mistake last, weakened. A half-brother to Supasundae and Twenty Twenty who both stay 2m4f so should get the trip himself, but lacked something in the finish both his last two runs – also lacks a good attitude in general
Le Milos
Won two from seven over hurdles. Left the impression that he’s better than he showed last time at Catterick when 4th to Annsam, midfield, wide, headway and tracked leaders 4th, chased leader after 5th, took a wide course into back straight, moved comfortably, niggled along after 3 out, firmly pushed along home turn, every chance till ridden and outpaced going to 2 out, put under pressure, faded between last 2, lost 3rd last, lost ground on those ahead final 175 yards. The ground he gave away by racing so wide, particularly on the turn into the back straight, could well have contributed to his not seeing the race out – that said his form in big fields doesn’t yet stack up
Prudhomme
Won modest event on hurdling debut at Uttoxeter in October but little else since, in a 0-140 handicap at Taunton last time mistake 3rd, headway and midfield 4th, in close to 5th, closer order and prominent when mistake 3 out, pushed along away from it, tapped for toe turning out of back straight, effort and chased 1st 2 going to 2 out, ridden and no more, fading when mistake last, well held run-in, put under pressure, weakened behind Earth Moor. Don’t know where the handicapper’s got his 124-mark from and for me he has a stone of improvement to make, and at Taunton he didn’t look like a horse about to make it
Clondaw Cian
Although he’s run some okay races at Clairefontaine in France recently his form has been lagging his best over hurdles since October 2018, and he was well held turning in to the straight in the Grade 3 handicap hurdle on desperate ground at Sandown recently behind Limited Reserve. Likely to lose his place at some point which he usually does in his races, he’s not for me
Nordano*
This juvenile ran his best to date over hurdles at Ascot last time behind Goshen but was markedly outpaced, lost place and in last pair 5th, struggling, hard ridden after 3 out and looked well held, going worst of the field home turn, stayed on approaching 2 out, strong effort between last 2 and passed a couple to go 2nd jumping, pulled away from 3rd and 4th, no impression on winner. Looks to need this step up in trip (in keeping with his Flat form – best on the level at 1m6f or longer) and could take a hand

Shortlist: Myplaceatmidnight, The Con Man, Nordano

Ascot 3.35
Betfair Ascot Chase Class 1 Grade 1
2m5f8y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 4 runners

It would be interesting if the dual King George-winner Clan Des Obeaux was here also, but as it is Cyrname** shouldn’t be troubled to get back to winning ways. There’s no query about the trip, and there’s less opposition to deal with. It isn’t a given though – the progressing Riders Onthe Storm* has gone very much the right way since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies and easily beat On The Blind Side in a graduation here at the Christmas meeting; you can poke holes in the form for that reason alone as that runner-up is hardly the most reliable, but he’ll get a toe into the race, and if Cyrname is off his game – which it looked as though he was at Kempton on Boxing Day – he’s the one to take advantage. The hard races Janika had in winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his seasonal debut, and then running 4th to Defi Du Seuil in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, seem to have had an effect on him as he was around 10 lbs below his best when following the latter home in the Clarence House Chase here last time, and even if Traffic Fluide could be guaranteed to be at the top of this game on this first start for 469 days, the 149-rated handicap chaser is well outclassed, as well as over a trip possible short of his best now (arguably better at around 3m).

Selection: CYRNAME – Alternative: Riders Onthe Storm

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