Ascot Race Preview, 20/02/2021

Ascot, Saturday February 20th

Ascot 2.25
‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Chase Limited Handicap Class 1 Listed
2m7f180y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 11 runners

Regal Encore
Backed up his win in October when good 3rd to Mister Malarky over this, his favourite course and distance, just before Christmas, chased leader, blundered 3rd, niggled along from 14th, more firmly pushed along next, was 2 lengths down 16th, stayed on under a push and every chance after 2 out (normal 3 out), stayed on under a hand ride and at most a length down last (normal 2 out), hard driven on extended run-in, no extra. Now 13, but that might not stop him running well again (won this in 2018 and placed in the last two renewals)
Sub Lieutenant
On first run for a new stable, ran okay when 4th to Mister Malarky over this c/d just before Christmas, with leaders when ridden into 4th, tracked leaders when ridden into 8th, niggled along after 12th, lost place and pushed along after 15th, dropped to midfield and looked held when put under pressure after 2 out (normal 3 out), kept on, going on well at the end and was closing on the 3rd last strides. He wasn’t travelling on the last circuit, losing his place as he’d usually done for previous connections over the last year or so; now 12, he might pick up some pieces late in the day, but hard to fancy for the win
Continued his progress this season, and followed up his win at Bangor, when taking Classic Chase at Warwick last month, tracked leaders approaching 16th, ridden into 17th, niggled along after 18th, caught a bump on landing 4 out and momentarily unbalanced, pushed along, took 2nd under a ride home turn, led straightening, hard ridden, was challenged 2 out, put under strong pressure, all out, led half a length last, 1st 2 clear, driven out in a slow-motion finish, jockey going faster than the horse last 100 yards but always finding enough, held on well from Achille. Both the 1st 2 left it all on the track – worried that the hard race he had there might set him back for the rest of this season; we’ll find out here
Cloudy Glen
Won Southern National at Fontwell in November but hasn’t run to his best in stronger races last two, jumped left when finishing 5th to Doing Fine in London National at Sandown, then tailed off in Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, good ground and midfield home turn, nudged along approaching 5 out, pushed along approaching 4 out, hard ridden and couldn’t make further ground approaching 3 out, mistake, looked heavy-legged and weakened further before 2 out, beaten 52 lengths behind Secret Reprieve. Not for me
On first run since December 2019, ran a stormer when 3rd to Dashel Drasher in the 2m5f handicap chase at the last Ascot meeting in January,  ridden into 11th and made a couple of places, closer order when ridden into 12th, moved largely comfortably before 14th, niggled along and made further ground before 3 out, pushed along in 4th with 8 to 10 lengths to find home turn, closed on 1st 3 approaching 2 out, took 3rd nearing it, ridden along and one pace between last 2, kept on, some 4 lengths down last, hard driven, no extra run-in, stuck to task. Whilst he didn’t make any ground on the run-in he didn’t lose any either, adding to a good record at Ascot, and a favourite’s chance here
Best run last season when winning Towton Novices’ at Wetherby in February 2020, chased new leader going to 3 out where mistake, hard driven, carried head to one side when hampered last and left clear by Boldmere’s fall, all out, always holding on – whether or not it was fortunate, it was slow and laboured. For me didn’t show a great deal behind Snow Leopardess at Haydock on November 21st on only start so far this season,  tracked leaders before 12th, blundered 14th, niggled along, chased leader approaching 15th where jumped left, pushed along home turn, hard ridden 6 lengths down and no impression on leader approaching 3 out, 1st 3 clear, lost 2nd jumping, ridden and hung left, all out, weakened approaching 2 out, 3rd beaten 18 lengths. Not for me
Good form all three runs this season, winning at Exeter on the second of them then runner-up at Ascot last time, chased leader, in close and brushed 10th,  niggled along before ridden into and hit 3 out, hard ridden and outpaced in 3rd home turn, kept on approaching 2 out, took 2nd jumping, put under pressure, no impression on Enqarde before mistake last, hard driven and no more run-in, was closed on by the next ones last 100 yards but stuck to task – up with the pace all the way and beaten only by a better one on the day, despite a sticky round of jumping; goes up in grade this time, but could be competitive
Musical Slave*
Did okay considering the inadequate test over 2m4f on good ground at Newbury on November 27th, closing on those ahead when mistake 12th, niggled along home turn, not shaken up before 3 out, pushed along after it, made some ground wide going to 2 out, stayed on and moved into 4th approaching last, went left and blundered, kept on under a hand ride run-in, lost 4th last 100 yards, stuck to task, 5th to Clondaw Castle beaten just shy of 4 lengths.  Was expected to do better given softer ground and longer trip next time, but jumping let him down to a worse extent in Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last month, held up, a little ground before mistake 13th and firmly pushed along away from it, ridden into and blundered/unseated rider 14th. The Newbury effort suggests that there’s a race in him if only his jumping would hold up, and a more forceful ride might help too
Hill Sixteen
Had been progressing for new stable this season, winning at Ffos Las over fences then – nine days later – beating Lil Rockerfeller over hurdles in Class 2 handicap at Newbury in November, niggled along 8th, again niggled approaching home turn, hard ridden approaching 3 out, lugged left but stayed on to chase leader nearing it, hard driven from 2 out, finally began to close approaching last, stayed on well under strong pressure run-in, led 125 yards out, ridden out. Returned to fences, nothing doing in Tommy Whittle at Haydock last time out, prominent before mistake 11th then hampered, pushed along and lost place before 12th, going worst of the field before 13th, hard ridden and made no ground before slow 4 out, tailing off and eased down before pulled up before 3 out. Not sure what to expect here, but last time was his third run in a month – this time he’s been off two months
Signs of coming back to form last time when 4th to Enqarde and Cobolobo at Ascot last month, raced 5th at most 10 lengths off leader in Swinley Bottom, not asked to improve from 4 out, in close to 3 out, took 10 lengths 4th then niggled along, closed on those ahead under a not-that-firm push approaching 2 out, within 6 lengths jumping, hard ridden, took 3rd but outpaced as winner and 2nd pulled clear approaching last, was challenged for 3rd jumping last, lost the place 175 yards out, ridden and closed on the 2nd as was coming back at the 3rd last strides, just held for 3rd post, nearest finish. Not given that hard a race there and could have a big say this time
Captain Chaos
Looks as though his good run when blinkered in the Classic Chase at Warwick is now an annual thing, and he followed up his runner-up effort in the 2020 renewal with another best-of-season so far in this year’s running last time, pressed on going to 14th, pushed along from 16th, not fluent 18th and given strong reminders, hard driven in a length lead home turn, was strongly challenged, headed and no extra approaching 2 out, faded further between last 2, driven and no more run-in, lost 3rd under pressure close home, beaten 8 lengths behind Notachance – under the same sort of ride as last year, if anything he went even harder in front this time and had a hard race; plenty of these are normally ridden from just behind the lead or midfield and chances are the Captain will be a sitting duck

Shortlist: Jerrysback, Cobolobo, Musical Slave

Ascot 3.00
Betfair Cheltenham Free Pot Builder Handicap Hurdle Class 2
2m3f58y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 15 runners

L’Ami Serge
Only form last season when runner-up to The Worlds End in a poor renewal of the Long Walk in 2019; when last seen out was pulled up in Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, niggled along after 9th, stayed in touch in rear of main group and travelled better approaching 2 out, pushed along approaching home turn, made no ground, weakened under pressure some 250 yards off last and dropped away quickly, tailing off when pulled up before last, soon eased to a walk. If he was in form he’d normally find little anyway but, now aged 11 and making a belated reappearance, it seems unlikely there’ll be anything from him here
Flopped on both chase starts this season, jumping poorly and tailed off at Cheltenham on October 24th and pulled up at Ludlow in November when last seen. No surprise he reverts to hurdles and his fine run in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is the form that puts him in the mix here, was bumped at the start, prominent, closer order at the top of the hill, travelled comfortably and tracked leaders approaching 2 out, niggled along, pushed along off home turn and led some 250 yards off last, soon put under pressure, stayed on, was joined by Column Of Fire approaching last, left clear by that one’s fall, was 3 lengths clear 175 yards out, hard ridden, was joined by Indefatigable very close home, headed post, unlucky. Worth a chance back over the smaller obstacles
Chti Balko
In the small field that he seems to go best in, got a win at Haydock in December, led 6th, moved best off home turn, pulled 4 lengths clear when mistake 3 out, pushed along, stayed on and about 5 lengths up 2 out put under pressure, stayed on and went further clear by last, ridden out hands and heels, stayed on well to pull much further clear, most decisive by 26 lengths from Llantara, but the likelihood is that nothing else ran to form. Somewhat reverted to type at Kempton last time, led 5th, about 3 lengths up 3 out, niggled along home turn, soon hard ridden, put under pressure straightening, stayed on till headed nearing 2 out, no extra between last 2, faded, well held when mistake last, weakened run-in, losing ground on the one in front at the line, 5th beaten 8 lengths behind Millers Bank. Beaten 21 lengths or more all three runs in fields of 12 or more, little expected this time
Albert’s Back
Stolen Silver
Best of three runs over fences last time at Bangor on November 28th, led, clear 6th, reached for 8th, not so far ahead 9th, moved largely comfortably home turn, was closed on approaching 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, stayed on, pecked on landing last, headed by Pink Legend, driven and stayed on run-in, no extra only in last 75 yards.  A couple of times in the past he’s shaped as though wanting 2m4f – notably when 8th to Pic D’Orhy in last year’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, had the vast majority in front when steered towards inner under a ride approaching last, hard driven, passed beaten ones, closing on those ahead last 150 yards and nearest finish – and is well treated here on the Betfair Hurdle-form
Kid Commando
Went from the front and was clear throughout when winning over 2m here in October, pulling clear of Malaya last 200 yards, but was found wanting over a longer trip next time at Haydock in November, led, mistake 1st, headed before 2nd and tracked leaders after, lost further ground before pushed along after 7th, kept on 3 out, mistake 2 out and faded between last 2, well back last and 18 lengths 6th to War Lord. Ran worse in Grade 3 handicap back over 2m at Ascot just before Christmas,  led 3rd, headed after 4th, niggled along after 5th, firmly pushed along and weakened quickly after 3 out,  tailed off when pulled up before 2 out behind Not So Sleepy. Should stay this trip on pedigree but evidence so far suggests that he won’t
In good form last two runs, winning at Aintree in December, led a length and a half home turn, mistake 2 out, put under pressure, headed between last 2, stayed on and still every chance last, stayed on under strong pressure, led a furlong out, maybe narrowly headed by Eternally Yours 100 yards out, sustained effort and remained upsides, could have gone either way, just got up; backed it up when 3rd to Craigneiche at Ascot last time although left the impression he did too much up front, made ground to dispute lead after 6th, moved comfortably 3 out, going best starting home turn, led straightening, pushed along approaching 2 out, pursuers closed on him, headed on landing, hard driven, no extra between last 2, looked held in 2nd last, all out, lost 2nd 175 yards out, stuck to task, was closed on by the 4th last strides. Likely to go well again
Good win at Wetherby on reappearance when beating War Lord 2 3/4 lengths, led 2 out, hard ridden, half a length up and the better jump last, ridden out, found extra run-in, drew clear; would have been at least 2nd to the same horse but for falling 3 out at Haydock next time (may well have challenged for the win), prominent throughout that time. Down in trip, couldn’t get out of midfield in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot won by Not So Sleepy just before Christmas, hard ridden and reminders approaching home turn, no more approaching 2 out, well back between last 2, but back to form back up in trip when runner-up at Ascot last time, closer order and prominent 7th, niggled along approaching 3 out, reminder approaching home turn, stayed on under a strong ride home turn, got a split and stayed on approaching 2 out, no extra nearing it, put under pressure between last 2, faded approaching last, hard driven run-in, kept on and took well-held 2nd 175 yards out, no chance with Craigneiche, stuck to task. Likely to go well again
In this race last year was 2nd to Nordano, no answer as the winner pulled further clear from the last; was 4th to Brio Conti in it in 2019, challenging approaching last but soon fading and not seeing out the last furlong or so. Has run well without winning this season, runner-up to Kid Commando at Ascot in October, passed most of the field to chase leader approaching home turn, pushed along between last 2, 1st 2 drew clear, looked held when mistake last; in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot just before Christmas moved comfortably 5th to 3 out, niggled along and lugged left approaching home turn, more firmly pushed along and was bumped turning in, lost place and midfield approaching 2 out, well held between last 2, kept on after last and took 7th last strides behind Not So Sleepy, and 4th to Millers Bank at Kempton last month when last seen out, closed on leaders home turn, nudged along and caught widest of all turning in, niggled along approaching 2 out, put under pressure between last 2, no impression and looked held approaching last, driven and one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. Didn’t flinch nor fade there, but lacked the pace to get to the leaders between the last 2; she comes in to this race still unproven at the trip and, for me, is best watched
Shannon Bridge*
Reverted to hurdles after struggling over fences earlier this season and in blinkers first time, won at Wetherby on January 12th, led 5th, jumped right and disputed lead 7th, niggled along, opened up a length and a half-lead by 8th, niggled along home turn, more firmly pushed along and hung left off home turn, stayed on, was 3 to 4 lengths clear 3 out, soon hard driven, 1st 2 pulled clear, mistake 2 out, sustained effort between last 2, in close to last, driven out, just about all out but maintained clear lead last 200 yards, had little to spare but unchallenged. Off the bridle from halfway down the back straight, he left it all on the track as he beat an easy-to-beat horse, Miah Grace, by just over 5 lengths. No stand-out and he’s an infrequent winner, but might do something in the blinkers again
So far this season has failed to build on progressive novice hurdle-form of last season, at Cheltenham on reappearance  lost ground and slipping into midfield when mistake 6th, niggled along at the top of the hill, headway and and at most 3 lengths down when mistake 3 out, pushed along and outpaced going to 2 out, hard driven home turn, forced wide straightening, no impression on those ahead approaching last and 4th to Stimulating Song; looked worth stepping up in trip but did nothing in Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick last time won by Imperial Alcazar, niggled along from 8th, lost ground 9th, niggled along and made ground up from 3 out, pushed along on inner when hampered and run blocked home turn, weakened approaching 2 out, well back, weakened further before and after last, tailed off. Doesn’t seem to be progressing any further
Dans Le Vent
After beating No Comment at Hereford in December (finding more after jumping the last worse than his rival), ran well when 4th to Craigneiche at Ascot last time although mistakes held him back, held up, a bit slow 2nd, mistake 5th, headway in Swinley Bottom and just about midfield before mistake 7th, also mistake 3 out, ridden along and outpaced, reminders approaching home turn, stayed on wide turning in, closed on leaders approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, no further impression approachng last, looked held jumping, took 4th 150 yards out, kept on under a ride and was closing on the 3rd final strides. In the mix again
Gladiateur Allen
Best of three runs in novice hurdles when winning over 2m5f141y at Ascot last time, pulled his way forward to track leaders before 1st, more settled after 6th,  moved comfortably as took narrow lead home turn, shaken up on straightening, hung right and wandered/idled approaching 2 out, hit it, hard ridden and continued to idle, did enough to maintain 2-length lead jumping last, continued to idle and drifted right run-in, hard driven, stayed on well enough last 150 yards in a slow-motion finish, workmanlike and unchallenged from Valleres. The future’s probably good for this one, given that he won that whilst failing to impress in all aspects of the performance except jumping, which was mainly sound: he’s got to settle better and finish better – he did absolutely nothing in front in the straight. Dropping two furlongs in trip, which is likely to suit, still has chances in this first handicap
Good Man Pat
Now two years without a win but a couple of good efforts over hurdles this season, including last time at Newbury just after Christmas, held up, at most nudged along as pace increased home turn, niggled along from 3 out, travelled better than the hard-ridden winner Calva D’Auge approaching 2 out, firmly pushed along nearing it, put under pressure between last 2, 1st 2 started to go clear, had a length and a half to find jumping last, hard driven, no extra 200 yards out, stuck to task, closed on winner last 100 yards but never getting there. Not out of this
In a change of tactics, went agonisingly close to winning Pertemps Qualifier at Musselburgh on February 7th, led, headed 2nd, led after 3rd, headed 5th, disputed it 6th, went 3 lengths up bend before 7th, not so far ahead 8th, in close to 9th, went 2 to 3 lengths clear approaching 10th, not so far ahead when in close to 11th, moved largely comfortably home turn, pushed along from 3 out, stayed on though lugged right, not fluent 2 out, put under pressure, sustained effort between last 2, driven out from last, carried head to one side but continued to stay on, was closed on last 100 yards, collared by Taxmeifyoucan on the post. Drops no less than seven furlongs in trip here (that Musselburgh race was over 3m2f), but won over 2m1f back in October – albeit at Carlisle with its stiff finish – so ought to be competitive
Best performance over hurdles when winning a 0-110 at Hereford in December,  tracked leaders approaching 7th, chased leader next, in close to 2 out, niggled along, effort and led home turn, hard ridden, put under pressure straightening, stayed on approaching last, 3 lengths up when in close to it, driven out, stayed on, was closed on last 100 yards but always holding on from Sexy Lot; stepped up in class, would have been beaten around 15 lengths but for unseating in the Class 2 ‘Seniors’ handicap at Taunton in January,  slight lead turning out of back straight, hard driven coming off home turn, couldn’t go with leader approaching 2 out, faded under pressure between last 2, some 10 lengths down and losing further ground when blundered and unseated rider last, race won by Brewin’upastorm. Last time out won a jumpers’ bumper at Lingfield in February, finding extra to beat William H Bonney a neck. His performance at Taunton suggests he’s got a bit on here

Shortlist: Kateson, Arrivederci, Shannon Bridge

Ascot 3.35
Betfair Ascot Chase Class 1 Grade 1
2m5f8y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 5 runners

Bennys King
Gave it a go against Dashel Drasher in the Class 2 handicap chase over this course and distance last month, but couldn’t find extra after the last, having reduced the gap from around 4 lengths after the second last to a length after the last; place claims at best
For me his Charlie Hall-win at Wetherby on his reappearance, when he readily beat Vinndication, is right up there with his best; what happened in the King George at Kempton last time surely couldn’t have been envisaged beforehand (not by the majority anyway), midfield 8th, taken back a bit after 9th, moved largely comfortably 12th, no ground from 13th, eased down after 15th, pulled up on home turn. More chance of seeing the real Cyrname here… but then again he did fall at the last in this race last year…
Dashel Drasher*
Left it all on the track when making all here in the handicap chase at the last meeting, all out between the last two and surely a sitting duck for Bennys King, but he pulled out more from the last and won by a length and a quarter. Potentially likely to be involved in a battle for the early lead with Cyrname, if others run to form here then this time it’ll surely be placed at best. Also declared in the Denman Chase at Newbury on Sunday
Master Tommytucker
Three from four this season, with his only flop coming when well held in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham (mistakes culminating in a bad blunder at the second last); returned to form in Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last time, made all, raced freely, drew well clear without being asked a question from 3 out, safe with the race when blundered last, readily from Clondaw Castle. Worried about his tendency to trash one – still very much a thing as Kempton showed – but his form as it stands would see him finish runner-up granted clear rounds and everyone running to form

Riders Onthe Storm
Fortunate winner of this race last year, led 3 out, hard ridden approaching 2 out, was being strongly challenged by Traffic Fluide and beginning to look like he’d be caught when left clear last (the pair of them had Cyrname, who also fell at the last, behind and weakening). Has been disappointing this season and was 26 lengths behind Master Tommytucker in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last time and could be best watched for the moment

Selection: CYRNAME – Alternative: Dashel Drasher