Ascot Race Preview, 21/12/19

Ascot
Saturday 21st December

Precautionary Inspection 08:00

Ascot 2.25
Marsh Hurdle (Long Walk) Class 1 Grade 1
3m97y – Going: Heavy – 6 runners

No way of getting Paisley Park** beat here I don’t think, even though he did rather have to scrap for it in the end when beating Thistlecrack at Newbury on his reappearance – but scrapping for it is how he rolls, like Big Buck’s used to do in this division – no problem if he’s first off the bridle. It’ll be a good test in the conditions – the rejuvenated The Worlds End* is likely to see to that, having made all in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby and made most in the Newbury race, and I fancy him to chase Paisley Park home. The popular handicap hurdler Tobefair ran another stormer, in the 150s on my ratings, at Cheltenham last time when 3rd to Golan Fortune, put under strong pressure, sustained effort and passed more rivals to take 3rd close home, no chance with 1st 2 though closing on 2nd last couple of strides – no chance of him coming down the weights any time soon after a run that good. Not much expected from the others, Agrapart in and out these days (going in favour though and often races up front himself), L’Ami Serge best watched after his absence and Papagana‘s win at Kempton in a Listed mares’ hurdle last time giving her some 10 lbs at least to find on The Worlds End, and the thick end of two stone on Paisley Park.

Selection: PAISLEY PARK – For the Forecast: The Worlds End

Ascot 3.35
Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
1m7f152y – Going: Heavy – 16 runners

Monsieur Lecoq
Good 3rd to Harambe in Greatwood at Cheltenham; quick turnaround after running 4th to Call Me Lord in International at Cheltenham a week ago, slightly detached 3rd, again niggled after 4th, more firmly pushed along approaching 6th, hard ridden 2 out as pace increased, going worst of the field at that stage, went wide home turn, outpaced under a ride from home turn and last over last some 7 or 8 lengths down, hard ridden, stayed on past beaten ones last 175 yards, sustained effort to take 4th from weakening Pentland Hills post, no impression on those ahead. Never in contention for the win at any stage and looking hard work for the jockey, likely to get out of contention before getting going
Turnpike Trip*
Best to date over hurdles when winning Grade 3 novice at Tipperary in October,  effort and moved upsides leaders turning out of back straight, led home turn, went a length and a half up by 2 out, pushed along, ran on to draw clear appoaching last, mistake and lost hind legs, was closed on, driven, picked up again and found more last 100 yards – would have finished another 3 or 4 lengths ahead of Razoul but for the error. Didn’t run badly when 4th to Envoi Allen in Royal Bond at Fairyhouse last time, in close to 3 out, niggled along home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, stayed on, hard ridden and couldn’t go with those ahead going to last, faded, jumped last in 8 lengths 5th, driven, kept on into 4th, no impression on 1st 3. Ground is a query, but chances at best
Mohaayed
Won this race last year off 145 beating Lisp, opened up a 4-length lead 2 out, hard driven between last 2, was closed on, driven out from last, stayed on well last 175 yards. Nothing much off higher marks since, in Greatwood at Cheltenham last time headed after 3rd as pace picked up, niggled along after 4th, pushed along and lost place going down the hill to 2 out, well back home turn, no more and well held 9th behind Harambe. The form falls short of his effort in last year’s Greatwood before coming here and, with the now-usual cheekpieces left off, little expected
Scaramanga
Has won two out of six over hurdles so far including a ready win at Wincanton on December 5th off 132, prominent, a little keen, in close to 2nd and 6th, came wide home turn, travelled comfortably, pushed along approaching 2 out, led there, stayed on under a firm hand ride, led a length last, drew readily clear, no whip needed and not hard ridden last 100 yards, readily with a bit in hand from Milkwood. Whacked up 12 lbs for that win, a lot to do at these weights to be effective – well beaten the last time he raced on soft going also
Remiluc
In good form when last seen in Spring 2018, giving Mohaayed a race in the 2018 County Hurdle at Cheltenham, headway to chase leader though niggled along approaching 2 out, soon more firmly pushed, led off home turn, headed by Whiskey Sour approaching last under a ride, stayed on and every chance, hit last, hard driven, took leader’s measure then headed by Mohaayed, one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task and went down with honours. When last seen out was likely to have been placed when unseating at the last in Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton that Easter and not seen since. Ground in favour, but probably best watched after 629 days off
Harambe
Best form to date when taking Greatwood at Cheltenham last time, held up rear, quite a bit to do at the top of the hill, travelled comfortably and started a move going down the hill to 2 out, got a split towards outer and prominent to midfield jumping, pushed along home turn with 6 lengths to find, strong effort and closed on them approaching last, put under pressure, chased leader final 175 yards, stayed on strongly and led three strides from the post when beating Gumball and Monsieur Lecoq. Could use a longer trip on that evidence, but this might work out to be as testing with the going as it is
Umbrigado*
Won first three last season before well held behind Reserve Tank in Mersey Novices’ at Aintree. On reappearance ran well when 5th to Stoney Mountain in the Grade 3 3m handicap hurdle at Haydock last month although didn’t quite get home, mistakes 3rd and 5th, closer order 7th, closed up looking comfortable from home turn and tracked leaders approaching 3 out, shaken up approaching 2 out and switched from inside (far side) rail some four or five horsewidths to challenge middle, driven and could only keep on approaching last, weakened inside final 100 yards, losing ground at the line. Perhaps should have had his effort delayed a little more, where he was at the third last a fair reflection of his merit on the day. Drop in trip to the minimum looks significant
French Crusader
Won only start last season when taking a 0-140 handicap hurdle at Newbury in November 2018. Good reappearance when chasing home the apparently-improved Epatante in Gerry Feilden at Newbury on November 30th, still quite keen turning out of back straight as made ground to track leaders, every chance 3 out, travelled comfortably, led narrowly 2 out, moved best and looked the most likely winner, shaken up, headed approaching last, soon held as Epatante went clear, hard ridden, went clear of 3rd but no impression on winner last 175 yards. No found-little there as he looked to have run into one (also jockey wasn’t first to commit approaching the last), so the benefit of any doubt on that score
Zanza
Back to form when taking conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Newbury in November. Not a bad effort when 6th to Harambe in Greatwood at Cheltenham, pushed along at the top of the hill after 5th, lost ground approaching 2 out, ridden after it, kept on approaching home turn and passed a couple, some 5 or 6 lengths down disputing 5th when wandered left approaching last, steadied into it and mistake, rider seemed in a bit of difficulty immediately after but started riding again 175 yards out, driven and kept on, wandered left and no further ground last 100 yards. Disappointing on only previous visit to Ascot when tailed off in Betfair Hurdle behind Al Dancer last February (also disappointing only visit to Sandown, also a galloping right-hander), and not sure anything much will be happening here
Countister
Best form last season on belated reappearance when 3rd to Ch’tibello in County at the Cheltenham Festival, in touch in rear of leading group home turn, soon niggled along then more firmly ridden along, effort and closed on leaders, every chance approaching last, disputed lead when mistake, hard driven, one pace last 175 yards, sustained effort under pressure, just failed to get 2nd. Wasn’t the same horse on reappearance in Greatwood at Cheltenham last month, blundered 1st, had made little ground by the time the field reached the top of the hill after 5th, taken fairly wide and did make some ground approaching 2 out, effort delayed, shaken up after it, kept on home turn, left disputing 5 lengths 5th last, ridden and didn’t stay on, weakened inside last 150 yards. Might have needed the run there and could do better, but ground a worry
Whoshotthesheriff*
Promised more to come when winning wigh high style marks at Carlisle last April. A faller on reappearance then a good 2nd at Haydock last time over 2m3f, led 6th, pressed on leaving back straight and went 2 lengths up, in close to 3 out, looked strong as maintained advantge to 2 out, ridden, stayed on, about 2 lengths up last, hard driven, was closed on 200 yards out, 1st 2 clear, headed by Bold Plan half a furlong out, no extra, faded last few yards. Settled quickly but perhaps didn’t quite get the trip ridden positively and, despite a 4-lb rise, looks a big player here dropped in trip
Tamaroc Du Mathan
Won a hurdle race for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille at Angers in April 2018 before joining present connections, but didn’t run last season. Shaped well when 2nd to Friday’s Grade 2-winner Master Debonair at Ascot on belated British debut last month, held up, steady pace, keen, rather pulled his way forward to midfield by 4th, niggled along 5th, ridden into 3 out, made a little ground, pulled wide approaching home turn, pushed along and faded turning in, stayed on under a hand ride approaching 2 out and closed on those ahead, went 2nd jumping, drew clear of 3rd between last 2, no impression on Master Debonair, pushed out, kept on, finished with running in him. For me it falls short of his official 135-mark, and I’m worried about his lack of experience and the llikelihood of his pulling hard
Crooks Peak
Won three last season including a handicap at Newbury off 133 despite pulling hard. Not at his best yet this season, last time behind Epatante in Gerry Feilden at Newbury keen hold, still taking a grip 5th, nudged along home turn, mistake 3 out, pushed along, kept on, half a chance 2 out, ridden and couldn’t go with leaders approaching last, well held, no more run-in, well-held 4th in the end. Tempting back off his winning mark but needs to settle better
Quoi De Neuf
Improving second-season hurdler ran his best to date when 4th to Harambe in Greatwood at Cheltenham last month, prominent, made ground going down the hill to 2 out and with leaders after, shaken up and a neck down home turn, hard ridden, no extra under pressure early on run-in, wandered, not totally done with till faded inside final 75 yards. Has found little when ridden before (notably at Ffos Las in April, going best and 2 lengths down at the second last, beaten 7 lengths by Good Boy Bobby at the line), so no stand-out
Sir Valentine
Shaped as though he’d need more of a test of stamina when winning at Newbury on November 7th, a length down last, hard ridden, effort and stayed on well final furlong, led 125 yards out, drew readily clear, decisively beat Young Lieutenant. Arguably not quite so good at Wetherby last time, chased clear leader from 3rd, relegated to 3rd turning out of back straight and niggled along, more firmly pushed along home turn and outpaced as 1st 2 went clear, ridden, started to stay on from 3 out and closed on them, sustained effort and took 2nd affer 2 out, no impression on Ribble Valley approaching last, faded further run-in. Arguably that doesn’t look quite so good form after Ribble Valley’s defeat by Master Debonair on Friday and he has a bit to do at these weights
Not So Sleepy
Was more or less gifted a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Ascot on first hurdles start since March, was around 2 or 3 lengths ahead of the others before the tape was released, once racing had pinched 4 lengths when in close to 1st, keen, 6 lengths up 2nd, in close and not fluent 4th, was 10 lengths ahead in Swinley Bottom, a bit slow 5th, still moved comfortably after 3 out, was closed on approaching home turn and led 4 lengths, pushed along approaching 2 out, hard ridden as lead reduced approaching last, hard driven run-in, stayed on well, always finding enough. Jumping was iffy, but the 2 lengths he beat Lust For Glory by was the distance he was in front (at least) before the race started – surely lightning won’t strike twice in this better race

Shortlist: Turnpike Trip, Umbrigado, Whoshotthesheriff

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