Ascot Race Preview, 23rd January 2021

Ascot, Saturday January 23rd

Ascot 1.50
Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle
Class 1 Grade 3
2m3f58y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 12 runners

Janika
High-class chaser but not at his best since running 4th to Defi Du Seuil in 2019 Tingle Creek at Sandown, tracked leaders 10th, pushed along turning out of back straight, put under pressure after 3 out, couldn’t go with leaders approaching 2 out, kept on under pressure but no impression on those ahead approaching last. Switched to hurdles and ran okay in Relkeel at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day 2020, travelled best after 2 out, niggled along home turn, more firmly pushed along coming off the bend, stayed on, headed approaching last, hard driven, faded up the hill under pressure, 4th to Summerville Boy beaten 6 3/4 lengths. Disappointed over fences last two runs, when last seen well beaten and struggling in the final mile in Ascot Chase back in February, inheriting 2nd when Traffic Fluide and Cyrname fell at the last. Best chase form gives him a chance
Botox Has
Won two out of three in juvenile hurdles last season. Winning reappearance in 4-y-o conditions hurdle at Cheltenham, jumping soundly and finding just enough up the hill to beat The Pink’n; that one reversed the form when they met at Newbury next time behind Floressa but he ran just as well, lugging left fading a little from the second last after he was ridden positively. Didn’t turn up behind Not So Sleepy in Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas, finishing 12th, niggled along approaching 4th, steadied into it, more firmly pushed along approaching 5th, made ground and with leaders approaching 3 out, hard ridden and lugged left approaching home turn, lost place and tiring in midfield home turn, appeared to have running in him at the end but tailed off. The earlier Cheltenham and Newbury form give him claims, but on pedigree this is as far as he’d stay and on his last two runs he’s faded and not quite seen out the race, so the trip is a bit of a worry
Lightly Squeeze*
After a modest effort in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las first up, returned to form in Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas, disputed lead and raced freely, tracked leaders home turn, ridden along and disputed 2nd 2 out, hard ridden, kept on one pace under pressure approaching last, beginning to look held jumping it, driven and kept on, closed on Not So Sleepy last 125 yards but at the same time lost 2nd, stuck to task. Won over this trip last season and live chance here
Kateson
Followed up a found-little in Pertemps Qualifier at Newbury on reappearance with a win dropped in trip to 2m4f at Aintree last month, up with the pace, mistake 3 out (cross hurdle), led a length and a half home turn, pushed along off home turn, stayed on approaching 2 out, mistake, 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, Tougher task at the weights but chances again
Nordano
Last February won a similar race over this course and distance, up with the pace, pushed along 7th, led a length and a half approaching home turn, hard ridden, found extra and led 2 to 3 lengths off the bend, drew clear approaching 2 out, put under pressure between last 2, continued to stay on and pulled further clear of Malaya run-in. Nothing near that in two starts this season, tailed off behind Botox Has at Cheltenham – going worst of the field at the back at the top of the hill – then failing to stay nearly 3m at Chepstow a fortnight ago, up with the pace, within a length of leader coming off the bend, began to lose place approaching 3 out, hard ridden, kept on approaching 2 out, 4 lengths behind when mistake, weakened quickly between last 2 and appeared to have a broken rein, dropped to tailed off last by last, eased right down to a virtual walk. Possibly impacted by that trouble with the reins, his stamina started to fail approaching the third last there and he was tailed off behind Storm Arising; tougher task off an 11-lbs higher mark than when successful here and little expected 
War Lord
In increasingly testing conditions, was  ridden clear of Umbrigado last 250 yards to win at Haydock on the Betfair Chase undercard in November; couldn’t follow up at the same track last time, held up and keen, started a move on inner turning out of back straight,  no impression off home turn, pushed along and kept on till steadied into 2 out, put under strong pressure between last 2, no extra approaching last, kept on at the same pace behind Albert’s Back run-in. Still comes here in good form and worth another chance off the same mark
Arrivederci
Good win from War Lord at Wetherby in October, led 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on but didn’t put it to bed, half a length up and the better jump last, ridden out, found extra run-in; might well have followed up at Haydock next time in the race eventually won by War Lord, made ground going comfortably and tracked leaders turning out of back straight, nudged along and closed on leader when fell 2 out – worst case scenario he’d have been beaten around a length. Disappointed last time in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot just before Christmas, raced wide and nudged along approaching 4th, pushed along in Swinley Bottom, a little ground before 5th, pushed along before steadied into 3 out, hard ridden and reminders approaching home turn, no more approaching 2 out, well back in 11th behind Not So Sleepy. Worth another chance back over the longer trip
I K Brunel
Best of two hurdles wins last season at Musselburgh in February, stayed on well to take Saint Xavier’s measure at the last. Very promising chasing debut at Fontwell in October when should have beaten Coolanly, a couple of mistakes, stayed on to take 2nd 2 out and moved upsides when steadied into last; was up against the high-class recruit Shan Blue at Wetherby next time and didn’t confirm that promise. Reverted to hurdles, disappointed behind Hill Sixteen and Lil Rockerfeller at Newbury last time, edged closer after 9th, moved comfortably disputing 5th with 6 lengths to find when steadied into 3 out, hard ridden, no impression under pressure approaching 2 out, faded between last 2, well held last, beaten just short of 17 lengths. Hard to fancy strongly, but hard to leave out altogether
Danny Kirwan*
Having had a long lay-off between December 2018 and February 2020, this one is effectively a third-season novice hurdler. Finally got his hurdles win in a maiden at Ascot (this c/d) in November 2020, up with the pace, disputed lead starting home turn, niggled along, moved best as drew 3 lengths up again going to 2 out, pushed along, stayed on under a hand ride though wandered a little approaching last, driven out, hung left run-in, seemed to be running a bit sideways last 75 yards but stayed on well enough – evidence of a quirk at the end, but the rest of it was good, travelling kindly from the front and beating Time Flies By just over 3 lengths. Failed to stay 3m behind Make Good in Grade 2 novice hurdle at Cheltenham last month,  led and increased pace approaching 7th, headed and in close to 9th, led again at the top of the hill, travelled best just after last (normal 2 out), pushed along and headed approaching home turn, ridden and weakened, tailed off last 150 yards. Back over what looks his best trip, chances
Dans Le Vent
Has run many good races but, before the start of this season, had only won the once. Joined Evan Williams prior to last season and promise on the second of two chase starts when 2nd to Valdez at Hereford in November 2019. Had been off the track for just over a year before coming back in December and won a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Hereford, held up, niggled along bypassing omitted 6th, niggled again and headway past rivals to track leaders 3 out, pushed along and chased leader bend before 2 out, upsides jumping, led approaching home turn, ridden along, 1st 2 pulled clear approaching last, mistake last, headed, hard driven, rallied last 150 yards, drew upsides close home, could have gone either way, just got up post – didn’t deserve to get it, but found more than his rival after jumping the last much worse than No Comment. With this only the fourth run for his present yard, even though he’s more to do here he might run well
Paddys Motorbike*
Useful dual-purpose performer (highest BHA Flat rating 92); returned from a long lay-off in October and joined Sam Thomas – form for new yard to date is 311, with best run last time out in winning novice hurdle at Huntingdon, led after 7th, moved best of the field after 3 out, led a length and at most niggled along home turn, soon ridden, put under strong pressure and stayed on approaching 2 out, led 3 lengths there, ridden along, sustained effort between last 2, some 4 lengths up last, ridden out, stayed on well run-in, workmanlike and decisive from Ballymillsy (the 5th in that race Will Sting won at Warwick last Saturday). Progressing and has a chance
Craigneiche
Inexperienced novice hurdler who’s only had three runs in his life, and only two of those over hurdles, both last season. Promise on the first of them when 3rd to The Big Breakaway at Newbury in December 2019 although for me he ran an odd race, going worst of the leading group straightening, mistake 3 out, hard ridden and outpaced approaching 2 out, well back there, pushed along, picked up a bit between last 2, put under pressure, carried tail high, stayed on well last 150 yards, made places last 100 yards and was closing strongly on the 2nd last strides; with that experience behind him, won a weaker maiden at Doncaster in January 2020 when last seen, pushed along and not going best home turn, stayed on approaching 3 out, outpaced and dropped to 3 lengths 3rd approaching 2 out, steadied into it and knocked it down, hard driven between last 2, picked up approaching last, led 125 yards off it and went a length up, in close to last, ridden out, carried tail high but stayed on well to beat Ulverston. Up to now he’s hit a flat spot when things have cranked up, and I’m not sure he’s up to doing this

Shortlist: Lightly Squeeze, Danny Kirwan, Paddys Motorbike

Ascot 3.00
bet365 Handicap Chase Class 2
2m5f8y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 14 runners

Bennys King
Improved on promising reappearance at Aintree in November to beat Gardefort at Ascot last time out, led after 10th, niggled along from 12th, led a length and a bit next, mistake 3 out, pushed along, put under pressure home turn, stayed on approaching 2 out, drew further clear under pressure, hard driven approaching and passing omitted last, ridden out and won by 6 lengths. Tough task now off 154
Capeland
Has been hit and miss this season, but came back to form to win at Wincanton on January 9th, dropped to last and pushed along for a few strides turning out of back straight, made ground 4 out, tracked leaders and at most niggled along approaching 3 out, every chance jumping, disputed lead with Slate House when the better jump 2 out, hard driven, stayed on approaching last, 3 lengths up when left further clear, ridden out, was closed on by Evander final strides but in no danger, workmanlike and decisive by just over 3 lengths. Sending his mark to 153 and with this trip a maximum, particularly round this more galloping track than Wincanton, harder to see a win from him here
Dashel Drasher*
A couple of mistakes on his way to finishing a tailed-off 3rd to Master Tommytucker in graduation at Haydock on reappearance, testing conditions getting the better of him; back to form when winning another graduation at Ascot just before Christmas, made all, niggled along from 3 out, found more and clear approaching 2 out, hard ridden and all out between last 2, ridden out from last, got tired and runner-up closed last 100 yards but always holding on from Itchy Feet. Needs to improve and won’t have the lead to himself, but is two from two at Ascot
Espoir De Guye
Third chase win, and second at Ascot, when beating Earlofthecotswolds here in November, made much of the running, switched round eventual 3rd Drumcliff approaching 3 out then switched back inside his rival home turn, ridden along, led straightening, stayed on under a hand ride approaching normal 2 out (in this race the last), hard driven approaching omitted last and drew a length and a half clear, driven out, won half a length. First time over 3m last time out in Silver Cup at Ascot just before Christmas and checked out of contention before stamina kicked in, dropped rear from 13th, kept on 16th and was in 4 lengths 4th 2 out (normal 3 out) under pressure, couldn’t find more and eased down approaching last (normal 2 out), in close to it, dropped right away on extended run-in and tailed off. He’d lost his place and had to work to get back into 4th and, though he wasn’t a complete lost cause on the home turn, the effort to get there must have told. Has a tongue-strap for the first time but trainer Venetia Williams hasn’t had a runner with a tongue-strap win or place in the last ten years
Acting Lass
After winning at Chepstow in December 2019, gave Regal Encore a race in that year’s Silver Cup, within half a length 12th, disputed lead 4 out, arguably travelled best home turn, pushed along home turn, led 2 out, ridden, stayed on, narrowly headed last, stuck to task well under pressure, no extra final strides. Hasn’t turned up since, checking out of contention in Peter Marsh at Haydock in January 2020 on what turned out to be her last start last season, and on her only outing of this, again ran poorly in Anne Duchess Of Westminster at Bangor in November, mistake 3rd, niggled along after 10th, moved largely comfortably after 11th, within 2 lengths 12th, niggled along, beginning to lose ground when mistake 3 out, ridden, weakened very quickly, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out behind Notachance. Couldn’t have ground to a halt much quicker after the error at the third last and I’m not sure if it was an encouraging reappearance or not – going to the fourth last she wouldn’t have been out of the 1st 4, then it was like someone cut out the bottom of the petrol tank. Not sure what to expect
Windsor Avenue*
Above-average novice last season; best to date on reappearance when chasing Imperial Aura home in Colin Parker Intermediate at Carlisle on November 1st,  had a chance 4 out, effort delayed and shuffled back to last 3 out, ridden along, stayed on going to 2 out, outpaced under pressure approaching last, hard driven run-in, took 2nd close home, no impression on winner; didn’t turn up in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham next time, blundered 8th, niggled along, clearly struggling 9th as those ahead pressed on, lost place under a push 10th, rear 11th, tailed off 12th, pulled up after 13th. Back to form in Rowland Metrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day, held up, headway wide turning out of back straight, niggled along home turn, couldn’t go with 1st 2 under a push from 4 out, kept on 3 out, stuck to task though no impression from 2 out, beaten 4 lengths into 3rd behind the progressive Canelo. Good chance here
Good Boy Bobby
Winning reappearance over 2m1f at Bangor in October, led, moved best approaching 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, 3 lengths clear, last, driven out to beat Antunes, but has gone up in trip last two starts and not done that great, no impression from the third last as Master Tommytucker drew clear in graduation on testing going at Haydock in November then distant 4th to Chatham Street Lad in Caspian Caviar at Cheltenham, lost place 12th and struggling towards rear when mistake and short of room 13th, well back 3 out, began to stay on under a ride approaching home turn, passed a few approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, kept on approaching last, took poor 4th early on run-in, never seen with a chance. They just kept pressing on down the back and that relentless gallop took him out – beaten 27 lengths in the end.  Longer trips have not been an issue in the past (you couldn’t say he didn’t stay when he chased Mister Fisher home in a Cheltenham novice in December 2019), but being able to dominate from an early stage might be with several other front-runners present
Jerrysback*
Off for 399 days before this, but was in form when last seen on the track, finishing 3rd to Regal Encore in Silver Cup at Ascot in December 2019, midfield,  ridden into 11th, steadied into and hit 12th, blundered 4 out, pushed along, held place under a ride home turn, kept on disputing 3rd approaching 2 out, reached for it, hard driven, stayed on and still half a chance approaching last, no extra run-in as 1st 2 asserted, stuck to task. Has checked out and finished tailed off on his last two reappearances and not sure what to expect here, but has run good races on both his visits to Ascot
Jonniesofa
Races only sparingly these days. Has won on his last three seasonal reappearances, completing the hattrick when going in at Carlisle on his reappearance on December 13th, made ground and led on the bit home turn, ridden into 4 out, a length up and going best 3 out, pushed along approaching 2 out, stayed on, put under pressure between last 2, all out approaching last, hard driven and looked empty a furlong out but stayed on as well as he could, was closed on last 100 yards and it got desperate but just held on. Not for the first time in this one’s career, he had a very hard race – empty at the end as he just held on from Informateur – and in the past this sort of thing which he’s ended up being good at, where he leaves it all on the track, has left him short for the rest of the season; additionally he’s never won a race with more than 7 runners in it
Young Wolf
Only started chasing in the Summer and has won two from five chases, the second of them at Warwick in September on good ground, pressed on before steadied into 4 out, headed, hard ridden 3 out, stayed on and led home turn, was closed on going to 2 out, headed, hard driven, stayed on well under pressure and upsides last, soon led under pressure, stayed on well and asserted last 150 yards to beat Vivas. Was below that form when 11 lengths 2nd to Wolf Of Windlesham at Fakenham next time, again going from the front but a blunder at the 6th probably took its toll eventually, and was tailed off behind Paint The Dream at Newbury just after Christmas on soft ground when last seen, all done turning out of the back straight. With all his wins coming on good or good to firm ground, and during the warmer months of the year, little expected here
Domaine De L’Isle
Won this last year, 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, all out from Bennys King. He’s run five shockers since from his last five runs including all three this season, last and struggling when mistake 13th before pulling up 3 out behind Coole Cody in Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham; struggling 10th, changed legs after 11th, hard ridden and no impression turning out of back straight when 8th and last to complete to Chepstow in December; and last time reverted to hurdles to little avail in a novice at Wetherby,  lost place and reminders between 7th and 8th, struggling and detached from main group approaching home turn, took poor 4th 3 out but no chance with those ahead, tailed off last behind Henry Gondoff. Now in first-time blinkers; his trainer Sean Curran is 0 from 19 (Flat and jumps) with all his blinkered-first-time runners, going back to 2008
Touch Kick
On what turned out to be his last start for Paul Nicholls, ran 4th to Legal Eyes in 0-140 handicap chase at Kempton in February, midfield and occasionally jumped left,  in close to 14th, hard driven and couldn’t go with 1st 3 approaching home turn, took modest 3rd 3 out, no extra from 2 out and lost 3rd between last 2, faded from last, looked heavy-legged and jockey going faster than the horse run-in. Nothing much in two starts for Simon West, midfield when fell 7th in Grand Sefton over the National fences at Aintree, then 7th to Just Call Me Al in a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle on January 8th, nudged along 6f out, pushed along 3f out as pace increased, effort and challenged for lead 2 1/2 f out, put under pressure 2f out, couldn’t go with leaders 300 yards out, weakened markedly entering final furlong, well held last 100 yards. Now in first-time cheekpieces – his new yard hasn’t yet had a winner on its debut in the headgear
Colorado Doc
Got his only win to date over fences when beating The Flying Sofa in a small field at Plumpton last February, making all, drew clear after 3 out and travelled much the best, pushed along off home turn when in a clear lead, some 8 lengths up 2 out, pushed along, stayed on, ridden out firm hands and heels, all out but never in danger, workmanlike and unchallenged. Only start this season, was pulled up behind Amateur at Newbury just after Christmas, headed 12th, hit 14th, niggled along 15th, tracked leaders turning out of back straight, lost place approaching 17th, niggled along, not clear run against inside rail home turn, losing ground when mistake 4 out and stumbled on landing, weakened further, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out. Little expected going up in grade
Louis’ Vac Pouch
No form this season with four double-digit defeats (three of them 24 lengths or more), last time at Aintree behind Clan Legend blundered 12th, pushed along in rear of the main group approaching turn out of back straight, ridden into 4 out, kept on approaching home turn and closed on those ahead, mistake 3 out, put under pressure, couldn’t find more approaching 2 out and well back, lost further ground under pressure between last 2, no more run-in. Best watched for now

Shortlist: Dashel Drasher, Windsor Avenue, Jerrysback

Ascot 3.35
Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase
Class 1 Grade 1
2m167y – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 8 runners

Bun Doran
Took advantage of last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase cutting up to just a 5-runner race when getting a £42k payday for finishing 3rd to Politologue, only fading after the last. Below-best 5th to Mister Fisher in rearranged Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham, still in with half a chance going to the second last, but weakening approaching the last. Looks held by Politologue on paper
Defi Du Seuil
Posted two defeats of the now-retired Un De Sceaux in the 2019 Tingle Creek at Sandown and this race last year before disappointing in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Posted another flop at Cheltenham on his reappearance in the Shloer Chase in November, struggling a long way out and eventually pulled up behind Put The Kettle On, and has something to prove here
Duc Des Genievres
On both starts since joining Paul Nicholls he’s made the running then caved in, in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November racing keenly in a clear lead and travelling much the best on the home turn, then was all out after the last and collared, and it was the same again when he was 3rd to Nube Negra and Altior in Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. Likely pace-setter, but the way he’s finished his races this season, he’ll end up only as the setter-upper
Fanion D’Estruval
Sound reappearance when 2nd to Magic Saint off 150 in handicap at Cheltenham in November, chased winner straightening, shaken up, went through 2 out, hard driven, one pace when pecked on landing last, hard driven, kept on up the hill, no extra last 150 yards, stuck to task; looked to be about to post an improved effort prior to falling in rearranged Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham last month, made ground on the bit and prominent 12th, further ground and moved upsides leaders going comfortably when fell 3 out – he’d probably have been beaten around 10 lengths behind Mister Fisher and arguably comes here unexposed, but is likely to come off fourth best if everyone runs to their ratings
First Flow
Has won his last five starts, spread over last season and this – sometimes the jockey will be at him before his rivals are off the bit, but he responds when ridden and up to now it hasn’t been an issue. Last time out in the Castleford Chase at Wetherby was more of the same, ridden right out to give 24 lbs to the runner-up Eragone; the time before he overcame four mistakes prior to leading at the last when beating Amoola Gold half a length at Ascot in November. His jumping is a potential stumbling block, otherwise in a straight match between this one and Duc Des Genievres, it’s First Flow every time. In terms of winning this race, he comes into this one unexposed with a best rating from me of 157 – he lags the best in this field by between 10 lbs and a stone, but if ground conditions are as given the night before, he could well shake them up
Le Patriote
Second-season novice chaser has won two out of three this season including last time out at Hereford on December 12th over 2m, tracked leaders, niggled along from 5th and again after 6th, firmly pushed along approaching bend before 3 out, hard ridden and stayed on to chase leader approaching 2 out, pair pulled clear, challenging Fast Buck when left well clear 2 out, safe last, eased heavily run-in – he wasn’t looking the most likely winner at the time of his rival’s departure. The form gives him 20 to 30 lbs to find to get competitive
Politologue**
Needs no introduction – took advantage of Defi Du Seuil’s off-day and Chacun Pour Soi’s withdrawal to take the 2020 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, stayed on and had gone 4 lengths clear by 2 out, hard driven betwen last 2, was 6 lengths up last, ridden out, went further clear, wandered/tired up the hill, all out but never in danger, beating Dynamite Dollars just over 9 lengths. More of the same on reappearance in Tingle Creek at Sandown, went on, had Rouge Vif move upsides 7th, back in definite lead when pressed on 8th, niggled along in front and arguably not going as well as Greaneteen approaching omitted 3 out, staying on under a push when in close to 2 out, hard driven betwen last 2, stayed on and 3 lengths up last, ridden out, stayed on well and pulled clear of 2nd and 3rd last 150 yards. Shouldn’t be out of the 1st 2 here granted a completion
Waiting Patiently*
On only start last season, gave Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux a scrap in one of the races of the 2019/20 season – the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December 2019. Off a year, came back with a bang when chasing home Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, having no problem with the mile-longer trip; held up, brushed 3rd, still in last 12th, gradual headway from 15th, pushed along and headway through horses from 3 out, took 3rd 2 out, stayed on strongly and took 2nd last, closed on Frodon run-in but too much ground to make up. Losing that extra mile here, you’d have to think and hope that he’ll be ridden a little less patiently this time – if he is, the pick of his form puts him right in the mix

Selection: POLITOLOGUE – Alternative: Waiting Patiently