Ascot Race Preview, 31/10/20

Ascot
Saturday October 31st

Rain forecast from mid-morning Saturday onwards

Ascot 3.40
Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
2m7f180y – Going: Good to Soft (Good in places) – 14 runners

Black Corton
In this race last year ran 3rd to Vinndication, tracking leaders when niggled along in Swinley Bottom, held place, shuffled back a couple of lengths and vigorously pushed along home turn, outpaced under a ride as Vinndication went clear before last, kept on till faded run-in and lost 2nd close home; more of the same when 2nd to Mister Malarky in Grade 3 chase at Kempton on what turned out to be his final start. Not expected to try and run any differently to the usual up-with-the-pace tactics, his chance is about the same off a 2-lbs lower mark than in this last year
Might Bite
So, let’s start with his seasonal debut-run in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last December; chased leader, unseated rider 4th, went round rest of the course riderless leading Native River at the last. Over hurdles at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, chased leader to 2 out, ridden and weakened quickly approaching home turn, dropping right away and tailing off when pulled up before last in race won by Skandiburg. Was 10 lengths 3rd to Native River in Denman Chase at Newbury, then ran in the cross-country at the Cheltenham Festival, niggled along in last trio after 23rd, tailed off and one from last when jumped left 2 out, trailed in behind Easysland. Looked to have gone at the game last season and nothing expected here
Mister Malarky
Made his seasonal debut in this race last year and was hopelessly tailed off behind Vinndication, going worst of the field in Swinley Bottom on the last circuit; ran 6th to De Rasher Counter in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, lost place halfway but improved and had a chance 4 out before fading, then pulled up at Ascot just before Christmas before bouncing back big time in Grade 3 handicap chase at Kempton in February on good to soft;  led narrowly 4 out, pushed along and found extra to extend lead approaching 3 out, continued to stay on under a ride and clear last, ridden out to beat Black Corton. On soft ground, pulled up in Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival, closer order 16th but still ridden along, dropping back when not fluent 3 out, weakened further approaching home turn, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out and stopped to a walk quicker than the other puller-uppers around him. Not the most reliable and no certainty to be competitive, but could run well if having one of his good days
Walk In The Mill
Poor start last season when pulling up in Badger Ales at Wincanton,  pushed along away from 11th and 12th, lost ground 16th, struggling and reminders after, well held 3 out – but it set him up for his second successive win in Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree, pushed along to make a start, badly hampered 1st, ridden into 3rd, headway and prominent 6th, chased leader 16th, mistake 4 out, pushed along 3 out, ridden, effort and led 2 out, 3 lengths up last, driven out, stayed on well to beat Kimberlite Candy. Was 2nd to Blackjack Kentucky in novices’ hurdle at Chepstow in January on what turned out to be his final start of the season. He hasn’t run to form on his last three seasonal reappearances and he’s now up to a mark of 150, so there’s not much going for him here
Commanche Red
In a fair novice chase season, on his third run he got his only win to date over fences in a novices’ handicap chase over 2m4f at Kempton on Boxing Day, not fluent a few times, ridden into 4 out and chased leader, hard ridden home turn, arguably going worst of the leading 3, ridden into and led 3 out, put under pressure, stayed on to draw clear, pulled further clear between last 2, safe with the race last, eased last 150 yards, workmanlike and unchallenged from the below-par Simply The Betts; up in grade, probably ran as well as could be expected when 3rd to Who Dares Wins in Pendil Novices’ at Kempton in February, going worst of the field when mistake and left close 4th 4 out, ridden and outpaced home turn, put under pressure, kept on 3 out, no more from 2 out under pressure, well held approaching last, was being closed on by the 4th last 150 yards. The dam’s dam produced 3m+ winner Frank The Slink and this one’s likely to stay, but his less-than-perfect jumping and steep handicap mark – I have him over 10 lbs shy of his official 150 – might prevent him from winning this
Valtor*
Winning reappearance when taking a novices’ hurdle at Ascot (second course win) last November beating Redford Road, then back over fences, ran well over 3m4f at Taunton when 3rd to Yala Enki – 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 and seemed stretched by the trip – then runner-up to Ballyoptic in limited handicap chase at Ascot in February, tracked leaders 16th, pushed along from 3 out, disputed 2nd under a ride approaching 2 out, hard ridden and one pace approaching last, ridden and kept on run-in to make sure of 2nd, no impression. He’s the wrong side of 10, but has a good record fresh to this point, and is at his best track on his seasonal debut
Blaklion*
Now 11, his last win was in 2017 Becher Chase at Aintree with a hard-to-fault performance,  tracked leaders 16th, moved comfortably, led and going much the best 2 out, ridden clear from last, stayed on strongly to pull well clear of The Last Samuri, in no danger last 200 yards. Form tailed off in 2018/19 when last seen out, tailed off in 2018 Becher Chase behind Walk In The Mill, then went over hurdles and ran midfield in two Pertemps Qualifiers and not out since February 2019. There are two strong pointers for his chance here, one positive, one negative – the negative is that he’s only run right-handed twice in his career, winning his debut novice hurdle at Perth in 2014, and when blowing out in the 2018 bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown (which, it should be noted, came after a poor run in the Grand National earlier in the month, and I didn’t notice any jumps to the left); the positive is he’s joined Dan Skelton, who has one of the best records with horses winning after a long time off the track, and with horses on their stable debuts. I’m probably wrong, but I’m giving him a chance
Regal Encore
Last season he took his Ascot record to three wins from nine appearances, and was 2nd, 1st and 3rd in three runs at the track last season, starting with a seasonal debut-2nd to Vinndication in this race, then he won the Listed handicap chase (the SGB as was) just before Christmas, prominent to midfield, raced wide, a little headway before 7th, 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. On last start of the season and having turned 12, ran 3rd to Ballyoptic and the reopposing Valtor in the limited handicap chase in February, pushed along and mistake 17th, ridden and stayed on after 3 out, disputed 2nd approaching 2 out, put under pressure and no extra approaching last, faded under driving run-in, hung and carried head awkwardly, no more and beaten 10 lengths. There are three poor efforts to his name at Ascot and one of them was in this race in 2017, when he was making his reappearance and finished 12th; he hasn’t run close after a significant break since 2013, so for me he has to be taken on this time
Adrien Du Pont
Hasn’t won since beating Just A Sting in a 3m handicap chase at Kempton over Christmas in 2018, gave the others a length in a standing start, held up and slightly detached (so actually further back at the first fence than at the tape), midfield 13th, further ground and prominent 14th, effort delayed approaching home turn, produced to challenge 3 out, at most nudged along on outer approaching 2 out, shaken up after it, stayed on and led narrowly approaching last, the better jump, driven clear, stayed on well, unchallenged. Little form since and started his 2019/20 season by pulling up in this race (was 4th in it in 2018, mistakes including a blunder 4 out); best effort on his third and final start when 6th to Mister Malarky in Grade 3 handicap chase at Kempton in February. Always dropped out at the back, and often making mistakes, the best thing with this one is usually to take him on, particularly over what is a tougher 3m than Kempton’s (also no chase wins in fields bigger than eight)
Flying Angel
Infrequent winner, but on second run last season took a handicap at Ascot over 2m5f, beating Sky Pirate 8 lengths; form tailed off after that, on his last start 21 lengths 9th to Milan Native in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, no extra and looked held approaching 2 out, weakened and well back last, picked off a beaten one last 100 yards. He’s 0 from 7 over 3m+, and the only one of those which wasn’t a double-digit defeat was the 2019 Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival when 7 lengths-5th, and even in that he barely stayed, keeping on under a ride from 2 out, chance of a place last, no more up the hill, looked heavy legged, taking 5th close home behind Beware The Bear. I’m going nowhere near him here
Militarian
Was 50/1 when making a winning reappearance in a 0-140 handicap chase over this c/d last November, going clear of Top Wood in the last 125 yards; best subsequent run when 4th to Doing Fine at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, midfield, blundered 9th, briefly pushed along after 11th, not fluent 12th, mistake 16th, again not fluent 18th, headway before 4 out, ridden along away from it, prominent going down the hill to 3 out, every chance when mistake there, hard ridden, stayed on to chase leader home turn, every chance when steadied into 2 out, hard driven and faded between last 2 – again several mistakes when tailed off in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, in the last 3 from the 16th. Right-handed tracks make a difference to this one – he’s three wins from eight runs this way round – and up to now he’s gone well fresh, so for me chances off 139, only a lb higher than he won off here last November
Townshend
On belated seasonal debut last January won an amateur riders’ 0-135 handicap chase over this c/d on officially heavy going, held up, not fluent 2nd, a little ground wide 13th, prominent 16th, pecked on landing 3 out but disputed lead there, niggled along and led 2 out, soon clear, pushed along and ran on to draw further clear by last, ridden out to maintain clear lead, was closed on last 150 yards but always holding on from Graceful Legend; on only other start was hopeless in Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, midfield 15th, niggled along after 16th, lost place and midfield to rear when jumped right 3 out, weakened further, well tailed off 2 out, pulled up before last. Terrible reappearance over hurdles at Perth in September when tailed off behind I’d Better Go Now, niggled along before mistake 3 out, pushed along and weakened home turn, detached last straightening under a ride, dropped right out when ran down 2 out to right, tailed off. Although his win here suggests otherwise he barely stays 3m, and with no wins to his name in better than Class 3 or in fields bigger than eight, for me one to take on
Whatmore
Unlucky not to add to his sole chase win last season, mainly running well, including on reappearance when 3rd to Deyrann De Carjac in a strong novice at Huntingdon, looking well in the paddock but sometimes jumping left; best effort when 4th to Mister Malarky in Grade 3 handicap chase at Kempton in which he was given too much to do, but I didn’t see any jumps to the left; held up, hadn’t made any ground and still last 13th, finally started a move 4 out, pushed along home turn, staying on when mistake 3 out, sustained efffort and passed more 2 out, in contention for the places last, no extra run-in, stuck to task. Back over 2m4f, lacked pace at the end in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival,  niggled along after 3 out, effort and tracked leaders against inside rail home turn, about 2 or 3 lengths down when left in 4th 2 out, hard ridden, outpaced, steadied into and hit last, kept on under a ride, stuck to task to take well-held 4th to Imperial Aura close home. Not sure where we stand with this one trip-wise at the start of the season, and he also might want better going at 3m, but for sure he’s in the mix here
Django Django*
Best performance last season when winning handicap chase at Newbury in January, tracked leaders when took off on the wrong leg 11th, niggled along home turn, still niggled but looked to be going best passing omitted 3 out, pushed along approaching 2 out, upsides leaders, rathed cajoled along approaching last, upsides runner-up jumping, shaken up run-in, found extra 175 yards out, driven out, idled in front last 100 yards but always finding enough from Notachance. Didn’t jump well when modest 4th to Stadivarius Davis at Catterick on final start last season, niggled along approaching 14th and 15th, more firmly ridden along approaching 4 out, dropped to detached last and struggling approaching 3 out. Proven on heavy (should sufficient rain fall to change the going), this 7 year-old has a chance if coming back to his best

Shortlist: Valtor, Blaklion, Django Django

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