There are nine entries at the five-day stage for Saturday’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and the market is headed by BetVictor’s 13/8 favourite Unowhatimeanharry who failed to give 6lbs to Beer Goggles at Newbury last time but won this corresponding race 12 months ago. On official figures, the nine-year-old has 7lbs and more in hand but L’Ami Serge (7/2) and Thomas Campbell (11/2 at BetVictor) are two big dangers in what looks a fascinating renewal of this prestigious Grade 1 contest.
Soft ground at Newbury this afternoon for their seven-race card and Nicky Henderson puts a hood on his French import Style De Garde who is penalised 6lbs for scoring at Strasbourg back in October. Henderson has saddled the winner of this corresponding race twice in the last decade but so, too, has Alan King whose Doctor Bartolo (12.30) can go one better than when second at Wetherby on debut.
The selection was an 80-rated horse on the level for Charlie Hills and was nearly brought down at the first at Wetherby where Ian Popham sat tight. The horse was a tad keen, didn’t see much daylight going to two out and made a mistake at the last – in the circumstances it was a very good debut over timber.
King and Henderson have won the Maiden Hurdle on the card six times between them in the last decade. The former is doubly-represented this afternoon courtesy of Pacific De Baune and Doux Pretender and the latter won a Bumper in his native France before finishing fourth – pulled hard – at Huntingdon back in March.
The vote, however, goes to King’s Potterman (1.00) who will get further in time but ran a very good race when third on his hurdles debut at Kempton. This galloping track will suit and I hope to see Wayne Hutchinson make plenty of use of his charge.
Dadsintrouble is a phrase that will be popular over the Festive period and I know he is held in high regard by Tim Vaughan although he only got as far as the sixth when coming a cropper at Worcester on his chase debut back in October. This looks something of a retrieval mission although he has been given over 11 weeks off since that mishap and a check of the market is advised.
Baden (1.30) looked ready for a step back up to 3m when fourth at Sandown last time and he gets the vote in the novices’ limited handicap for Nicky Henderson in a race where the Lambourn handler again saddles two. The selection won his sole point on fast ground and might not come into his own until the better ground in the spring, but this 6-year-old promises to be better over fences than he was over timber.
Bagging Turf should be capable of winning off this mark and a market move for Gary Moore’s charge should be noted on his seasonal reappearance but I thought Bally Gilbert (2.40) ran well over the minimum trip last time having made a significant mistake at the first and he gets the vote. The selection ought to appreciate today’s step back up in trip and his fencing improved as the race developed at Sandown last time.
There is a valuable Handicap Chase at Ludlow over 3m and I Iike the booking of 5lbs conditional James Bowen for the Rebecca Curtis-trained Relentless Dreamer (2.30). The selection ran into a very well handicapped opponent when runner up here earlier in the month and he is taken to go one better. Monbeg Charmer did us a favour here last month and this looks to have been the target since that success six weeks ago.
At Lingfield, Noble Behest (2.55) has his first start for Robert Stephens and cost connections £80,000 when bought last month at Tattersalls Sales. He is chasing a four-timer this afternoon following an 11-week break and he can score in a competitive 2m heat.