All nine entries at the five-day stage were declared for Saturday’s Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot the highlight of a cracking card. Unowhatimeanharry remains BetVictor’s 13/8 favourite but I think he may drift out to 2/1 on the day given it is a deep race with a number of potential improvers in the field.
Ascot stage the opening day of their December meeting and it is a top-class card to get the busy Christmas period off to a flier. Divine Spear (1.20) jumped well on his chase debut at Catterick and he can make it two out of two over the larger obstacles despite the fact that this extended two mile trip is on the sharp side for the selection.
Nicky Henderson showed at his local track at Newbury earlier in the week that he has his string in excellent form and this 6-year-old is likely to make up into a better chaser than hurdler.
Slate House is unbeaten in two starts over timber for Colin Tizzard but has to give 5lbs to Claimantakinforgan (1.55) and the latter – another Henderson inmate – could hardly have been more impressive when beating subsequent scorer Lostintranslation at Newbury on his first start over timber.
The selection finished third in the Champion Bumper last season and it is possible that he will get further than today’s 2m in time. The yard have an embarrassment of riches in the Novice Hurdle ranks and this inmate is up there with the best.
Finian’s Oscar was taken off his feet in the Henry VIIR at Sandown at Sandown earlier in the month and today’s additional five furlongs will help, but he doesn’t look a natural chaser at his likely cramped odds he is overlooked. Dolos (2.30) receives 11lbs from the selection including 6lbs weight-for-age and he can confirm the promise of his chase debut here over a shorter trip.
That race, arguably, fell into his lap but he jumped well and is open to considerable improvement for Paul Nicholls’ who has won this corresponding race for the last three years including with this month’s Tingle Creek winner Politilogue twelve months ago.
At Ayr, my two against the field in the 3m Handicap Chase are Nortonthorpelegend and Nakadam (1.05) with marginal preference for the latter who finished runner up off this mark over C&D last month. The winner (Acdc) has since run a stinker but the selection travelled like a well-handicapped horse last time and gets one last chance to get his head back in front.
There is sure to be a big crowd at Uttoxeter where Chef Des Obeaux (12.35) can go one better than when runner up at Newbury behind a decent stablemate and the excellent James Bowen takes the ride in this event for conditional and amateur riders.
In the 2m 4f Handicap Chase the unexposed one is Kim Bailey’s Glenforde (1.45) who shaped as if this drop in trip would suit when fourth at Chepstow on his chase debut on his reappearance. The horse has been dropped 3lbs for that run and he faces a few exposed rivals. Freddies Portrait needs to go right-handed and I wouldn’t want to be on his outside going to the first couple of fences.
Kilmurvy is one to note if the market speaks in his favour but Morney Wing (2.55) is 8lbs lower than when winning the Sussex National at the beginning of the year and ran a decent race when third at Haydock in a better race last time.