Nicky Henderson’s Altior puts his unbeaten 19-race jumps record on the line against Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname at Ascot on Saturday as the trainer steps his stable-star up in trip to an extended 2m 5f for the first time. For the majority of last season Altior (8/11 at BetVictor) gave the impression he was ready for the extra distance although he did show a propensity to jump out to the left at both Sandown and Ascot.
The exuberant Cyrname (5/4 at BetVictor) will ensure there is no hiding place at Ascot and Henderson will know if he has a King George (3/1 at BetVictor) or even Gold Cup horse on his hands after the weekend.
We have some tremendous cards today over both codes and we begin our preview at Chepstow where I hope to see a big run from Golden Sovereign (1.45) in the handicap hurdle over 3m. The selection finished second at Exeter on his reappearance on his first start over today’s trip and a 3lbs rise is unlikely to prevent him going close with amateur jockey Thomas Doggrell taking off a valuable 7lbs.
The form of Getaway Fred’s (2.20) second at Exeter on debut was given a boost when the winner – Hang In There – made all at Cheltenham in Grade 2 company over the weekend. That may not have been the strongest race for the grade ever seen at Cheltenham, but it suggested that winning pointer Getaway Fred must go close with that experience under his belt although this trip might be on the sharp side for the Colin Tizzard-trained runner.
My two against the field in the 3m Handicap Chase are Shaughnessy and Apollo Creed (2.50) with the each way vote going to the Evan Williams-trained seven-year-old. The selection ran much better than his finishing position would suggest when pulled up on his reappearance here having jumped well before the lack of a recent run took its toll. That was the gelding’s first run in 569 days and he has been dropped a couple of pounds for that effort.
At Warwick Flinck (2.40) drops back in trip a couple of furlongs having looked a non-stayer last time over 2m 5f. Richard Johnson is in the plate on the five-year-old who looks to have started life in handicaps off a very workable mark for Philip Hobbs.
The valuable Veterans’ Chase is a good race and the recent form figures of Wild West Wind (3.10) are FRUPP. Letters rather than numbers are hardly inspiring, but the selection has an excellent record fresh, has had a wind operation since he last run and is 3lbs lower than when scoring at Chepstow first time out in 2017. Tom George’s chasers have been running well of late and as long as the ground doesn’t dry out in the Midlands, he must go close.
In the opener at Hexham I am sweet on the chances of Monfass (12.50) for Rose Dobbin in the 2m handicap hurdle. The selection was out of sorts last term – as were many of the stable’s inmates – but ran a cracking race on his reappearance at Kelso last month. That run in the Borders was on good to soft ground – today’s heavy ground is not an issue.
There is another cracking card at Kempton and in the 2m Handicap I hope to see Infrastructure (6.40) make a winning all-weather debut for Martyn Meade. The selection finished third over this trip at York when last seen back in August on what was his first start at two miles. Rob Hornby will not want the race to become tactical and his draw in stall nine is less than ideal, but he is unexposed at this trip and open to significant improvement.
I will be disappointed if Purdey’s Gift (7.10) does not go very close in the mile-and-a-half handicap for Andrew Balding and David Probert. The selection scored narrowly but was well on top at the line at Wolverhampton last time from a very poor draw. The 3-year-old cannot afford to be slowly away this evening and would want a decent gallop, but I am convinced there is more to come from this son of Camelot.