This Saturday sees the important Grade One Clarence House Chase take place, a race in which Defi Du Seuil can make use of the extra stamina requirement that the 2m1f trip and heavy ground around Ascot will bring, despite his tendency to idle, but at odds-on he’s not really a reliable betting proposition.
The bad ground has scuppered a few plans to be truthful, but despite that we still have one bet from there along with the best picks from Haydock, Lingfield and Taunton.
1.00 Lingfield (Handicap) – CREATIONIST
We begin on the flat and this interesting mile-and-a-half Class 2 handicap. The best race to use as a form guide is the race recently contested by Original Choice and Furzig over the course and distance in late January, one in which the latter came with a good run to beat the former under hands and heels by a neck.
It’s once again very difficult to separate those to at the new weights and they should both show up well, but all things considered the one to be on at the prices is Roger Charlton’s four-year-old likely improver Creationist.
Finishing his three-year-old season with a decent runner-up effort over 1m3f at Kempton, he was sent too far over 1m6f at Chelmsford before going right back to a mile-and-a-quarter around here in January and while he has acquitted himself well each time, only today does he go over his best distance.
He can find a few pounds more than the others to prove to be the best handicapped horse in the race under jockey Adam McNamara.
2.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – ELECTRIC LADYLAND
It goes without saying that on this surface genuine pace counts for a hell of a lot and that’s one thing among other talents that selection Electric Ladyland possesses.
Trained by Archie Watson, this filly hasn’t been beyond five furlongs yet but she certainly runs as though the trip is within her compass. Having had a busy season, she finished off the year by running second in a novice stakes at Wolverhampton where the surface wasn’t ideal before scooting home to land a similar event at Chelmsford in September.
She goes well fresh as her debut win will attest to, can bounce out and run them ragged if settling OK and appears well-in given that her mark of 88 doesn’t look to be her true level on this, her belated handicap debut.
There’s little to choose in behind between the likes of Little Brown Trout, Zulu Zander and Taste The Nectar but if all goes well they’ll be running for place money anyway.
2.50 Taunton (Portman Cup Chase) – VALTOR
Although five-year-olds and over are allowed to enter into this intriguing £50,000 chase, this year it really does have a rather Dad’s Army feel about it with all the main contenders aged ten or older.
While in theory we should see a big run from the 150-rated Rock The Kasbah, Philip Hobbs’ gelding who retains his ability having run a close second to Cogry last time at Cheltenham, a browse through his form shows that given the effort needed for a run like that he doesn’t always put in two in a row and with age now not on his side, he may well flounder.
It probably comes down to Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki and Nicky Henderson’s Valtor. The former ran third in the Welsh Grand National for the second year in a row which is form that entitles him to win this race, but perhaps not surprisingly he was not as good after that effort last year and the same thing may happen now.
Valtor came to this country from France with a big reputation and lived up to it with a taking success in the Silver Cup at Ascot just over a year ago and, though he hasn’t hit those heights since, his time will come despite him now being 11.
He’s won over hurdles this season and only needs to be within a few pounds of where he was that day at Ascot to potentially win this, so given he’s a bigger price than Yala Enki he’s worth a few quid.
3.00 Ascot (Handicap Chase) – SAM’S ADVENTURE
Domaine De L’Isle has won his last two and should go well once again, though it appeared that he relished the three-mile trip at Newcastle and may want a little further than this 2m5f today.
Venetia Williams’ Espoir De Guye is a fair favourite after himself winning two on the bounce now including on heavy ground, but at the odds the most interesting contender is Brian Ellison’s Sam’s Adventure and he gets the nod.
Second behind Domaine De L’Isle last time at Newcastle, it seems that trip hasn’t been helping him with today’s distance much more suitable and he also has an 8lb pull from that contest.
It’s interesting to note too that Ellison, who has a busy day at Haydock, has sent only this horse all the way to Berkshire so given that he’s one with an improving profile overall and who could arguably be better at this trip, his price is simply too large.
3.15 Haydock (Champion Hurdle Trial – Grade 2) – DARASSO
Time will tell whether or not this race can be genuinely seen as a true Champion Hurdle trial, but one thing’s for sure there is an overpriced runner in it this year in the shape of Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso.
Going over fences when last seen the best part of a year ago, Darasso had already managed to reach a mark in the mid-150’s over hurdles before trying that route and so we know he has class and should be a better horse now as a seven-year-old with 13 races under his belt.
If he runs to the level his profile suggests then he should be too good here for Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad, Ballyandy and the frankly overrated (at these odds) Pentland Hills.
In terms of how confident we can second guess connections to be; O’Brien will have had plenty of options for him in Ireland while owner JP McManus does not need to spend the money to bring a horse over to attempt to win a prize, he has plenty in England at his disposal so a big run looks to be on the cards.