We’re betting on the flat and the jumps across both Friday and Saturday this week with five good value selections.
Friday 18th December 2020
2.30 Ascot (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – NO ORDINARY JOE
No matter your fancy in this race you will always be taking some sort of a chance given the obvious inexperience of the bunch as hurdlers.
That said, as the field look so close on known evidence it presents us with some fair odds and on that basis, I’m happy to take 3/1 and potentially bigger about Nicky Henderson’s No Ordinary Joe.
Henderson doesn’t need to run this horse here. Only a bumper winner, he could easily have been afforded another opportunity without obstacles or been sent to a small race over timber to gain confidence and experience but in sending him straight to a Grade 2 the trainer is letting us know the quality of the horse.
While his expected form, and it is just that, ranks at a very similar level to main rivals (at the weights) Llandinabo Lad and My Drogo, what he did in his bumper is superior to what they managed and it could yet be that he is simply a class above them.
3.05 Ascot (Noel Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – FIDDLERONTHEROOF
Another Grade 2 here for the inexperienced types, this time over fences. Henderson’s Allart goes into the ‘could be anything’ category and Paul Nicholls’ Pic D’Orhy has obvious qualities, though he has failed to finish in two of his three chases to date including when trained in France.
The rock-solid one in the line-up is Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof. Over hurdles he was at his best at Sandown on soft ground, something that bodes well for this contest, and he was sent off at only 6/1 to beat Shiskin at Grade One level at the Festival.
Over fences he’s been beaten twice in three-runner fields while still putting in performances that would see him be a genuine favourite for this race, and in between won at Exeter from the front. He has far more to give yet and in these racing conditions we should see a new career high and that would be enough.
6.45 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – EXALTED ANGEL
We nip over to Wolverhampton’s decent all-weather card on the flat on Friday night for this one, where the winner of this contest will probably be described as pretty decent.
Many will expect that winner to be improving three-year-old Lampang and Tim Easterby’s runner does have great qualities. The King Power horse is dropping to five having only been run out of a Listed race over six at Lingfield by a bang in-form type, and on all known evidence he should put in a solid display on the Tapeta.
Karl Burke’s Exalted Angel however is even more fascinating. A proper five-furlong horse, he won at Southwell in October before being sent off favourite for a decent Class 3 event on Newcastle’s Tapeta track.
Blocked in his run a couple of times, he didn’t quite get past Venturous that day, who reopposes here, but we can mark up his run and he has plenty of improvement left to come by the looks of it. He gets the vote, while Lord Riddiford is also worth a mention.
Saturday 19th December 2020
2.00 Lingfield (Quebec Stakes – Listed Race) – DUBAI WARRIOR
We’re back on the all-weather to kick off our Saturday tips and this time on a track that favours more speed.
There are a few subplots here. It’ll be interesting to see who is considered to be King Power’s first choice given the level that Bangkok has reached over this track and trip – he was sent off favourite for the Group 3 Winter Derby last season – while Johnny Drama is now 4 from 4 on the all-weather.
Johnny Drama although unbeaten has done his winning over further distances at Kempton and Southwell, making this race look very different. Bangkok finished the turf season a little underwhelmingly despite being highly tried at Group 1 level but they both have it to do in what is a strong Listed race.
Tying in with Bangkok is Dubai Warrior, 6/7 on the all-weather and three times a course and distance winner including when defeating his old pal in the Winter Derby.
We have to decide whether we believe that Dubai Warrior is simply a better horse than Bangkok or not. That Winter Derby performance was gained via an inspired ride from Frankie Dettori but was achieved fair and square and we can’t lose sight of the fact that the four-year-old is very much still improving.
Always seen as a potential Group 1 horse, he is solid in these conditions and at the very least it is hard to see him not running a race that would ordinarily see him win a typical Group 3 or above.
Lastly, it’ll be more than a little interesting to watch the return of Sir Michael Stoute’s Sangarius. Another seen as top-class, he has had his problems but is back after a break and should go well. He may need this run and would perhaps prefer a different surface, but his presence here helps the look of what is a high-quality event.
2.25 Ascot (Long Walk Hurdle – Grade 1) – THYME HILL
Thyme Hill and Paisley Park have proven to be tough to split in the market this week after their ding-dong battle at Newbury three weeks ago.
There is little doubt that on his very best form of a couple of years ago Paisley Park would prove too good, but he hasn’t shown that level for quite a while despite his recent performance and it seems the younger Thyme Hill is taking over in the staying division now.
Always considered to be the best staying novice last season, had he not been blocked at crucial times he would have proven it in the Albert Bartlett so putting that form together with his comeback Long Distance Hurdle win it seems he is the one to be on.
Roksana will challenge for a place, as may the returning Thistlecrack at a big price.