Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card and previews the action with six tips on Saturday from Ascot and Wetherby. View selections below
The big betting race of the weekend is the Ladbroke Handicap from Ascot and it promises to be a real slog in the ground; Nicky Henderson who has saddled two of the last three winners has three in the race this year and stable jockey Barry Geraghty rides Cash And Go which is a slight cause for concern, but the selection is Lyvius (3.10) who made a winning reappearance at Newbury in the Gerry Fielden last time. The selection has been raised 8lbs for that effort but leading conditional Jeremiah McGrath takes off 5lbs and he can reward each way support at 8/1 at BetVictor(1/4 odds first 4).
Ranjaan was a bit of a talking horse last year for Paul Nicholls last season and it may be significant that both wins came on right-handed tracks; he doesn’t look particularly well-treated on his juvenile form but everything that the yard runs in these big handicaps are respected and he must run well.
Hold On Julio (2.35) looks a thorough stayer, was a good fifth in the Hennessy last time and can return to winning ways in the 3m Handicap Chase for Alan King; both wins last season were gained on right-handed tracks and the suggestion is he might appreciate the switch to Ascot. Hey Big Spender is suggested as the alternative and his supporters (and those of Cue Card) will be pleased to see Colin Tizzard back in the winner’s enclosure at Newbury midweek.
Ulck Du Lin did us a favour on Hennessy day but has been raised 10lbs for that success and there are bits of pieces of form which suggest Vino Griego (3.40), still a maiden over fences, is well-handicapped; both the selection’s career successes have been over 2m on heavy ground and I will give him one last chance although the Nicholls’ runner could easily maintain his upward curve.
The Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle is normally a procession for Big Buck’s, given he has won the last three renewals, but injury prevents his quest for a four-timer and it looks a very weak renewal as a result; had someone told me back in the summer that Trustan Times (2.00) would win the Long Walk Hurdle I would have laughed in their face but he carried a big weight to success in a very competitive handicap at Haydock last time over 3 miles and is open to further improvement at this trip.
We all need to pick a winner or two over Xmas period and I believe connections of Long Run will make plenty of use of the former winner of the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day; there are stamina doubts about many of his market rivals and his yard were quick to point out that he was in need of the run when behind Silviniaco Conti at Haydock on his reappearance.
A repeat of that run may be good enough and if he runs as well as he did last year in this event when beaten a length and a quarter by Kauto Star that must surely be good enough.
At Wetherby look out for See What Happens in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase; a winner on heavy ground he jumped well on his chase debut and looks as if he has been laid out for the race.