Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow at Ascot and Uttoxeter. View selections below
Soft ground is the order of the day for Ascot’s two-day Long Walk Hurdle meeting and Friday’s card begins with a fascinating 2m 6f Maiden Hurdle; Nicky Henderson saddled the winner of this race two years ago with Hadrian’s Approach who did us a favour at Newbury earlier in the week and the Lambourn trainer saddles three of the 10-runners this afternoon including Royal Boy who reverts to timber having ran appallingly over fences at Kempton on his comeback.
Runner up to Melodic Rendezvous on his first start over timber and, subsequently, third in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle he has never been the most fluent at his hurdles and is overlooked in favour of Tara Road (1.00) with McCoy in the saddle. The selection won his sole point in Ireland and landed a Chepstow Bumper last time suggesting that stamina was his forte; this is a big weekend for the yard with At Fishers Cross 11/10 at BetVictor for Saturday’s feature Long Walk Hurdle and they are taken to get the weekend off to an excellent start.
Getting Ready (1.30) has the scope for fences and any horse representing the yard of Nigel Twiston-Davies after a break is worth more than a passing glance. A winner of a soft ground maiden hurdle for Nicky Richards almost two years ago he, subsequently, lost his way and has his first start for NTD this afternoon. If the market speaks in his favour I suggest we take the hint.
The first of two Grade 2 races is the Novice Hurdle over the minimum trip and it is an excellent renewal with five of the six runners’ last time out winners including Volnay De Thaix who has won both starts for Nicky Henderson since making the switch from his native France. He may be able to cope with underfoot conditions better than another French import Irving in what looks another Henderson v Nicholls battle.
It is interesting that Paul Nicholls puts Mr Mole in against Fox Appeal (2.35) given the latter has already been chinned by two exciting chasing recruits from the Nicholls yard (Wonderful Charm and Black Thunder) but I think the Emma Lavelle-trained runner is the one to be with despite dropping back in trip. Mr Mole looked very good when picking up the much-vaunted Vukovar at Warwick but he has to prove his stamina and may have to do everything on the bridle. He is very talented but I hope Fox Appeal can put it up to him.
I think the mare Joanne One (3.10) could have been let in lightly from a mark of 120 for her handicap debut for the excellent Jamie Snowden; a winner of four of her six career starts this is her stiffest test yet over hurdles but she may have got in lightly and looked to be going the right way when scoring at Exeter last time. Alborobello might be the pick of the Jeremy Scott-trained pair in a very competitive contest.
At Uttoxeter Cyrien Star has been raised 13lbs for last Friday’s Bangor success but he runs with just a 7lb penalty today which is offset by jockey Jack Sherwood’s 7lb claim; Henry Daly’s horses continue to run well and he looks to have every chance of landing the four-timer.
The winning Irish point-to-pointer Wuff (12.50) was subsequently bought for £120,000 and he made an excellent start for his new yard when runner up in a hot Haydock Bumper last month; he is an exciting recruit for Tom George and connections will be disappointed if they didn’t make a winning start over hurdles.
Black Is Beautiful (2.55) is entitled to come on for his reappearance and Chase debut and he can race off a mark 8lbs lower; I think the handicapper has taken a chance and expect him to leave that form behind for the stable of Richard Lee with Ian Popham a significant booking.