Race Time: 2.15pm Meeting: Ascot Day: Saturday 31st October
Distance: 2m 192yds Full Race Name: Byrne Group Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
The likeable Venetia Williams has won this race twice in the last ten years so she was the logical place to start, and we liked what we saw. Our tip for this Listed race is Cold March who has some consistent placed and winning form all the way up to Cheltenham last March when pulled up at the Festival. Yet another of the numerous French imports circulating the scene this weekend, he is still relatively young at the age of five, and it may well have taken a while for him to settle in to his new surroundings so there is every reason to believe he could be even better this year, in which case there is every possibility he is well handicapped off his current mark of 140. He’s been installed at a big price by the bookies but gets the expertise of Aidan Coleman who is +£14 to £1 stakes on his chase rides at Ascot in the last 5 seasons.
Poor old Royal Regatta carries top weight for Philip Hobbs who has also doubled up with race wins in the last decade, but eleven stone twelve does look a big ask despite his overall form. Wins at Newbury and Doncaster plus places at Newbury and here at Ascot show he is both adaptable and talented, but we don’t honestly see him as well handicapped despite his powerful connections and would be more than a touch surprised were he to carry it off on Saturday afternoon with Tom O’Brien booked to ride.
Ignoring Paul Nicholls is never a good idea and he looks likely to send Ulck Du Lin here. We know how much he thinks of the seven year old even if he is yet to live up to top billing, although he does feel the need to book a 7lb claimer in Harry Cobden which lends a note to what he thinks about his weight of elevent stone six. A lively and exuberant front runner, when he gets his act together he can be very difficult to stop, but he is inclined to make one or more jumping errors in a race, and is not one to be backed by the faint hearted for that very reason – though if they have ironed out his jumping issues in the schooling grounds (which we doubt is even possible), then would most certainly take all the catching around here.
Bullet Street is relatively unexposed and dropped down the handicap last season with some uninspiring performances for trainer Evan Williams, but did precious little wrong on his seasonal return at Ludlow with a comfortable victory which has seen him put up a sensible seven pounds, and he is another to think about with a fitness boost that will see him in a good light here. Currently 10/1, he’s one of three horses coming here off the back of a win (Ulck Du Lin and Sgt Reckless being the other two) but he’s never managed to win a Class 2 let alone a Class 1 and this company should find him out.
Finally, a shout to Sgt Reckless, named after an American war horse who was promoted to Staff Sergeant and had a favourite hobby (apparently) of “drinking beer with her Marines”. Given he’s 5/1 favourite his supporters will be hoping he’s not following suit; he comes here off a poor 5th at Yarmouth on the flat and this is his first competitive race he really has a chance in since a year ago, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares. He’s still lightly raced, winning 2 of his 3 chase starts, but he’s been run over everything from hurdles to the All Weather and that puts us off.