2.30pm Ascot – Leo Bancroft Signature Haircare Handicap Class Three – 1m 4f
A tight looking handicap over a mile and a half sees the top nine horses at the declaration stage covered by just the four pounds, and with fitness at a premium this could be very informative for the rest of the season and well worth watching. Only the five previous runnings to go on but four and five year olds have won 100% so far, leaving our selection
Our last option here will be the Henry Candy trained Perestroika (9/1 Each Way), who has the excellent Hector Crouch taking a very useful five pounds off his back, which brings him in to the equation. Top jockey Olivier Peslier did not have his finest moment on board the then three-year-old in the Shergar Cup when finishing fast and late in to second over course and distance last August when giving him far too much to do, but given a better ride this afternoon even an extra four pounds (before his jockey’s claim) may not be enough to stop him going mighty close and we are more than happy to back him accordingly.
Top weight Duretto (10/1) is also in the best age group as things stand (though statistics are there to be broken) but is possibly weighted out of things. The four-year-old is the one and only course and distance winner in the field, not once but twice, and we all know just how skilled Andrew Balding is at improving late maturing sorts as they get older. After seeing off Magical Thomas by three lengths last July off a rating of 78 he dead heated with favourite Wonder Laish in September off of seven pounds higher before rounding off last season with a fourth at Newmarket off of 92 which is the same mark as he suffers from this afternoon. He will need to improve again to shrug off the weight rise, but that is a distinct possibility with another winter on his back, and he is well worth a place on the short list.
Trainer Nicky Henderson may be better known for his exploits over the jumps but is more than capable given the right horse of winning this sort of race, and Sign Of A Victory (11/4) leaps off the page as a good example. Two bumper wins and three over hurdles isn’t a bad record regardless, while his recent efforts behind the likes of Faugheen and Annie Power are out of the top drawer over hurdles, while his flat form of a Wolverhampton maiden win is why he only carries a mark of 88 under Jamie Spencer today, and that looks a possible winning weight to us at the time of writing.
Classic Villager (10/1) is another four-year-old who had a superb season in 2015, racking up wins at Lingfield, Thirsk, and Catterick, and creeping up the weights accordingly. Trained by the excellent Michael Appleby, he was third to Carnachy off his current mark on his final run last season, so his supporters need to decide if he has too much weight – or was tired after a long if successful season. He may need to come down a few pounds before he wins again, or he may improve again with age, either way he still has place chances at the minimum even if we do feel the win may be just about beyond his abilities.
William Haggas is responsible for Forever Popular (10/1) who will live up to her name for the many punters who blindly follow the Newmarket stable. She is certainly lightly raced with just the four career starts and therefore open to any amount of improvement as she matures and gains experience. Her maiden second to the very useful Gretchen makes good reading as the winner has gone on to score at Group Two level, after which she took her first and only race to date at Chepstow over this mile and a half trip before rounding off with a fifth to Asyad here at Ascot. The winner that day was last seen off a rating of 103 which would suggest the Haggas filly should be rated about 90 but she gets in today off of 82 and has to be thought of as well handicapped.
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