3.00pm Ascot Tips & Betting Preview 18/02/2017

Two favourites and a joint favourite in the last ten renewals of this contest is a positive for the punters though a weight range in the same period of nine stone ten at the bottom all the way up to eleven stone twelve last year (Different Gravey for Nicky Henderson) tells us little while Dr Richard Newland is the only trainer to win this more than one in the last decade – and he doesn’t even have a runner this season. The betting is still settling down but after a highly successful weekend on television last week, it is no great surprise to see Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Templeross (9/2) at the top of the pile. Just the five runs over hurdles have seen two wins at Newton Abbot and Ffos Las over two miles five and a half furlongs and three miles respectively, while last time out he ran a blinder to finish second to Modus at Kempton in the Class One Listed Lanzarote hurdle last month beaten just two and three quarter lengths at the line. That is top class form is the context of this race and he runs off the dame rating now, but he did look once paced that day and may be better over further than this trip and at the prices others do seem to appeal slightly more.

Those with encyclopaedic film knowledge will link the name Doesyourdogbite (8/1 Each-Way) to the Pink Panther films but regardless of that fact the Jonjo O’Neill trained five-year-old has form chances here after ratting up three wins in a row from October to December at Market Rasen, Hereford, And Kempton. Last time out they stepped him up to the Lanzarote Hurdle back at Kempton where he finished an eleven and a half length sixth to Modus and close to nine lengths behind Templeross who he meets on three pounds better terms here which will clearly bring them a lot closer together. He stayed on strongly that day over two miles five and will need to be kept nearer to the pace this afternoon but is clearly a rapidly improving sort and granted a clear round he should make the frame at the very least and looks to be overpriced in the circumstances and well worth a bet.

Harry Fry continues to roll on as always with a lower than normal 11% strike rate in the last fourteen days but that won’t bother him one iota and nor will it stop Air Horse One (13/2) looking to land his hat trick. After winning his maiden hurdle by six lengths at Exeter over two miles and a furlong he stepped up to two miles three at Taunton off a handicap mark four pounds higher before winning again, this time by two and a half lengths pushed out by jockey Noel Fehily. Left on the same rating now his trainer was quoted as saying “Air Horse One is now qualified for the EBF Hurdle Final at Sandown in six weeks or so time. He is settling a lot better in his races now and that is the key to him”, and although that plan appears to have been bypassed for this valuable handicap instead, at least it is on record as to just why he has suddenly found the necessary improvement, and given every reason to suspect that he may well be able to improve even further.

There are plenty of intriguing options elsewhere in this large field and perhaps none more so than the Nicky Henderson trained Oscar Hoof (14/1) who could well have his first outing since falling in the Mersey Novices’ hurdle at Aintree in April 2014. Clearly he has had his issues to be off for such a long period but his stable can do very little wrong with a ludicrous 42% winning strike rate in the last two weeks, who is to say they cannot bring him back to his best this afternoon. Talked up as a future chaser when all was well it would be a surprise to see him reintroduced in a race such as this when he may be rushed off his feet early on in this race but if they feel this is his way forward and run him here, then he could yet surprise a few and could still be a horse with a very bright future.

Lastly, and Alan King had River Frost entered to run here but now relies on Ordo Ab Chao (14/1) instead which is, at the very least of interest. Now an eight-year-old, he hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since pulling up behind none other than Thistlecrack at Aintree in April 2015, though he was weakening at the time. Dropped back to a more suitable trip this afternoon, if he had been seen more recently his better form would see him a lot higher up in the early betting but after such a long lay-off of twenty-two months, a watching brief may be the sensible move with this one as other targets for the rest of the season slowly unfold.

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