Race Time: 3.35pm Meeting: Ascot Day: Saturday 19th December 2015 Full Race Name: The Ladbroke (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade Three) Class One
As mentioned pretty much every week, Channel Four have decided to end their Saturday races with just about the most competitive event of the day, and a really ought one to even attempt to call. The early favourite is the Alan King trained Winner Massagot (13/2), a winner last time out over course and distance and carrying twelve pounds more this afternoon. He did look to have a bit in hand that day and may well improve, but a big rise in the weights and a lack of experience in a race of this calibre is a concern, and we would be surprised if we cannot find a better value alternative by race time.
Our good friend Harry Fry is having yet another good season and he seems likely to be represented by Jolly’s Cracked It (13/2), who has been very well supported in the early betting markets. Noel Fehily has been booked to ride which is a positive, and the six year old has had a run around when third over this course and distance, beaten three quarters of a length and a nose by Nabucco and Unanimate, giving six pounds to both those who finished in front of him. Just a pound better off with the runner up it should be close between the pair but that was also his first run of the season and we expect that form to be reversed and quite easily too as he seems sure to strip fitter for the run.
The Irish are coming as you would expect in a race of this value, and as Gordon Elliott has won two of the last three renewals we can all see why Vercingetorix (33/1) sits perhaps a little higher in the betting than his form suggests. A run of four consecutive second places came to an end last time out when he was ninth of fifteen to Blue Hell at Fairyhouse, though he may well have been using that as a warm up effort after four months off with this contest the main target. His consistent form does leave him rather exposed to the handicapper’s attentions and 135 today seems over the top from our reading of the form, with his trainers record the only reason we can see to mention him today.
Bidourey (33/1) is a horse who had an awful lot of talent that needs to be reawakened this season and if he is at the top of his game this race is certainly within his abilities. After winning his first five races up to novice company he has struggled since being forced out to take on the big boys with a pulled up at Sandown last march and a twenty length twelfth of seventeen to Old Guard at Cheltenham on his return last month. He raced at level weights that day, and as the winner has gone on to take the International back at Cheltenham when rated 157, and we expect that mark to go up further, it may not be as poor a run as it looks at first glance. . Sure to improve for his first run in eight months, if he gets back to his old ways then he arrives here with a decent chance with his last conqueror very much on target for the Champion Hurdle, and at a price could yet be an option for the each way thieves.
Lastly for today and although Willie Mullins is playing his usual mind games with more than one entry we will be surprised if it isn’t Noble Inn (20/1) who is the number one pick for the County Carlow yard. He has each way written all over him after just the eight races over hurdles that have reaped the rewards of two wins three seconds and a third, and after hacking up at Clonmel last time out, he has been put up twelve pounds but looked to have had a lot more than that in hand, and if he runs as well again on the day he will be a sorely tempting each way option and one we have decided to go with.