Bet365 Handicap Chase – Ascot 3.35 – Saturday 23rd March
On a weekend full of top quality horses taking their place across the UK & Ireland we just may have the biggest Cheltenham pointers and market shake ups that we have seen in quite a while. At Ascot, we have the showdown of Champion Chase hopefuls Un De Sceaux and Sire De Grugy, at Haydock we have the Champion Hurdle Trial with Peace & Co and The New One battling it out, and in Ireland on Sunday we have the hugely talented Douvan lining up for his canter around Punchestown. In addition to this there are still many great betting races to get stuck into and none more so than the big handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday. We take a closer look at the runners and riders…
Regal Encore – best priced 7-2 – Clearly talented but 7-2 can be left well alone.
I was really looking forward to this horse appearing over fences this season as I always thought he had the scope to make a better chaser than he did hurdler. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, as he was beaten comprehensively twice on his first two starts before falling at Kempton in a race that was won by Arkle-hopeful Vaniteux. He has since won at Plumpton where his jumping was better but I’m still not convinced he has shown what he is capable of. He was 2nd in the Cheltenham bumper in 2013 and rated 145 over hurdles so is clearly talented, but I’m not sure taking 7-2 about his chances is going to be helping your wallet in any way.
Royal Regatta – best priced 9-2 – No surprise to see him win and may be better on right-handed tracks but no value in 9-2
It was a great site to see this horse jump at Ascot last time out where he ran out a very easy (11 length) winner from Mala Beach. He soared over the majority of them and if he were to jump like that tomorrow off just a 4lb higher mark he would take some beating. However, on his penultimate start he was beaten 29L by Little Jon and 28L by Cold March on his appearance before that. This really sums this horse up; he can be so hit and miss a short price is never really worth taking on him as it’s never clear which horse will turn up. I have a feeling he is slightly better going right-handed which helps him tomorrow but although it’s clear he could potentially win, 9-2 isn’t down as value in my book.
Salubrious – best priced 5-1 – Potential SP favourite and has strong claims back down in trip
Salubrious bids to follow in stablemate Rebel Rebellion’s hoofprints by winning this race for Paul Nicholls off a similar weight. He has Regal Encore held on hurdles form (rated 3lb superior) and was very well punted last time out at Ascot over 3m where he just didn’t get the trip in that ground as he travelled well into the race. He has been dropped 2lb for that run and over a slightly shorter trip I think he could have his ideal race on Saturday. He has won 2 of his 3 chase starts including battling wins over Drum Valley and Masters Hill who are by no means lightweights in the handicap chasing game and Paul Nicholls may just hold the ace here as an unexposed chaser. A potential SP favourite and one I would be considering putting up.
Reve De Sivola – best priced 7-1 – Not a certain runner and not a race to suit, but potentially workable mark
An absolute warrior over hurdles that would be a very short priced favourite if over the smaller obstacles. My issue is that he just doesn’t have the same fluency over fences and 2m5f wouldn’t suit him either. However, he is potentially off a very workable mark in 139. He wasn’t beaten far on his last chase start off this mark (albeit that was in 2011) over 3m at Ascot in a Listed chase and if running to a similar level of form he wouldn’t be far off. You can guarantee he will give his all if indeed he does line up here tomorrow.
Cold March – best priced 9-1 – Highly rated challenger but not best jumper in the race
A price that looks tempting on the face of it; an in-form Venetia Williams runner in the Andrew Brooks colours. His form stacks up, too, with 3 wins and 4 places from 11 chase starts he has been very progressive which has seen him rise from 134 to 150 in the handicappers book. His jumping has never been too impressive, but he is always staying on at the finish and it is clear to see why Venetia has got him up in trip here as the slower pace may help improve his jumping and he should be staying on from the last no problem. It is interesting to see Aidan Coleman booked on this horse already despite a very good alternative below.
Bennys Mist – best priced 10-1 – If soft ground turns heavy he could defy a career high mark
This horse has a quite unbelievable record on heavy ground with 6 wins from 8 attempts with 5 of those coming over fences. He won brilliantly last time out at Aintree on soft ground when travelling with real power and jumping fluently throughout. For that he has been put up by the handicapper by 7lb to 145 and he has never ran off this high a mark before, which does hinder him. However, if the rain comes between now and 3.35 Saturday this horse will absolutely love those conditions and as we well know there is no better trainer than Venetia Williams when the mud is flying. 10-1 is a fantastic price if the ground is soft enough.
There are other contenders – Bernardelli is a very interesting runner and Nicky Richards first runner at Ascot in 5 years (!) but his strike rate at southern courses leaves a lot to be desired and that would convince me to stay elsewhere, and Tony Martin’s runner Living Next Door has had a run over hurdles in preparation for this but is up 17lb for his Paddy Power Chase win in 2014 and I’m not sure he can be involved off 147.
I could not resist a bet on Bennys Mist if the ground did come up heavy in Berkshire on Saturday as he has a fantastic record on that surface and is bang in form. I would also be tempted in Salubrious who fits the profile of a big handicap chase winner and I can’t leave him out especially considering he is a longer price than Regal Encore who is definitely opposable.
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