Horse Racing

Betfair Ascot Chase Preview

Betfair Ascot Chase 15.35 Ascot
2m 5f 8yds (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

This weekend the ITV4 cameras will be at Haydock and Ascot, and the big race of the day is the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase. The ground is currently described as soft with no rain forecast. The winner will take home a cool £85k, and Cue Card is a very warm order to repeat his 2013 success in this event. However, his presence has resulted in a disappointingly small field, and only 6 runners will go to post.

This race has proved to be a very happy hunting ground for favourite backers in recent years, with 8 of the last 10 jollies obliging. The biggest priced winner since 2007 was Monet’s Garden, who scored at 11/2 in 2010. Paul Nicholls won it for the third time last season with Silviniaco Conti, but he has no entry this season. Below you can read my thoughts on what should be an exciting race.

CUE CARD

Colin Tizzard/Paddy Brennan

Odds: 4/9 Ladbrokes

Age has shown no signs of slowing down this grand old 11yo son of King’s Theatre, and he has already won a Grade 1 this season. He looked as good as ever when hacking up in the Betfair Chase (24f hvy), and he last no caste in defeat behind Thistlecrack in the King George at Xmas. He has been a real superstar for Colin Tizzard and Paddy Brennan, wining a Champion Bumper and seven Grade 1 Chases during a stellar career.

However, all his recent form is over 24f plus, and he hasn’t tasted victory over this short since winning the Ryanair at Cheltenham back in 2013. His form figures for his last 4 runs at trips less than 24f read 2432, although he was beaten by some serious horses in those races. He is rated 170, so he is very well treated by the conditions of the race, and he will most likely be heading for the Gold Cup after this. However, given that this race is a stepping stone and considering his recent form at the trip, he could be vulnerable at odds of 4/9 with Ladbrokes.

IRISH CAVALIER

Rebecca Curtis/Jonathon Moore

Odds: 25/1 Boylesports

This 8yo son of Aussie Rules announced his arrival on the big stage back in November when taking the scalps of Cue Card and Menorah in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby (24f gd). He had previously come up well short on his previous tries in Graded company, but that win at Wetherby proved that he is worth his place at this level.

The one big worry for Rebecca Curtis will be the current ground conditions at Ascot. It is currently described as soft, and Irish Cavalier’s best form has come when there has been good in the ground description. The more it dries out, the better, as far as this fella is concerned and the forecast is positive in that regard. However, he jumped very poorly last time behind Many Clouds and, on the back of that run, odds of 25/1 with Boylesports look just about right.

ROYAL REGATTA

Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson

Odds: 7/1 BetVictor

This 9yo son of King’s Theatre is a dual course and distance winner, and he earned his first graded win by landing the Grade 2 Stella Artois Chase here back in November (21f gd/sft). He has won on ground ranging from good to soft, and drying ground will be no problem for him on Saturday. This fella likes to get on with things out in front, and he could be dangerous if he gets an easy lead.

Dickie Johnson has been on board for 5 of his 6 wins, including his impressive win here last season when beating the highly rated Mala Beach by 11L. He will ride him aggressively, and there are few better pilots at taking the bull by the horns. The small field will suit, this is his optimum trip and he could make a very bold bid from the front at odds of 7/1 with BetVictor.

SHANTOU FLYER

Rebecca Curtis/Adam Wedge

Odds: 20/1 Paddy Power

The second entry from the Rebecca Curtis yard will be ridden by Adam Wedge. Shantou Flyer arrives here on the back of a poor effort at Cheltenham (21f soft) in a Grade 3 handicap chase off 156. He had previously won a similar race at the same track off 149, and his biggest win came in a Grade 2 at Punchestown back in 2015 when trained by Colin Bowe.

All ground comes alike to this 7yo son of Shantou, but he does seem to be at his very best in testing conditions. He may not have the necessary class to compete at the highest level, and he finished well beaten on both previous runs in Grade 1 company. His odds of 20/1 with Paddy Power look about right, and he is overlooked on this occasion.

TAQUIN DU SEUIL

Jonjo O’Neill/Aidan Coleman

Odds: 8/1 Bet365

Taquin Du Seuil is a 10yo son of Voix Du Nord and he has been a grand servant to connections. He has won 6 of his 16 starts over fences, his biggest victory coming in the Grade 1 JLT Chase at the festival back in 2014. He is also a Grade 1 winning hurdler, and he is the second highest rated in the field with a mark of 161.

He has won on all sorts of ground, but he is probably at his best on a decent surface. He is most effective at around 20f, so the trip on Saturday will be no issue. Aidan Coleman, on board for his last win, keeps the ride and Jonjo has his string in fine fettle. He looks a potential danger to the favourite, and he could sneak a place at least at odds of 8/1 with Bet365.

TRAFFIC FLUIDE

Gary Moore/Jamie Moore

Odds: 20/1 Boylesports

This 7yo son of Astarabad returned from a long layoff with a superb effort here last month behind Un De Sceaux (17f soft). He was beaten just 5L in third, and he only failed by a short head to snatch second from Sire De Grugy. He was sent off at just 8/1 in the Game Spirit Chase last weekend, but he ran an absolute stinker behind Altior.

The jury is out after that performance, but the dreaded bounce factor could have been a reason for the poor showing. He must have shown Moore something during the week for him to be taking his chance just a week after Newbury, and if he can get back to the form of his penultimate run he could be a big danger. The step up in trip and return to Ascot are positives, and he could outrun his odds of 20/1 with Boylesports.

CONCLUSION

This race revolves around Cue Card, and if the ratings are correct he should run out a comfortable winner. However, the drop in trip is not sure to suit the 11yo, and I wouldn’t be steaming into him at odds of just 4/9. The two Rebecca Curtis entries could be out of their depth, and it is hard to see either of those horses figuring.

Royal Regatta looks an intriguing contender at odds of 7/1 for Hobbs and Johnson. He boasts form figures of 1231 over course and distance and, if he is allowed to dictate the tempo, he could be hard to peg back. Traffic Fluide could be suited by the step up in trip, but it is impossible to be confident after last week. Taquin Du Seuil can run his usual solid race, but all roads lead to Cheltenham for him, and minor money is probably his best hope.

VERDICT: 1. ROYAL REGATTA 2. CUE CARD  3. TAQUIN DU SEUIL

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