Friday, 3rd November 2017
Ascot delivers a nice early-season card tomorrow – with three decent handicaps offering plenty of betting opportunities for value seekers....
Jumping is the winter game but the ground at Ascot this early in proceedings is rarely ideal for proper winter horses. And that’s the case again this time around with underfoot conditions at the track described this morning as good (good to firm in places).
Horses that need to get their toe in to shine at their brightest will probably find more suitable days and assignments in the weeks and months to come....
There’s plenty of market buzz about the chances of Dark Flame in tomorrow’s Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.35).
Richard Rowe’s charge brings form lines into the race that suggest he’s a well-handicapped horse on tomorrow’s mark of 133.
But the market is onto him. The firms have been seeing money for him this week. And it is not the role of this column to side with what the market fancies. The job here is to find the horse the market is overlooking....
Nigel Twiston-Davies won the two big handicap chase events at Cheltenham last Saturday and he can make it a hat-trick tomorrow with BALLYKAN who is handily priced at 16s.
Unlike quite a few in tomorrow’s 18-runner field, he’s had the benefit of a seasonal run. He was 3rd at Chepstow – beaten 5.75 lengths – in a handicap last month.
He was keen early doors but at one point in the straight he was going better than anything. That run will have served to remove some of the fizz and he should strip fitter for it.
He’s been declared without the cheekpieces for the first time in over a year too. That might be considered a positive or a negative. But the key thing is the horse is down to his last winning mark of 141 and with Jamie Bargary taking off 3lbs, the 7yo has every chance of running a big race at a nice price.
The William Hill Handicap Hurdle takes place a little earlier on the card (3.00).
Jenkins is the market horse for this one. He has a big reputation – having been a fancy for last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle at the Festival before the wheels came off and his big spring targets scrubbed after a short-price defeat at Kempton on Boxing Day.
He’s priced up on promise rather than achievement and backers are taking a risk at the prices that he’s going to deliver on last season’s promise first-time-up this term....
Handicaps are generally more competitive than the prices would have you believe and I’m happy to oppose him. And I want to be two against the field....
First-up is LIMITED RESERVE at 14s generally. He’s improved markedly since Christian Williams took over the training licence from Paul Morgan back in April.
The 5yo has been tried in a sequence of decent handicap races across the summer and he has been far from disgraced. He didn’t manage to win any of those races – but he went close and he’s suffered a bit of misfortune along the way.
He lost a shoe when 2nd in a good race at Haydock And, he found just one too good – beaten a neck – at Newton Abbot in June when he was backed. He was given a break then before running another decent race at Market Rasen in September.
The upside is that he remains on a mark of just 123 and I believe he’ll prove better than that. The way he’s been campaigned says something about how well thought-of he is. He should be capable off tomorrow’s mark. It is his toughest assignment yet – but he can go well.
The other one I want to chance is SONG LIGHT at 20s with bet365 and 14s generally. I’ve been over and over this one in my mind – mainly because this horse is one where soft ground is considered necessary for him to be at his best.
But he has run and produced decent performances on better surfaces and I like this horse in a big field. He’s produced some cracking performances in valuable handicaps off similar marks to the 132 he runs off tomorrow and tomorrow’s contest should suit him perfectly.
I’m also mindful that he will be showing up fit and in good-heart after sluicing up at Goodwood on the flat last month – under tomorrow’s jockey.
And I’m also fascinated that Seamus Mullins has chosen tomorrow to apply first-time blinkers. It suggests to me that the horse is a live one they’re looking to squeeze a bit more juice out of.
I’m going to take it on trust that connections are happy enough with the Ascot ground. At the price, there’s enough to like to tempt me in.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.35 @ Ascot)....
In the William Hill Handicap Hurdle (3.00 @ Ascot)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
That’s all from me for now.
I’ll be back in your inbox a little later today with ATC Extra....
Until then. Stay tuned.