Weather permitting Ascot and Haydock take centre stage this weekend with the feature race on the Ascot card being the 2m 1f Grade 1 Clarence House Stakes for which the Willie Mullins Un De Sceaux is set to go off the hot favourite if he runs. Meanwhile, at Haydock, we have the valuable Peter Marsh Handicap Chase as the highlight of the Lancashire tracks Saturday card.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to go through the weekend stats and big race trends but here are a few of my early thoughts on the Peter Marsh race and the Bet365 Class 2 handicap chase at Ascot over 2m 5f.
The bookies who have so far priced up the Bet365 Handicap Chase at Ascot have the hart fry trained Acting Lass the clear favourite for the race at a best priced 3/1 with Bet365. The 7-year-old made it 2 wins from 2 runs over fences when winning with a bit in hand at Leicester last week. The gelding steps up in class for this race but he’s lightly raced and is open to more improvement over fences and is a worthy market leader. Should he turn out he will be a tough nut crack.
Of the rest keep an eye on the Venetia Williams trained Tenor Nivernais. The 11-year-old has yet to run this season but he does like Ascot form figures of 4131. He’s won on heavy and he is 5 wins from 17 runs 8 placed on soft. Should he run he should be fit enough to do himself justice even after a 287-day break as he’s 2 wins from 6 runs 4 placed when racing 120+days since his last start. He might need a bit further than 2m 5f these days but 9/1 available at the time of writing with Sky Bet look decent each way value to me as this race could cut up before final declarations are out.
The Peter Marsh is a 3m 1 ½ f Grade 1 handicap chase. The Philip Hobbs trained Rock The Kasbah heads the ante-post market at a best priced 5/1 but he is unproven on what is likely to be heavy ground and may not even run.
Yala Enki and Vieux Lion Rouge are arguably the best two handicapped horses in the race on the best of their form. The former is becoming a bit frustrating but he is only 1lb higher than for his last win and he’s won around here and will appreciate the more testing ground he faces here than he got at Ascot on his last start.
Vieux Lion Rouge is another yet to hit form on his two starts this campaign but he’s 2 wins from 3 runs here so he likes the track and he is 5 wins from 6 runs on heavy. The 8-year-old is just 4lb higher than when decisively defeating Blaklion in the 3m 4f Grand National Trial here back in February.
The bold jumping Highland Lodge will make them all go here and he was good 3rd in the Becher Chase on his seasonal reappearance and he will still in with a chance coming to the last until weakening on the run in. He might prefer the ground less testing than is likely to be the case on Saturday but will have each way claims.
Forest Des Aigles has been well campaigned by his trainer Lucinda Russell to win his three starts this season. Last time out he made all to win at Bangor. The 7-year-old is up 8lb for that success but he loves heavy ground and he remains unexposed over 3m. This will be only he his second start at 3m+. He has an extra one & half furlongs further to go here but if he stays he won’t be far away at the finish.
The Dutchman may have his first start over fences for Colin Tizzard. The 8-year-old is a previous eyecatcher when running over hurdles here on his seasonal reappearance. He shouldn’t have any problem with the trip and he looks on a handy mark over fences based on his best form for previous trainer Sandy Thomson.
At this early stage and in what has the makings of a good race, I will be focusing on Vieux Lion Rouge, Yala Enki, The Dutchman and Highland Lodge for this.