West is Key at Ascot
1.20 ASCOT: CHAMPAGNE BOLLINGER NOVICES´ LIMITED HANDICAP CHASE
Unfortunately small fields seem to be the name of the game at Ascot today. This 2m 1f handicap chase is no different, with just five runners set to go to post. Despite the lack of number,s it still promises to be a decent contest where the hat-trick seeking Dance Floor King will be the one they all have to beat.
Nick Mitchell’s charge is improving all the time and remains unbeaten over fences after following up his victory at Towcester with another victory at Wincanton, a race that has worked out pretty well in the main. He does find himself 13lbs higher at this stage, however, so I wouldn’t be rushing in at a general price of 5/2.
Top weight Garrahalish also finds himself pretty high in the weights but is now two from three over fences and must be respected. The worrying thing is that his two performances at this track to date have been pretty poor and it will not be easy to give weight away to some talented rivals today.
One of those talented rivals is David Dennis’ Key To The West and I fancy him to go very close again today under Gavin Sheehan. He gets in here under a 7lb penalty for a bloodless 9 length victory at Uttoxeter on just his third start over fences. A drop in trip and a change to front running tactics brought about untold improvement on that occasion and although he will have a fight on his hands for the lead here, he has plenty of stamina and can outstay his rivals.
Cold March is an unknown quantity having fallen at the first on his British debut for Venetia Williams, while Fond Memory is not completely out of it despite a poor effort at Ludlow last time.
3.05 ASCOT: MITIE HANDICAP HURDLE
Later on the card the talented Little Boy Boru is also worth a look. Suzy Smith’s charge’s winning run came to an end at Newbury last time but that was a very good performance in a far better race than this. The 3 mile trip also seemed to test his stamina reserves on that occasion, so today’s conditions should be ideal.
Before that Newbury 3rd, the progressive 6yo had won at both Sandown and Plumpton. Michael Nolan was on board at Sandown and he was full of praise for the winner in an interview with Racingfm a few days later. Obviously held in high regard at home and he could prove to be decent value in a tight enough betting market, with the excellent Harry Bannister taking off a handy 5lbs.
David Pipe has a great record in this race and his Batavir, who currently sits at the top of the market, should go close to continuing that trend. He can be excused his debut for the yard at Leicester over a inadequate trip and should be seen to better effect now upped in trip.
Others to consider include Nicky Henderson’s mare Spartan Angel, recent Exeter scorer Dream Deal and at a big price Harry Hunt who goes very well fresh and could be an each-way option.
Kevin Walsh 19/12/14
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