Planet Of Sound to call tune for Hobbs
A three-mile Grade Two that the all-conquering Ditcheat stable has not won since See More Business secured back-to-back victories in 2000, the six-runner contest has struggled to attract that quality of horse in the meantime.
Six-year-old Silviniaco Conti certainly impressed on the two occasions that he won last year, not least when signing off with a 13-length rout at Aintree. However, having skipped Cheltenham, he had a distinct advantage over his three closest rivals that day and he hasn't seemed nearly as good when something has served it up to him.
At around 11/8 for this three-miler, it is worth considering other options. Time For Rupert, second best in the market at up to 9/2, has appeal. A respectable fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was a short-priced favourite for this last year, but was put in his place by Weird Al.
Planet Of Sound might be the one to keep on side. Philip Hobbs' 2010 Punchestown Gold Cup victor showed enough in his three latest outings to suggest a realistic case can be made for him on his reappearance.
On his corresponding outing in the 2011 Hennessy at Newbury, he ran a blinder when second to Carruthers off a mark of 158, before finishing third in Kempton's Racing Post Chase.
Planet Of Sound's only subsequent start came in the Aintree Grand National, when he was bang there under Richard Johnson until his stamina gave way after the third-last.
Moreover, on official figures, the 10-year-old emerges as the clear best option. Based on his revised rating of 154, he has between one and 13lb in hand over the rest of the field. That is not insignificant, so 5/1 about Planet Of Sound taking advantage looks generous.
At Ascot, Cloughjordan's Denis Hogan saddles the only two Irish-based runners. Kalellshan may be the pick of them in the two-mile-one-furlong Byrne Group Handicap Chase. A good winner at Galway on his third run back from a two-year lay-off, Kalellshan then absolutely sluiced up off the same 123 rating in a Killarney handicap chase to bring his chasing record to three wins from four.
Today, the English handicapper has given him a mark of 142, but the form of his Killarney win does little to counter such a judgment. The 11-length runner-up, Orpheus Valley, won by 12 lengths off a 3lb higher mark at Roscommon, while the third, Torphichen, scooted up by 26 lengths at Listowel.
In the United House Gold Cup, Ace High has some appeal at 5/1, but Frisco Depot is better value at up to 10/1.
A Graded winner that finished second to Flemenstar for Dessie Hughes at Naas in March, the eight-year-old has been purchased as a Grand National horse by the Waley-Cohen family. He is well treated here off 141 for 10st 1lb, given he finished fourth to Caduceus off 142 at Punchestown in May.
With the owner's able Gold Cup-winning son Sam taking off another 5lb, he could be thrown in on his debut for the Charlie Longsdon stable.
Best Bet: Kalellshan