Nash hopeful Massini's can pull off Ascot raid
TODAY'S feature on the Ascot card has attracted a rare raider from the James Nash yard as his Massini's Trap travels over for the Grade Two Novice Hurdle.
This was the horse that during the summer cost his inexperienced rider Thomas Doran a 50-day ban at Ballinrobe after the four-year-old stormed home from an impossible position to finish a close third to The Ring Is King.
On this occasion, there will be no lack of assistance from the saddle as Nash has booked Tony McCoy, but the partnership face a difficult task to claim the first prize. The two-mile contest has attracted Paul Nicholls' unbeaten German import Irving and Nicky Henderson's Volnay De Thaix, as well as John Ferguson's Prince Siegfried which was a useful performer for Godolphin on the Flat.
Nash, however, is confident of a bold showing from his charge, which was a respectable six-length fourth to Champion Hurdle prospect Jezki at Down Royal last time out.
"There are a couple of smart ones in there, but this is a good way of starting off to see if he travels well," he said. "He has a bit of experience for a novice, he's basically a handicapper, and I think the ground will suit."
Meanwhile, five horses are scheduled to line up for the other Grade Two, the Betfred Novices' Chase, a contest which was landed by subsequent Arkle hero Simonsig 12 months ago.
Alan King's Raya Star, former winner of the Ladbroke Hurdle, looks the headline act, stepping up three furlongs from his defeat to the smart Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham.
"There were no excuses at Cheltenham -- we were beaten by a faster horse -- but Raya Star confirmed there that he was crying out for a step up in trip, and he loves Ascot," said King.
McCoy has the leg-up on Mr Mole -- a rare Nicholls' inmate which sports JP McManus' colours -- and this five-year-old looks Raya Star's main rival.
A smart novice hurdler last season, McCoy's mount made a winning debut over the larger obstacles at Warwick earlier this month, but the gelding's high head carriage makes him one to have reservations about, particularly if there's a close finish.
As for the rest of the action, the afternoon begins with a very interesting maiden hurdle for stayers, in which Henderson fields three runners.
The champion trainer's Medieval Chapel carries the same Ronnie Bartlett colours as Simonsig and has a similar profile to the flamboyant grey, which also began his career in point-to-points. But the fact that Barry Geraghty is aboard stablemate Royal Boy would indicate that this second-season novice is the yard's No 1 hope.
Twice placed behind the classy Melodic Rendezvous last season, Geraghty's mount failed to take to fences on his seasonal debut and despite the presence of David Pipe's highly regarded Pleasant Company, Royal Boy looks sure to start favourite.