Sunday 17 December 2017

Nasri has speed to score in Cup

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Graham Lee will this afternoon attempt to cap what has been a fantastic spell for him on Hawkeyethenoo in the Betfred Victoria Cup at Ascot.

The exceptional Galway-born rider stunned the racing world when he announced that he was walking away from his job as Ferdy Murphy's No 1 to fashion a career on the Flat.

Predictably, he has made an immediate impact, bagging a double at Chester on Thursday to bring his tally to six in eight days, for a near 20pc strike-rate.

His old jumping ally Jim Goldie provided three of those six firsts, and the Scottish handler won't have had to think twice about booking Lee for his decent sprinter in today's featured handicap.

A commanding winner of the seven-furlong contest 12 months ago, Hawkeyethenoo disappointed twice on slow ground thereafter, and that might ultimately be his undoing again here under a heavy burden of 9st 6lb.

The Ryan Moore-ridden Bonnie Brae and Tariq Too have both been popular ante-post options, with the latter possibly more appealing under Eddie Ahern.

On his first start for Amy Weaver last month, Tariq Too ploughed through soft ground to win nicely at Thirsk, and should still be place material off a 6lb higher mark now.

With doubts around many of the 24-strong field coping with the prevailing testing conditions, the likeliest winner may well be the Dandy Nicholls-trained Nasri. Third to Hawkeyethenoo in 2011, he is a massive 16lbs better off with that one today, as Longford's in-form Darren Egan takes a valuable 7lbs off his back.

On his seasonal bow at Doncaster, Nasri showed up well for a long way, before fading into eighth and he meets King Of Jazz, third then, off 10lb better terms in this.

Granted, he never raised a gallop at Pontefract last time, but he ended up on the wrong side of the track that day, and couldn't get close to the pace, which he needs to be. Today, Nasri is drawn three off the stands rail, so that should suit as he has plenty pace. He's proven in soft ground, races off just 8st 5lb, and is overpriced at 25/1.

In the earlier 12-furlong Listed race, John Gosden's Aiken appeals as a very solid prospect for Ryan Moore.

On official ratings, Lucy Wadham's Dawn Twister comes out well at the weights, as does Ed Dunlop's Tameen.

However, neither of those have quite the same potential as Aiken, which has now won a maiden and three handicaps in succession.

On his reappearance in similar conditions to today's at Epsom last month, he came home with a bit to spare off a mark of 91, and the fifth, Ithoughtitwasover, has franked the form by winning at Newmarket.

Following that Epsom triumph, the handicapper has raised Aiken to 99, a mark that leaves him with something to find against his two chief rivals, which are rated 105 and 100, respectively. Still, he has the scope to improve past both.

At Lingfield, Vow, Johnny Murtagh's only mount of the day, can take the Oaks trial, while Gosden's Shantaram has massive appeal in the equivalent Derby heat. Beaten a nose by a useful filly that had experience on his Sandown bow in September, this Galileo colt was again unlucky on his return to action last month.

On that occasion at Newmarket, he got nosed out by Model Pupil, the colt that went down by the same margin to Mickdaam in the Chester Vase. Yazdi and Suraj, third and fifth at Newmarket, have both since scored by wide margins, so Shantaram strikes as the sort to fulfil his promise in today's open-looking Group Three.

Over jumps at Haydock, David Pipe's The Tracey Shuffle, third at Punchestown, should be suited by the step up to three miles in the Long Distance Hurdle, with the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Ubi Ace fancied in the Pertemps Swinton Hurdle. Unsighted at Cheltenham and Aintree, AP McCoy's partner relishes some give underfoot.

Best Bet: Shantaram

Irish Independent

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