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Rolling Aces is fancied to score under Noel Fehily for Paul Nicholls at Ascot today

Rolling Aces is fancied to score under Noel Fehily for Paul Nicholls at Ascot today

Rolling Aces is fancied to score under Noel Fehily for Paul Nicholls at Ascot today

With the Cheltenham Festival imminent, Paul Carberry's decision to bypass Gowran Park today so that he can partner Kauto Stone for Paul Nicholls at Ascot is certainly interesting.

Carberry was due to ride his Welsh Grand National-winning partner Monbeg Dude at Haydock until connections opted not to go there.

Gowran would have seemed the obvious alternative, but the gifted 40-year-old is instead reunited with Kauto Stone, on which he plundered a Down Royal Grade Two in November 2011 when fog prevented Noel Fehily from flying in for the mount.

The Grade One Betfair Chase that they tackle is certainly winnable. Captain Chris, second to Cue Card last year, is a short-priced favourite having won in style at Kempton last time.

That triumph came over today's two-mile-five-furlong trip, but the deep ground slog that he will encounter here has never been his forte.

Richard Johnson's 10-year-old mount was made to look better than he is by opposition that simply proved far inferior at Kempton, so he is opposable.

Riverside Theatre, twice successful in this, is another of the same vintage not to be trusted in gruelling conditions.

If the Kauto Stone that thwarted First Lieutenant to land a Grade One over three miles at Down Royal last term turns up, he will surely outrun odds of up to 20/1 for Carberry.

With eight runners, he is a live each-way prospect, but the pick of the lot is his stable-mate Rolling Aces, which will be ridden by Nicholls' ever-reliable ally Fehily on this occasion.

Lightly-raced since winning a point-to-point for Liam Burke in 2011, the eight-year-old is three from six over fences, including when slamming Opening Batsman in similar conditions at Wincanton as a novice.

In his three other chasing outings, Rolling Aces has been third once and second twice in decent company.

This time last year, he found only the Fehily-ridden Opening Batsman too good in a valuable three-mile Kempton handicap, when the weights favoured his old foe.

This season, Rolling Aces claimed Down Royal's November Grade Two at the expense of Toner D'Oudairies and Texas Jack, form that has an extremely solid look to it.

His only subsequent run came back over three miles at Sandown, when he was reeled in agonisingly up the hill by Vino Griego, with none other than Harry Topper left trailing back in third following an indifferent round of jumping.

Given that Rolling Aces had also led in the straight before giving best at Kempton 12 months ago, it may be that a full three miles is simply a shade too far for him.

If you discount those two defeats and a fencing debut third to Hadrian's Approach over shorter at Ascot, his record over intermediate trips is absolutely flawless, and he is proven in testing ground.

As such, Rolling Aces remains a deeply progressive individual, so he is overpriced at up to 7/1 here to stretch his impressive record at the trip to four under Fehily.

The excellent Co Cork-born rider could also have a say in the Listed Chase aboard Teaforthree now that Rebecca Curtis' dour stayer has dropped a few pounds in the ratings.

Up at Haydock, two horses stand out for consideration.

In the three-mile-five-furlong Betfred Grand National Trial, Welsh National runner-up Hawkes Point is a worthy favourite, but this might be the time to put some trust in Merry King, a horse that hasn't always inspired confidence in the past.

In a first-time visor here behind the re-opposing Wychwoods Brook last time, he stayed on dourly to snatch third over an extended three-mile journey, having been a commendable fifth in the Welsh National previously.

This time around, with the added benefit of the visor and AP McCoy taking over up top, Jonjo O'Neill's seven-year-old certainly appeals as value at 8/1 now that he steps back up to a marathon trip.

McCoy is also aboard Alan King's Sego Success in the three-mile Grade Two novices' hurdle.

Toubeera and Wuff are the dangers, but King's son of Beneficial won in the manner of a potentially smart sort at Southwell inn December, so he is worth keeping on side.

Best Bet: Rolling Aces

Irish Independent