Un De Sceaux to justify hype and land treble
I was never really one for taking an interest in the British Royal Family, but I must admit that I've become hooked on the Netflix drama 'The Crown'.
Anyone that's into history will appreciate the show and viewers will become familiar with Clarence House, which once housed the then princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip after the War. Following the death of King George VI, it was the home of the Queen Mother until she too left this world in 2002.
Commissioned by the Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV in 1830, the house certainly has a lot of history attached - and a little bit of history will be made today in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot (3.35) should the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux win the race for the third time running.
Master Minded managed two wins in total but not in consecutive years, and with a rating of 168 which is 11lbs clear of the five-runner field and plenty hype, it's no surprise to see Un De Sceaux trade around 4/7, meaning no-one is going to get rich backing him.
Destroying Reports from the gallops on Tuesday say he's in flying form, and the 2017 Ryanair Chase winner was as good as ever when destroying the field by 25 lengths on his seasonal return last time in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork. He acts on various types of ground but is especially effective in testing conditions, and we can expect Paul Townend to let him out in front to take his usual position and make the running.
If any horse can make a contest out of it, it will be Brain Power. A very smart hurdler, he got off to a winning start over fences at Kempton in November, and looked set to take second place in a Grade One at Sandown before unseating his rider in December.
But he's got promise in this division, and the race will give us a good idea of where he's at right now.
For something at a bigger price, consider backing Man Of Plenty in the Grade Three Ascot Spring Garden Show Holloway's Handicap Hurdle (2.25 Ascot).
Trained by Sophie Leech, it's been ages since he's registered a win, but he's been running well nonetheless in some decent handicaps lately so at 20/1, he could be worth a few euro each-way.
On paper, his fifth place of 17 runners off this rating of 123 here last time might seem a little disappointing, but it was a high-quality Grade Three race and it is worth noting that he was 2lbs out of the handicap. Dungarvan native Sean Houlihan once again gets the ride, and claims a very useful 7lbs.
Getting back to the shorter odds, The New One can land a fourth successive Grade Two Unibet Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle at Haydock (2.40), albeit at a somewhat restrictive price around 6/5.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has said his ten-year-old is as good as ever, and it was no shame to come second to 2/11 favourite Buveur D'Air in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton last time.
A second place to My Tent Or Yours in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham can be overlooked as he was giving weight all around, and although he's to do the same again here, he's already beaten two of his opponents Ch'tibello and Clyne. Unison makes it a four-runner race, although that one looks well out of his depth and is priced accordingly at 40/1.
A little earlier on the same card, take a chance on Waterlord which was trading around 9/4 yesterday for the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (2.05). These heavy conditions will be perfect for the promising seven-year-old, which won his latest two novice races over hurdles.
Donald McCain's gelding had impressed when winning bumpers for John Ferguson, and he's one to keep on side for now.
Formerly trained by Sandy Thomson, The Dutchman has had two runs for current trainer Colin Tizzard, both over hurdles. There's been some press lately as to what effect a wind operation can have on performance and from yesterday, horses running in Britain will have to have the letters WS next to their name if it's their first time running after a wind-op.
The Dutchman had a wind-op before his debut for Tizzard, and made a promising start when second in a Grade Three handicap hurdle in November. But he put in a lacklustre display subsequently when finishing mid-division in a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham following some strong support.
Today he'll race for the first time over fences since the wind-op in the Peter Marsh Chase (3.15 Haydock), and while I'm not counting on it making much of a difference, I still feel his rating of 135 leaves room for improvement as he hit 1/2 in-running in a Grade Two last February before falling.
He can be prone to mistakes over the bigger obstacles and Harry Cobden could have his work cut out for him today, but a racing weight of 10st 6lbs is not a huge burden and early odds of 12/1 make plenty of appeal.
Rock The Kasbah is the obvious danger and likely favourite around 9/2. Philip Hobbs' gelding landed a gamble when winning a stayers' handicap chase at Chepstow, although he's up half a stone on that run with a mark of 149 today.
1.50 Ascot: La Bague Au Roi
2.05 Haydock: Waterlord
2.25 Ascot: Man Of Plenty (e/w)
2.40 Haydock: The New One
3.15 Haydock: The Dutchman (e/w)
3.35 Ascot: Un De Sceaux
Do the double
Mauricio Pochettino brings his Tottenham Hotspur side to St Mary's tomorrow to face his old team Southampton, and a price of 8/13 for the away win looks fair. Southampton, who are 5/1 be be relegated, have gone ten League matches without a win, while Spurs were very impressive when easily beating Everton 4-0 last week.
Trained by Warren Greatrex, La Bague Au Roi stayed well last time to win a Listed Mares' Hurdle at Kempton in November and should have what it takes to see off the opposition in the 2m7f Grade Two Olbg.com Mares' Hurdle at Ascot (1.50). With nine wins in 12 career starts, including two this season, she looks well capable of defying a 4lb penalty here. Of the rest, Alan King's Dusky Legend is worth a mention and has shown some useful form over fences.