It’s been 13 years since the Ladbroke Hurdle relocated to its new home of Ascot after a previous incarnation at Leopardstown, and in the nine renewals in that period (development work and snow limiting opportunities), we’ve seen some crackers.
Dan Skelton landed his biggest career win to date when picking up the race with Willows Saviour 12 months ago and has come on leaps and bounds since going it alone after leaving the well-respected tutorage of Paul Nicholls.
And if the trends are to be followed, he and his brother Harry could be doubling up in Berkshire on Saturday.
Here’s all the numbers that matter…
9 – All nine victors in the race at Ascot have been aged four to six
9 – All nine had also finished in the first three on their previous start
8 – Only one victor in that time hasn’t been rated between 130 and 144
6 – Six winners had carried at least 10-11 to victory, while the other three had all won a race that season
2 – Only two winners have been a bigger price than 12/1 in nine years
1 – Just one favourite has won the contest since the switch to Berkshire
0 – No winners of the race (at Ascot) had previously run more than 10 times over hurdles
Of the 19 horses set to go to post, only two meet every one of the above trends (although Pyromaniac only falls short on his 20/1 price).
Goodwood Mirage (10/1) was last seen landing a Haydock handicap off a mark of 132. A rise of 10lbs for that neck victory may seem harsh on the face of it, but the fact that the runner up has won twice since (including off 134) offers some solace.
His form on soft ground does give mixed signals, winning a Listed race at Kempton in January pegged back by a 61l defeat at Cheltenham and then being well beaten by Activial (7/2f) back in Sunbury on testing ground.
One suspects he may be found out once again a Graded level, so is looked over in favour of SHELFORD (6/1).
Should Dan Skelton win this renewal he wouldn’t be the first trainer to win back-to-back runnings of this race, but it would surely be the quickest in a trainer’s career that he has done so.
His charge, Shelford, overcame subsequent Fixed Brush Hurdle winner Aubusson at Chepstow in October, and will relish the soft ground at Ascot.
The fact that the runner up in Wales was running off a 6lb higher mark for his victory next time out, means the 7lb rise for the current second favourite might be lenient.
The five-year-old has yet to finish outside the first two over hurdles and looks the horse to be on in the Ladbroke Hurdle.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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