To complement our previews of the Long Walk Hurdle and The Ladbroke we have analysed the other four races that will be under the C4 spotlight and highlighted a couple of runners in each that look set to go well.
13:50 Ascot – Pendra
The hat-trick seeking Pendra from Jonjo O’Neill’s powerful yard has obvious claims and it is difficult to look past AP McCoy’s partner on his handicap debut.
The winners had not been flowing as freely as O’Neill would have liked over the last fortnight but with six crossing the line in front over the last eight days the master of Jackdaws Castle has got his string firing again as the busy Christmas period looms.
The son of Old Vic was unbeaten over his first three starts over the flat and timber before bumping into the useful Melodic Rendezvous at Sandown at the beginning of the year. A chastening performance in the Coral Cup at the Festival in March was the last hurdling assignment for the five-year-old and he has taken to chasing with aplomb.
A pair of facile wins at Carlisle and Lingfield, when sent off at odds-on both times, justifies his market-leading position in this upgraded company and everything points to a sixth victory from eight.
Adam Wedge continues to impress in the saddle with three more wins in his last six rides and he should be able to get a good tune out of the Evan Williams-trained Lancetto.
Twice a runner-up from his last three starts this campaign, it has been over two years since the eight-year-old got his head in front, but if the favourite disappoints he could be best placed to take advantage.
14:05 Haydock – Loch Ba
A wide-open contest and one that will take plenty of solving.
Mick Channon is having a fine time of it at present with his last two entries finding the target and only two of his last 10 runners not making the frame.
Channon’s popular seven-year-old Loch Ba can be difficult to predict but he is still worth an investment in this type of contest despite struggling last time in the Hennessy Gold Cup.
That kind of level is probably beyond him but dropped back to this company he could be the answer in a race where more hold a chance than do not.
Loch Ba has been frustrating for connections, winning only once over two years ago at Kempton and unseating Dominic Elsworth at the ninth flight in the JLT Chase at the Festival back in March. However, he showed he still retained an appetite for the game when only four and a half lengths adrift of Midnight Appeal on his seasonal reappearance at Bangor and should not be judged on the subsequent disappointment.
Henry Daly’s yard have enjoyed a few winners over the past week and Safran De Cotte cannot be ruled out from adding more success. Already a winner at the course over hurdles, Daly’s charge was entitled to need the run on his comeback at Carlisle at the beginning of the month and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him improve enough to capture the prize.
14:40 Haydock – She Ranks Me
Keith Reveley and son James team-up aboard likely favourite Special Catch and they will be hoping their horse can recapture the form that led to a trio of victories in the middle of last season.
Three wins in a space of a month last year at Catterick represents better form than the opposition can offer but question marks remain over the six-year-old’s effectiveness away from North Yorkshire.
The fact that Reveley’s charge was third over this course and distance last time is encouraging but that was his fifth start without getting to within three lengths of a fourth career victory and a more appealing option lies in opposition.
Donald McCain has his horses in predictably rude health with the Cheshire handler notching six wins from his last nine runners at the time of writing.
McCain saddles She Ranks Me who has scored five times from his last fourteen starts and returned to the fray in respectable fashion when second to Pass The Time at Taunton at the end of last month. The son of Golan was no match for the winner that day but will strip fitter for the return to action and looks certain to go well with Jason Maguire onboard – a jockey who is understandably brimming with confidence at present.
15:00 Ascot – Triolo D’Alene
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson requires little introduction and his useful hope Triolo D’Alene clearly requires plenty of respect.
Twice a winner already this term, the French recruit that joined the Seven Barrows team last year, immediately took to his new surroundings when scoring at the track on his British debut just under a year ago over five furlongs shorter. Since then Barry Geraghty’s partner has done little wrong, only finding himself out of the money twice including when pulled up in last season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Triolo D’Alene returned to the winners’ enclosure when overcoming a 21-strong Hennessy Gold Cup field at Newbury latest and a reproduction of that form would see him notch a seventh win of his career from only 15 outings.
The form of that contest is working out increasingly well with the third that day, Theatre Guide, going onto place in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham next time.
The obvious concern is an 11lb hike in the weights and if the burden becomes too much Jonjo O’Neill’s Storm Survivor could be the one to profit.
Richie McLernon’s ride took a bad fall at the first fence around Aintree on only his second race of the season but had showed plenty of ability before that, winning twice and placing four times on his previous seven starts.
That being said, if Henderson’s Hennessy hero runs to form the best O’Neill can hope for is the runner-up money.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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