The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained unbeaten hurdler looked to have plenty more to offer when he won at Cheltenham
Aslightly reduced version of the Betfair Handicap Hurdle will be the main betting race on Ascot’s excellent card and it is hard to escape the claims of Al Dancer (3.20). From the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard that had a winner with its first runner back after racing restarted this week, he is unbeaten over hurdles and looked highly progressive when scoring at Cheltenham in December.
That was his handicap debut and even a 12lb hike in the ratings may not stop him. Getaway Trump is a talented opponent but may find this too much of a test of speed.
1.45 Wincanton This looks a good chance for Gino Trail, who put up a fine effort behind Dolos a fortnight ago, in his first outing for 10 months. Kerry Lee’s veteran, who had a wind operation in the off-season, will provide these rivals with a serious test from the front.
1.55 Haydock With Alan King firing in winners for fun just now, it may be worth taking a chance on the fitness of Yanworth, who has not been seen since the last festival, when he was sixth in the stayers. He would be comfortably the best of these if on song.
2.10 Ascot The winner of this race last year, Regal Encore has a fine record around Ascot and is only a couple of pounds higher this time. His one run this season was not especially convincing but Anthony Honeyball’s string was under a cloud at the time and is faring better now. This has been the plan for some time.
2.45 Ascot Moving the Denman Chase from Newbury has cost us the chance to see Native River, who seems ill-suited to right-handed tracks. As a result, this looks a straightforward opportunity for the King George winner, Clan Des Obeaux, and it will be a surprise if Terrefort can give him a fright.
3.00 Wincanton A close third to Yanworth in this race two years ago, Sceau Royal is of interest as he reverts to the smaller obstacles. His Shloer Chase success in November suggests he retains plenty of pace.
3.35 Haydock The Welsh National was too much for Ballyoptic, who carried top weight on a testing surface, but the drier ground and flatter track here can show this stout stayer to better advantage. It should help that the fences will not be as stiff as they were in November.
3.55 Ascot Ruth Jefferson was hoping to walk the course early on Saturday morning in the hope it has sufficient give for Waiting Patiently. If he ran, he would be hard to beat but the odds seem against that. Cyrname looks the one to be with after his dominant performance here last month.