Truckers can run well en route to Midlands National
The Listed Swinley Chase at 14:25 is a very likeable contest and looks wide-open where I like the profile of one runner in particular.
The trends would suggest that an older horse with plenty of back class is favoured. 10-year-olds have won four of the last five renewals of the race with a rating of around 150 being significant. This race is usually run on soft ground where prominent racers rarely come back to the field. It’s worth siding with a horse who hit the frame in a decent staying contest last time out. Ideally a horse has had a three week break since their latest start.
There are only two 10-year-olds in this year’s renewal, Cobolobo and Truckers Lodge. I’m siding with the latter however, in the hope his class can come to the fore.
Of course, the danger is that this race is most likely a steppingstone to another tilt at the Midlands Grand National which he won in 2020. That success was his last and came off a mark of 141- 6lb lower than he’s running off here.
Truckers Lodge is lightly raced for his age, with just 20 starts under rules so his age must be taken in that context. He will certainly be fine over this trip on soft ground and the stamina test that will provide. He was a winner over 4m2f in heavy ground after all.
His latest start came in the Welsh Grand National where he ran a gallant race to finish third. He was one of the few horses able to finish the gruelling contest with most pulling up. The form of the Welsh National has taken plenty of knocks. The winner hasn’t been seen since, the second ran no race next time out, the fourth was well beaten subsequently and even those who pulled up have mostly disappointed since.
Truckers Lodge therefore, is going to have to rely on a good freshen up since that run on 27th December to be defying that formline. However, a notable positive is that Truckers Lodge has been given 3lb back by the handicapper for his exertions.
He’ll hopefully be ridden prominently again and certainly, won’t be hindered by the testing conditions. He looks worth chancing each-way at 16/1 on the Sportsbook.
Two to play in Handicap Hurdle
The next race on Ascot’s card is a Handicap Hurdle over 2m3f at 15:00 which is another very likeable contest where strong chances can be given to any number of runners.
Good Risk At All currently heads the betting and has clear credentials for the win. He opened up at a very fair price but that didn’t last long and quickly he shortened into a hot favourite. He’s since levelled off and has become a much more feasible price which I’m happy to side with.
Sam Thomas has had a fantastic season where winners have come from the bumper sphere to a Welsh Grand National success. Saturday wins have been frequent and look likely to come again this weekend with Good Risk At All. This six-year-old gelding has finished second on all three starts this season where he’s been overturned as favourite on two occasions.
However, he has a perfect profile for this contest to be chancing him once again. He is the ideal age for this race and hits the sweet spot in terms of his official rating of 127. He has an almost ideal conditioning for this race with three starts already in the campaign and has had a good turnaround time since his latest outing.
Of course, it was frustrating that he was beaten as the 1/3 favourite on his hurdle debut on reappearance. However, he jumped like a fridge and looked green as grass on that Chepstow outing.
He was no match for Jonbon at Newbury but jumped much better and showed plenty of the ability he had in the bumper sphere. Once again, he was overturned as favourite last time out at Warwick over two miles behind Barrichello. The winner has had a brilliant season bagging three victories from four starts.
There was little disgrace in that neck defeat and plenty of positives can be taken.
Good Risk At All is the current market leader but there is another in this contest that I cannot leave at an each-way price. That horse is Highway One O Two for the in-form Chris Gordon team.
He is one of many seven-year-olds in this race but he too, finds himself off a very fair mark for this contest on 133. He ran a solid race off a 1lb lower mark to finish second in the Lanzarote Hurdle last time out.
There looks to be plenty of pace on in this race which will likely mean Highway One O Two won’t get his preferred uncontested lead. However, he is certainly a horse who doesn’t mind sitting back and taking a lead. This race tends to go to prominent racers, so I hope Tom Cannon still lines Highway One O Two up with the pace.
Another positive for this contest is a horse who has plenty of starts already in the season and Highway One O Two certainly has that advantage with five outings already this campaign. At a very fair price of 8/1, he looks a solid each-way play.
Fakir can prove a class above his rivals
The sole Grade 1 contest on Saturday is the Betfair Ascot Chase over 2m5f at 15:38 which is always an enjoyable contest. There are eight declared runners for this year’s renewal in what is a fascinating line-up.
There is one standout runner for me in this race, that being Fakir D’Oudairies. There are plenty of horses who are solid Grade 2 performers or Grade 1 winners given the right conditions in here. This is where Fakir D’Oudairies can prove a cut above the rest.
I have already tipped Fakir D’Oudairies up in my Ryanair ante post column for Betfair at an each-way price. I want to side with him at Cheltenham as he has proven himself as a true Grade 1 performer. For all Allaho is likely to prove too strong again at Cheltenham, he doesn’t have a rival of that calibre here.
This looks a very interesting bit of placing from Joseph O’Brien to take this trip across the Irish Sea and his runner can put his consistent profile to good use once again.
Fakir D’Oudairies was the only horse who could live with Allaho in last season’s Ryanair where he finished second. Despite that exhausting run, he proved he suffered no ill effects by winning just three weeks later in the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree.
He didn’t see out the 3m120y trip in the Punchestown Gold Cup when signing off last season to finish third. Dropped back to 2m4f149y for the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase on his reappearance, he readily bounced back to his best by winning easily.
Again, he ran well to finish fourth in the John Durkan behind Allaho and again, had to see the backside of that rival last time out when second in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles.
Fakir D’Oudaires is a very likeable and consistent horse who has only pulled up once in his 23 career starts. I’m hoping he’ll again, prove himself as a solid Grade 1 performer and gain another success here.
Worth chancing the outsider in Grand National Trial
I’m heading north now to Haydock in the hope its Grand National Trial meeting goes ahead despite Storm Eunice.
The ground at the current time of writing is heavy at Haydock with those conditions unlikely to change by Saturday. This will mean that the Grade 3 Grand National Trial Handicap Chase over 3m4f at 14:40 is going to be an even greater test of stamina than it already is.
It’s going to be a proper slog of a race and it’s a case of who can slog it out the best. Of course, to find that it’s firstly, worth looking for the class angle in the contest. It’s also understandable that this race tends to go to a battle-hardened type coming into the race on the back of running in a graded staying handicap chase.
This race has a very good record for eight-year-olds with a rating in the mid to high 140s. Ideally, the horse hasn’t had a hard season so far, leaving some freshness to cope with the test on offer in this race. Despite there usually being a strong pace in this race where most line-up to be ridden prominently, the pace tends to hold up. It’s incredibly difficult to make up ground at Haydock at the best of time but that is particularly significant over staying trips.
The horse who ticks most boxes in this race but still represents a fair amount of risk is the outsider of the field, Kalooki.
This is a horse I certainly have a love/ hate relationship with as he usually runs no race when all variables are seemingly in his favour. However, he has proven his ability despite adversity time and time again.
I’m hoping that all of these conditions will see him in his best light and may unlock a whole new avenue for him to explore. Kalooki certainly represents a class angle I’m looking for as shown by his official rating of 145.
He never threatened in the Peter Marsh Chase last time out at this track over 3m1f125y but he kept on well enough from the third last. There was no way of saying he didn’t get the trip, he just simply couldn’t get involved.
He certainly won’t mind the testing conditions on offer where he’s won three times on soft ground in his career and his action suggests it suits him. My biggest concern is the tactics that may be implemented. Kalooki was ridden towards the rear last time out which was to his detriment however, when winning at Doncaster he was ridden far more prominently.
He is a horse who has a lot of ability when everything clicks for him and I’m hoping he will once again, have all variables in his favour. At a big price of 25/1 he’s worth chancing each-way.
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