All eyes on the Berkshire track this afternoon, when the two best 2 mile Chasers in training take each other on in the Clarence House Chase at 3.35.
First Flow caused an upset in this race by beating Politologue and has another go today after winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, but beating Shishkin and Energumene is a different cauldron of tuna.
The market has Shishkin at 8-11 with the Irish raider at 6-4 and First Flow the same price as last year (14-1).
This is a race to savour but not one to bet on, so we’ll look forward to that and look at the earlier televised races, starting with the Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle at 1.45.
Favourite is the consistent but luckless Gary Clermont, which is fully 13lbs higher than when winning at Warwick in May, courtesy of two recent placed efforts both on this course. The slight step up in trip this afternoon may help, but, on balance we will oppose with two potentially better handicapped runners.
Stellar Magic was an above average Novice before suffering a nasty injury in February last year, not reappearing until December, when running a stormer to be second at Haydock. A 4lb nudge for that run is not helpful, but Philip Hobbs‘ 7-y-o is still on a very decent mark and can go close in this.
Our other pick is Stoner’s Choice, which won off today’s mark and on this course in March last year and showed all he signs of returning to that level on its third run this season, when third at Musselburgh, trying to give nearly two and a half stone to two improvers. Back on this track, this looks a great each way punt at 16-1.
The SBK Mares’ Hurdle at 2.20 is a Grade 2 event over nearly 3 miles and features a fascinating runner in the ex-Irish trained Western Victory.
An easy winner over this trip at Clonmel in December and a Listed winner at Gowran in October, this 9-y-o is now with Emma Lavelle and a reproduction of her form over the water may well be good enough. Have a win bet at 9-4.
We also give more than a squeak to Anythingforlove from the Jamie Snowden operation. Slightly up against it on official ratings, this 7-y-o lady has appreciated returning to hurdles after a less than successful foray over fences and could cause a minor surprise. Let’s have an each way tickle at 6-1.
The bet365 Handicap Chase at 2.55 is our last port of call at Ascot, and we double up in this one with a win bet on Fanion D’Estruval at 11-4 and an each way bet on Phoenix Way at 6-1. Let’s throw in a tad of a Reverse Forecast as well, shall we?
Three races are also covered from the meeting at Haydock, but two of those are dominated by heavy odds-on shots, neither of which we’ve a mind to take on.
This leaves the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at 2.35, a race won with consummate ease last year by the returning Royal Pigaille.
Half a stone higher in the ratings and returning from an injury break, this classy animal will almost certainly give it a good go, but, on balance we will oppose, firstly with Empire Steel, which was going like the winner when falling last time out and deserves another chance.
We aslo think Sam Brown is over priced at 8-1 and recommend an each way bash at that price.
Here endeth the Preview.
Stellar Magic 1.45 Ascot 2pts e/w @ 9-2 (4 places)
Stoner’s Choice 1.45 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 16-1 (4 places)
Western Victory 2.20 Ascot 3pts win @ 9-4
Anythingforlove 2.20 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 6-1 (2 places)
Fanion D’Estruval 2.55 Ascot 3pts win @ 11-4
Phoenix Way 2.55 Ascot 1pt e/w @ 6-1 (2 places)
Fanion D’Estruval/Phoenix Way 2.55 Ascot 0.5pts RFC
Empire Steel 2.35 Haydock 2pts win @ 4-1
Sam Brown 2.35 Haydock 1pt e/w @ 8-1 (4 places)