Storm Denis is on its way, and my view of the weather rolling towards Raceweb Towers, suggests it is going to be an unutterable bastard. This is hardly unsurprising given that St Denis is the patron saint of France and Paris.
I was always rather fascinated by St D as a child, because the rumour in the robing room at Westminster Cathedral, was that after he had been martyred by beheading, he picked up his head and walked two leagues, while delivering a sermon on repentance. The Marquise de Deffand, Walpole’s special french friend, said that “…the distance was not the problem, it was the first step”. Catholicism is extraordinarily useful for presenting one with words to slip into everyday conversation, such as Aspergillum and Cephalophore. Denis, as Bishop of Paris, would have used the former extensively and the latter is how he is depicted in most art, i.e. a saint carrying his own head, following martyrdom. You could see his statue on the way in to Notre Dame on the left hand side, until someone left the croissants in for too long. He will doubtless be restored, unlike Saj, whose cephalophoric gesture this week seemed pointless, when he was immediately replaced by someone who has been widely perceived by the cognoscenti as being brighter, smarter, richer, and future leader material. Bizarrely he was not on Thursday evening priced up on any boards. Keep an eye out for that price.
So after this little insight into the impact a good catholic upbringing can have on a boy’s mind, and given my dissipation following a 3:00 am finish in the Cotswolds with some charming chums and a bottle or two of Armagnac, I am tempted to suggest that racing will not happen today, despite the authorities assurances. I wouldn’t want my high-sided vehicle out today, and I wouldn’t want my jockey to get hit by a piece of flying race card, plastic cup, inedible burger or any of the hundreds of things that are not tied down on racecourses. None the less here are my brief thoughts on today’s racing.
13:50 The Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 2)
Kim Bailey runs TWO FOR GOLD who is 7/10 and unbeaten over fences. He was eye-catching in his determination to win at Warwick LTO and is an admirable battler. That race delivered a career-best RPR (Racing Post Rating). COPPERHEAD won the Mandarin at Newbury as he liked and he has improved rapidly this year. I suspect if he won this he’ll be a serious RSA Novices’ Chase contender. However we also have Nicky Henderson’s PYM to consider, a horse that is another on the upgrade. My principal concern however is the rain. The ground will, by the off, be bottomless and whilst PYM likes a bit of cut this will be too much. SAM BROWNE will go off favourite, but I find his jumping scrappy and he has had nothing but issues during his career. It’s a tribute to Honeyball that he has got him going, but I’d want 6/1 not 9/4. I’m struggling to pick between the first two named, so I’m suggesting COPPERHEAD to win and have a ½pt reverse forecast with TWO FOR GOLD.
14:25 The Keltbray Swinley Chase (A Limited Handicap) (Listed Race)
When REGAL ENCORE turns up at Ascot, one should pay attention. He has won four of his top RPRs at the course and won 3 times and despite his age, he is still a threat, being only 4lbs off his last winning mark. Anthony Honeyball also runs JEPECK who has the useful claimer Rex Dingle taking 3lbs off. He too is a veteran winning the veterans chase at Sandown LTO. With the claim, he too will only 4lb shy of his last winning mark. My eye is taken by BALLYOPTIC running here despite having several other options. NTD knows what he’s doing so keep an eye on the market. 9/1 seems generous.
15:00 The Ascot Handicap Hurdle Race
I thought Donald McCain’s THE CON MAN looked progressive over a longer trip LTO at Kelso, his head back in front at Kelso last time out, and I’m not convinced that his 7lb penalty will hold him up. JOLLYS CRACKED IT hasn’t won since November 2018, but four of his five career wins have come here at Ascot. He was and 8l 3rd behind Thomas Darby in a course and distance Grade 3 LTO and is worth an e/w shot.
15:35 The Betfair Ascot Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
Crikey this is difficult… not.
14:05 The Rendlesham Hurdle Race (Grade 2)
I have a feeling that WEST APPROACH is having a confidence boosing return to Hurdles having PU in the Welsh National LTO. That said, he has decent hurdling form and he’ll like the ground. Leave him alone. THE WORLD’S END is favourite for a reason, having won The Long Walk LTO, seeing off L’Ami Serge and obviously liking the ground which was bottomless that day.
14:40 Unibet Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2)
Rewatching The Pink’n’s Warwick race LTO, I noticed a bit of ducking and diving going into the second last. That immediately put him into my swerve until proven wrong. I like the look of GEROLAMO CARDANO as an e/w chance, but the obvious winner is SIR PSYCHO who appears to be several pounds superior to these rivals in ability.
15:15 The Grand National Trial Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3)
This will be an interesting race and is a decent trial. YALA ENKI took the Portman Cup by 5½l over Rock The Kasbah. He can be a bit louche in his jumping, but should be on your short list. LORD DU MESNIL is in the form of his life, winning a 3½m handicap chase at Haydock in heavy ground LTO. Sue Smith brings VINTAGE CLOUDS here, fresh from winning the Peter Marsh at Haydock LTO. He has obviously had some jumping instruction from Harvey, because it was a faultless and very impressive display. Sadly it was so good that he’s picked up 11lbs from the handicapper, which will surely anchor him. ONE FOR ARTHUR won the Grand National in 2017 off today’s mark, and he has looked as though he has retained some ability this season. More importantly he has had a wind op and they’ve added cheek pieces. With heavy ground he looks value. However, I like the price of the relatively unexposed STEELY ADDITION from Philip Hobbs yard, and ground and step up in distance all point towards a price that is wrong by 4 or 5 points. Yala to win and the three emboldened italicised e/w