Christmas has officially begun with the welcome delivery from the Pompey cousins of a side of Smoked Salmon. This gift will hopefully mark the beginning of my chillaxing for a dozen plus days where I will hopefully remain untouched by the stupidities of my form selections and the Government. In that vein, as afternoons go I’m pleased that Friday’s went. The manner of its passing was unpleasant, leaving me to feel like a Tory Minister who thinks all the problems are solved, but discovers all the solutions were based entirely on duff information.
By contrast The Hon’s method of picking women and greys, (much in the manner of Harold Shipman was a thought that skittered through my mind), at least reaped some excitement for Madame by comparison. More importantly, her management of the original £30 bank which I think has only been topped up twice in the last two years, means she may never have a problem with the Government interfering in her pleasure, and asking whether she can afford to have a punt.
I only mention this because we saw the departure yesterday of the unlamented Nick Rust, who left a warning that the government’s forthcoming review of gambling might well result in draconian rules on the size of stakes and advertising. The latter is of no consequence to me, BUT there is also the suggestion that players would have to prove their income if they lose more than £100 a month. In other words, you will have to accept government checks on your personal spending decisions. You might imagine my views on this.
How long before we see White Papers entitled: “The Proposed Regulation of Gambling and its impact on Society – Saving the NHS” and its ugly sister “The Proposed Regulation of Licenced Premises and the sale of alcohol – Saving the NHS”? Can you hear the conversation at the Pensions Office? “Sadly dear, I see you used to enjoy a flutter on the horses and you bought lottery tickets and three bottles of Prosecco twice in a month, twenty years ago. Then you bought The Racing Post and you had an account with Gala Bingo. And you’re expecting us to provide you with a pension?”
The tragedy is that these very concepts are being considered by a Tory government, rather than telling the Puritans to Naff Off.
Talking of tragedies, where one might be asked to naff off, here are some thoughts on tomorrow.
12:40 ASCOT Foundation Developments Novices’ Hcap Hurdle Cl4 (4yo+ 0-120) 2m7½f
The ground is Heavy at both Ascot and Haydock presenting some tough racing conditions. TIDE TIMES swam into view here last week and meets SILVER NICKEL again, who was 2½l back in third. 9th place went to HATCHET JACK who is well shy of the mark of 120 that he carried when a close-up 5th in 2017. He’s never won a race – but on this ground he keeps nagging me. If I could get 5 places at around 10s, I might have a pop. The first two mentioned might have this between them with SILVER NICKEL now having a 6lb pull. HUNTSMANS JOG is a dual point winner, and looked useful when he was with Don Cantillon where he hurdled and bumped until June, when he moved to Fergal O’Brien. Fergal seems to have improved him, and he was second on his seasonal hurdling debut and looked in need of further. With his claimer taking 7lbs off, the mud might not hold him back.
TIDE TIMES Dutch with HUNTSMANS JOG Win – SILVER NICKEL e/w
1:15 ASCOT Injured Jockeys Fund Graduation Chase Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5f
Its a toss up between the Favourite and the rank outsider – and you all know which way I’m likely to jump!
DASHEL DRASHER Win
1:50 ASCOT “For The Love Of Racing” Hcap Chase Cl2 (4yo+ 0-150) 2m3f
This is a very tricky race, and there aren’t many here that are racing close to their last winning hurdles mark. I keep looking at BENNY’S KING, but he is almost a stone shy of his last winning mark. His best ground and weight performance was back in January at Chepstow coming 2nd off 145 on Heavy ground. He was 2nd because he blundered the race away and couldn’t make up the ground. No, for me he’s a pass. On Heavy ground look to Venetia… in Chases. GARDEFORT can’t do it – the last time he won there were trams in Piccadilly. I’m quite taken by EARLY DU LEMO, (no I have no clue either about the name), who I did notice in his decent second to Darebin at Sandown LTO, giving the winner nigh on a stone and the pair pulling several streets ahead of the pack. He doesn’t have many miles on the clock, and having shown some ability over hurdles started his chasing career winning on his fifth attempt, in January 2019. He was then off games for almost a year some 11 months before the aforementioned second. Gary is in good form with a 20% SR over the past fortnight. His stable companion NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE has never run on this sort of ground and has never raced at Ascot. Indeed it rather looks as though he has had issues and he he can make horrible mistakes in his jumping. If SAINT DE VASSEY were a longer price, I’d have a pop, if only because of Tom Symonds excellent recent record, but among this crowd, the risk management needs some thought.
EARLY DU LEMO e/w
2:05 HAYDOCK Betfair Exchange Hcap Hurdle Cl2 (3yo+ 0-145) 2m3f
Another tricky race. WAR LORD won at Haydock LTO but I’m going with McGOWAN’S PASS, who made a decent fist of his seasonal debut, coming a close 2nd. He had met the decent Main Fact before that, again coming second, and as the form suggests is consistent and reliable. IF all 8 stand their ground, then I’ll have a small e/w on Ruth Jefferson’s SECRETE STREAM who has won off a break in the past and has the ability to reward at a decent price.
McGOWAN’S PRICE Win – SECRETE STREAM (if 8 runners) e/w
2:25 ASCOT Porsche Long Walk Hurdle (G1) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m½f
Theoretically, this is between THYME HILL and PAISLEY PARK who met in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury LTO. TH won by 1½l, but PP is now 3lbs better off. There is some consensus that TH needs longer between races, which is my explanation of the market price. However, the winner of this race last year THE WORLDS END returns, and is running at around 33/1. Last year’s race might have been a bit weak, but still that price is barmy. The heavens have opened now, and conditions bring both MAIN FACT and THIRD WIND into the possible list, the pair having finished 1st and 2nd LTO here. This is a big step up, and THIRD WIND’s form line has some decent marks in it, notably a 4th in the Pertemps behind some smart horses.
THIRD WIND e/w – THE WORLD’S END e/w
2:40 HAYDOCK Betfair Tommy Whittle Hcap Chase Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 3m1½f
Effectively I’ve eliminated anything that hasn’t won on Heavy, which has left me with a list of four. CRIXUS’S ESCAPE is a lightly raced 7 yo who is 3/8 over hurdles. and is now seeking to repeat that hat trick, having already won 2/5 including a demolition job at Kelso winning by 22l on heavy ground. He won well at Ayr LTO and is a decent price for an e/w shout. HILL SIXTEEN has sparkled since arriving at NTD’s yard, but the handicapper has given him 12lbs for his last Ffos Las win, and his price looks too short to carry that. SOJOURN has also been given a large penalty, and again looks too short.
CRIXUS’S ESCAPE e/w
3:00 ASCOT Good Luck Hollie In SPOTY Silver Cup Hcap Chase Cl1 (4yo+) 3m
I have this between ESPOIR DE GUYE and REGAL ENCORE. I shall dutch the pair.
Dutch ESPOIR DE GUYE and REGAL ENCORE to Win
3:35 ASCOT Betfair Exchange Trophy (A Hcap Hurdle) (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f
Paul Nicholls said: “Conditions cannot be too testing for MALAYA who is a smart mare, has decent form at Ascot and is only 2lbs higher than when she won the Imperial Cup at Sandown 21 months ago. She ran really well on her return this season at Ascot late in October, finishing a clear second to a more than useful type Kid Commando and I’ve been training her for a crack at this race since then.” I also fancy BENSON who is seeking a four-timer and who Dr Dick slung in at the deep end on his Listed Hurdling debut. He was very temperamental then, unshipping Sean Bowen almost out of petulance. Since then however, he has been a revelation and has perhaps grown up a bit.
BENSON Win – MALAYA e/w