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Ascot, Haydock, Lingfield, Wolverhampton Preview of this weekend’s racing with Farringdon

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THERE is some cracking racing and prizes under both codes up for grabs this afternoon with the undoubted highlight being the match up between Shishkin and Energumene in the Grade One Clarence House Chase (Ascot, 3.00).

Nicky Henderson left plenty to work on last year’s Arkle winner when he won readily at Kempton Park, and the huge pivotal factor here will be how right, or indeed wrong, Paul Townend gets the fractions aboard the Willie Mullins’s trained entry in this exciting race for all national hunt fans.

And that may not be the be all and end all of the story as Ascot specialist and recent Peterborough Chase winner, First Flow, is also very much in the mix.

The last named could well match the Irish raider up front and if his sometimes iffy fencing holds up we could be in for quite a contest which will go a long way to reshaping the market for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

But the outcome of this contest really could come down to one bad jump and/or the tactics employed by the three top jockeys in action and I am going to side with Paul Townend and ENERGUMENE.

This scopey, long-striding charge should be well suited to the galloping nature of the track and I can see his brilliant partner asking his mount to stretch Shishkin coming out of Swinley Bottom and try and run the finish out of the Henderson superstar before turning for home.

There are some cracking betting races on the rest of the Berskhire card including an ultra-competitive handicap hurdle over two-and-a-half miles at 1.45.

Top weight Garry Clermont and Stellar Magic are sure to be prominent in the betting, the last named made a nice return at Haydock Park, while N’Golo (well weighted on last year’s Albert Bartlett run) and Stoner’s Choice are also in the mix.

However, I think that the value could well be with failed chaser ESPRIT DU LARGE, even though he won the 2019 Henry VIII Novice Chase at Sandown from Nube Negra!

However, his jumping then went to pot in four subsequent chases starting with the Arkle and it has seemingly taken Evan Williams a long time to get him right again.

Since returning to hurdling, the eight-year-old has dropped from a mark of 146 down to his current rating of 135. Softer ground would probably suit him even better, but the gelding showed an awful lot more dash last time out when a running on second at Exeter and with this being only his third start of the season he should be relatively fresh here compared to some of his rivals.

Elsewhere on the card, I also fancy big runs from RESTITUTION in the opening juvenile hurdle at 12.35 and MOLLY OLLYS WISHES in the staying mares event at 2.20.

At Haydock Park, the Peter Marsh Chase is the betting highlight as last year’s winner, who subsequently ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Royale Pagaille, bids to defend his crown.

A 7lbs higher mark is very fair based on his runs since, but the ground probably won’t be as testing and that could give the advantage to REMASTERED (nb).

He looked as though he was going to play a major role in the finish of the Trophy at Newbury before coming down at the fourth from home and then disappointed badly when a beaten favourite in the Tommy Whittle over this course and distance last time out. 

I think that he probably did a bit too much too soon that day with Calipso Collonges pushing him out of his comfort zone in the middle part of the race.

A slightly more restrained ride should do the trick and off the same mark I felt he was worth another chance here off a lovely racing weight.

The Champion Hurdle Trial (2.00) should go the way of the highly progressive TOMMY’S OSCAR, but he will be no price at all and a better value bet at the Merseyside track should be DELUXE RANGE in the staying hurdle at 3.10.

If trainer Sandy Thomson has found the key to him the seven-year-old looks just about the best handicapped horse in the race.

Lingfield Park has some good prizes up for grabs on the all-weather and FIRST IMPRESSION (nap), fit from hurdling, should go close off a mark of 85 in the opening mile-and-a-quarter handicap at 12.45.

DEAL A DOLLAR (1.20) also looks nicely in for the mile-and-a-half handicap, while anyone of six fillies could conceivably be fancied for the Winter Oaks Fillies’ Handicap at 3.40.

Top of my list is SERENADING who has been crying out for the step up to this 10 furlong trip. She may not be the best handicapped in the race, but she is four from 10 on the sand and gets the nod over the likes of Virgin Snow and Pretty Sweet.

Finally, a couple to go to war with at the twilight meeting at Wolverhampton. FIRST VERSE has been knocking on the door of late at the Dunstall Park track and can finally have his day under the lights in a very weak classified stakes event at 7.30.

My other wager on the card will come in the form of DARISANA in the mile-and-a-half handicap at 6.00. This bay filly has been given plenty of time by her shrewd trainer in three starts. But she has been tenderly handled on all those runs and to my eyes was a real eye-catcher when making late headway behind Lady Labelle over a mile-and-a-quarter at Chelmsford.

If we get a quicker tempo into this contest I can see her making a winning handicap debut off a low mark of just 54.


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