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THE National Hunt season really kicks into gear today with big meetings at Ascot and Wetherby and Wholestone (nb) can keep the Nigel Twiston-Davies bandwagon rolling by landing the West Yorkshire Hurdle at 2.40.
This six-year-old kept the highest company as a novice and should be more streetwise this season. His opening fourth place of the current campaign behind Court Minstrel in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow over an insufficient two-and-a-half miles should have set him up nicely for this and I expect him to prove too good for the evergreen Ptit Zig and Lil Rockerfeller.
The following Charlie Hall Chase at 3.15 sees Cue Card return to the fray against Coneygree, but both veteran charges are vulnerable with another year on their backs and I fancy Definitly Red will have their measure especially with more rain forecast.
His course figures read 21 and unlike those two rivals he remains open to more improvement in this championship sphere.
Later on, Zeroshadesofgrey is taken to defy top-weight in the staying handicap hurdle at 3.45, while the novice hurdle at 12.55 can go to the newcomer Big Time Dancer.
The Ascot card centres on the Sodexo Gold Cup at 3.35 won last year by Antony. He has solid each-way claims of doubling up and so reversing recent form with Go Conquer, but this is a much deeper renewal of this three-mile event and preference is for the seven-year-old Emerging Force (NAP).
Good ground and three miles is perfect for this lightly raced son of Milan and he has won on his seasonal debut on his last two campaigns and makes plenty of appeal at anything around the 10/1 marker.
With more rain forecast, Calipto could be the bet in the extended two mile event at 2.25.
Lightly raced due to injury, the Venetia Williams charge also has a good record fresh and a bit of dig in the ground, with the heavy rains forecast, will be perfect for him on his first start of the campaign.
The William Hill Handicap Hurdle at 3.00 looks typically competitive and if the ground has a bit of ease in it then Peruvien Bleu could well be the answer being a tight fit.
The likes of the much vaunted Jenkins along with High Bridge and Elgin are all respected.
At Newmarket, Shaherezada can make up for a slightly disappointing third over course and distance last time out by taking the nursery at 1.10.
The youngster just got going a wee bit too late that day and gets the vote over top-weight Kind Act.
The Breeders’ Cup this evening is being run around the very tight Del Mar circuit and that should suit the mare Queen’s Trust as she bids to defend her Fillies and Mares crown at 9.00.
The Classic (due off at 35 minutes past midnight) could see Gunnevera outrun his odds of 33/1 and he may sneak into the frame behind the most likely winner Arrogate. Only 7th of 20 in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Dialed In showed he was coming to the boil with a fine second behind West Coast in the Grade One Travers Stakes last time out.
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