Ascot’s best card could feature the return of Constitution Hill and L’Homme Presse but it is the Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Handicap Chase that is the most competitive.
The heavyweights are led by Britain’s fastest pace chaser, Edwardstone, and it’s great to see him here trying to give his talented but smart rivals a shot. You don’t see that often these days.
Good to soft, good in places, and an acceptable description after 24 hours of drying until the start of the meeting on Friday. There was 41mm in the week leading up to this.
The weather on Friday seemed to fit that description and there is no rain again, although if you have it, you should know that it will be very cold on Saturday.
Last season’s Arkle Chase champion was due to reappear in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham last weekend only to be dropped by Alan King for speeding.
A clever trickster, he was a top chaser last time, unbeaten on the finish and only got the better of Gentleman De Mee on his last start at Aintree. Eleven lengths behind him, however, it was Lucki’s third time of the season – both on good terms – and now he has to concede 10lb to his partner.
The last time he fought on a handicap he was in trouble, and at Aintree, in April, 2021 when he was third at 149. At a maximum of 12lb, he is not ruled out for the progress he has made but remember that his Trainer has been adamant that Tingle Creek is the primary target for weather.
Third time lucky
He won three times over fences last season in his debut campaign and three times behind Edwardstone. The closest he got was at Warwick just four over, but the other margin was 16 lengths by 11.
Obviously with a 10lb pull this time, he has a right to finish close. However, his re-appearance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter was a bit of a struggle (starting favourite) as his jumps brought him down and he was beaten well in the end.
It needs a big change.
It looked very good at the opening meeting – before and during the competition – when he won well, after suspension, at the great price of Frero Banbou against Frero Banbou and Before Midnight, winning by four lengths and three and six. and half as long.
He put on 7lb for this and may have a chance to change. Note that although he jumped on good ground last time he also works on soft ground. Definitely one of the important players.
Last year’s winner (from 2lb down) who did well in third place behind Thyme White three weeks ago and is now well on 8lb to beat him by over 11 lengths with the winner.
This tells you that they can get very close but they are well within 1lb of the Frero Banbou winner. Note that he did well at the start of the race to avoid Monsieur Le Coq who fell at the second fence and the way he tired in the race showed that the race was worth it.
A forward who returns to the minor leagues for the first time in two years. He won twice in his second season over fences last season – at heavy and good – but the season ended on a disappointing note as he played his last two matches.
So, his impressive win from the front at Market Rasen (2m 5f) was a welcome return to form and he has 4lb for it. No doubt his pressure tactics will be needed here but he has to move so quickly and may be out of his comfort zone. His cage is rich.
He can sometimes get close to his fences (he hasn’t fallen) but he still recorded some good efforts last season, including a third in the Grand Year at Cheltenham.
He was chased with a lot of zest here on his debut but, although he continued well, it couldn’t quite match Thyme White’s last speed over good ground and he now has the chance to change that form with a 7lb pull five lengths down and in a position he should be comfortable with.
He holds the third Before Midnight at that speed, too. Venetia Williams has had a quiet start but the regular star L’Homme Presse may have already hit when this is run and this is considered to be a day to remember.
A similar type that has just started at two fences and rode its debut at Exeter in December, 2021, to release a sub at Newton Abbot last month which is now 8lb.
The second runner-up stole from there. It seems like a tough task against these experienced professionals for the uninitiated.
Most of the time it goes well here (the first time I went through the post twice, I got banned for the second time) and the last one in the last 12 months out of 150.
He’s now down to 10lb after some tough training, including his comeback, having been knocked back a couple of times here.
Dan Skelton is now reaching for the blinkers to replace the cheekpieces in the hope it will inspire him again but it takes a leap of faith to believe.
The Irishman who looked so ordinary in trouble until he suddenly hit form this summer (he was duly supported), easily winning his maiden cover at Kilbeggan before taking up fencing and winning his first two at Tipperary and Carlisle, both by 2 and a half. miles.
Back here for his third start in deep water, but, judging by Emmet Mullins’ record over the past few years, he wasn’t cast well.
Edwardstone is a class action so that it can be up to insult the top weight but Alan King can leave a little work on Tingle Creek. They should be concerned, though.
In this easy space and heavy pull, Bamboo floor is taken to pay back at Thyme White on a day that would be perfect for Venetia Williams.