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2018 JLT Long Walk Hurdle tips – 5/2 shot to Lord it over Ascot rivals

Jonathan Vine 21 Dec 2018
Nico de Boinville pushes Call Me Lord to an emphatic victory in the Select Hurdle Race at Sandown in April.

Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade One staying hurdle at Ascot on Saturday 22nd December and provides readers with his tips.

Before we get to the hectic schedule of racing just after Christmas, Ascot warms up jumps racing fans with a fantastic card on Saturday, with the JLT Long Walk Hurdle the most valuable race on the day. Many of the sports best staying hurdlers have claimed victory in this prestigious Grade One, with Baracouda, Big Buck’s and Reve De Sivola standing out on the recent roll of honour.

Racegoers on Saturday will get the chance to see both of the most recent Long Walk winners return to Ascot on Saturday, with Unowhatimeanharry (4/1 Ladbrokes) sitting highest of the two in the market. Harry Fry’s ten-year-old rolled back the years rolled back the years with a battling victory in the Long Distance Hurdle last month, where he was the first off the bridle and ground out a victory. That race, however, fell into his lap and it’s clear the 2016 Long Walk winner isn’t as effective as he used to be.

Sam Spinner (8/1 Paddy Power) was backed into favouritism for the Long Distance Hurdle and it was a huge surprise to see Jedd O’Keefe’s charge perform so poorly, unseating Joe Colliver when struggling two from home. Sam Spinner’s emergence was one of the feel-good stories of last season – beating L’Ami Serge to this title in thrilling fashion – but he’s looked a little out of his depth on his last three starts and will have to show a big upturn in form.

There are parallels between Sam Spinner’s start to last season and the form Paisley Park (9/1 Paddy Power) has shown of late. Emma Lavelle’s charge wasn’t even in the screen when the leaders jumped the last in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle at Haydock – won by Sam Spinner last year – and still managed to snatch a narrow victory with a flying late finish. The magnitude of that performance was lessened a little when four other horses on the day executed an identical late move and Paisley Park has plenty to prove as he steps back into Grade One company.

If the ground turns into a bog, Agrapart (7/1 William Hill) will be a big player at Ascot. Nick Williams seven-year-old is a three-time graded winner over hurdles and secured the biggest victory of his career in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham back in February. While there is some rain in the Berkshire air next week, the chances of the ground coming up suitably soft look pretty bleak and I wouldn’t back Agrapart on anything better than heavy.

Top Notch (10/1 Paddy Power) proved he could step up to three miles at the end of last season, grinding out a victory in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown. Nicky Henderson started his accomplished chaser over hurdles last season and he could use a similar tactic this term and it will be interesting to see if Top Notch does feature in the final field. 

Joe Colliver riding Sam Spinner (centre, orange) to victory in the JLT Long Walk last season.

Soul Emotion (8/1 Ladbrokes) could also fly the flag for Seven Barrows but, while he was progressing nicely earlier in the year, this would be a huge ask on his first start of this campaign. The Mighty Don (33/1 Ladbrokes shouldn’t be overlooked further down the betting, however. Nick Gifford’s charge ran on well to finish third in the Long Distance Hurdle and remains a staying hurdler on the up.

For me, however, there are only two horses I’m inclined to back in this years’ JLT Long Walk. Momella (7/1 Paddy Power) was shaping like the most likely winner in the Long Distance Hurdle, only to make an uncharacteristic error at the second-last and send Harry Skelton crashing to the canvas. The six-year-old was running really nicely on her first start for new trainer, Dan Skelton, and could be an even bigger danger on her second start after a wind-op.

Momella made my list of horses to track at the start of the season and I would love to see her run well. Yet, my eyes are drawn to CALL ME LORD (NAP) (5/2 Ladbrokes) – another of my pre-season tracker horses – and I think he will be perfectly suited by the conditions of this Grade One.

Nicky Henderson’s charge showed class and potential in abundance last season. Call Me Lord followed a slightly-disappointing third place finish in the Kingwell Hurdle with a narrow defeat in the Imperial Cup, where he came up just over a length short of Mr Antolini when giving the winner almost two stone at the weights.

Henderson decided to step the Munir & Souede-owned hurdler up in trip at the end of last season and Call Me Lord dominated in the Select Hurdle, destroying the likes of Lil Rockerfeller, Wholestone, Old Guard and Diakali by 16 lengths. 

The style of that victory makes you believe Call Me Lord can progress even further with the step up to three miles. He goes on any sort of ground and, although this will be his first spin around Ascot, he's clearly a horse who relishes flat, right-handed tracks. I think Call Me Lord will be very, very difficult to beat.

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2018 JLT Long Walk Hurdle tips – 5/2 shot to Lord it over Ascot rivals

Our expert takes a look through the betting for this Grade One staying hurdle at Ascot on Saturday 22nd December and provides readers with his tips.

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