Ascot tips Friday 20 December – Race-by-race selections for the day’s feature fixture

Get Brian Healy's race-by-race selections and best bets for Friday's meeting at Ascot which features two Grade Two contests on a cracking racecard.

The first of two excellent days’ jumps racing action goes to post at Ascot on Friday, and a high-quality racecard is dominated by a pair of Grade Two contests in the shape of the Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle, as well as the Noel Novices’ Chase on a six-race card which gets underway at 12.45pm at the Berkshire venue.

12:45 – Jacquart Noel Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f
1:20 – Maiden Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+) 2m5½f
1:55 – Ascot Supports Thames Hospice Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-135) 2m1f
2:30 – Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Kennel Gate) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f
3:05 – Thames Materials Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+ 0-130) 2m5½f
3:40 – Isobel Championship Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) Cl1 (4-6yo) 1m7½f

Brian Healy looks ahead to a quality afternoon of jumping action at the famous racecourse which could throw up a couple of future Cheltenham Festival clues, and he gives his Friday Ascot tips and race-by-race selections for every race going to post.

12:45 – Jacquart Noel Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f

It is disappointing that only two runners stand their ground for this Grade Two prize, but ANGELS BREATH (1/3, Unibet) can land back-to-back chase wins having created a good first impression over the larger obstacles when beating First Flow here last month.

Nicky Henderson’s Shantou gelding scored readily by an easy eight lengths, travelling and jumping well, and the runner-up has won since albeit in a weaker contest. Nevertheless, he is likely to have more to come in this sphere, and he ought to improve for the experience last time as well as strip fitter for his first run in more than seven months.

A previous point-to-point winner, he quickly attained a very smart level over hurdles and ran well in Grade One company at Cheltenham and Aintree respectively, and he should prove a tough nut to crack on his second outing over the larger obstacles where he can boss his sole rival Mont Des Avaloirs who was readily beaten behind Champ at Newbury on his chase debut.

With Henderson’s charge having won first time up this season and looking a smart chasing prospect, he gets the vote to win this match with Paul Nicholls’ rival.

Nicky Henderson

Nicky Henderson can get Ascot’s Friday fixture off to a winning start.

1:20 – Maiden Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+) 2m5½f

BEAN IN TROUBLE (8/1, Coral, each-way) ran really well on his reappearance at Plumpton earlier in the month, returning from almost a year off the track to find only Oscarman a half-length too strong with the front pair pulling clear of the rest; Jonjo O’Neill’s charge could build on that outing here to get back to winning ways.

The Sulamani gelding had won a Huntingdon bumper on his sole start for Alistair Ralph on Boxing Day last campaign, beating Fricka by a neck, and he showed plenty to work on when bumping into a race-fit rival latest.

He ought to build on that reappearance however, and both his runs have come in testing ground so he may be worth chancing to build on that return to action and open his win account over timber.

1:55 – Ascot Supports Thames Hospice Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-135) 2m1f

DEBUCHET (2/1, Unibet) made a winning transition to the larger obstacles when running out a four lengths’ winner over An Fraoch Mor at Fairyhouse last month, and Mags Mullins’ charge can take this prize back to Ireland.

The Smadoun gelding won a Listed bumper a couple of seasons ago, and he ran to a useful level over hurdles without winning, making the frame three times last campaign which included at Limerick in April before perhaps just finding three miles stretching him at Fairyouse in April.

Back from seven months off latest, he revelled in the testing conditions to score a ready success from the front, and the runner-up has won well since to give the form a boost.

He switches to handicapping for this latest assignment where a mark of 131 looks workable, and he is entitled to progress on the back of his first run over fences where he has conditions to suit, so every chance he can follow up here.

Debuchet can win at Ascot for Mags Mullins.

2:30 – Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Kennel Gate) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f

Another big prize which has attracted poor numbers; but despite the lack of runners, this Grade Two prize looks competitive with Ribble Valley bidding for a hat-trick after two impressive wins. However, MASTER DEBONAIR (5/2, Ladbrokes) could be worth chancing to thwart the three-timer despite giving away 3lbs to Nicky Richards’ rising star.

The Yeats gelding showed plenty of ability in bumpers, and Colin Tizzard’s charge made a good fist of things on his first outing over hurdles at Cheltenham in October when finding only one too good behind Heaven Help Us.

He had a subsequent winner behind him that day, and he got on the scoresheet himself over course and distance last month where he ran out a seven lengths’ winner over Tamaroc Du Mathan in similar underfoot conditions to those he’ll experience here, and he could progress again.

Open to further improvement, he could be worth siding with given his winning course and distance form, although he faces no easy task in conceding weight to one rated 6lbs superior. Nevertheless, he can remain competitive, and no surprise to see a big run here with Robbie Power back in the saddle.

3:05 – Thames Materials Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+ 0-130) 2m5½f

ASHFIELD PADDY (4/1, Ladbrokes) was a winner in the point-to-point sphere prior to joining Jonjo O’Neill, and the Publisher gelding has shown progress with each of his three starts to date, bettering his finishing position each time and getting off the mark at Haydock earlier in the month when beating Teescomponentstrig.

That win came over further than this distance, and he overcame a late mistake to score a shade readily so may well have better still to come if coping with the drop back in trip here.

The form of that last-time win perhaps isn’t the strongest on offer, but he remains unexposed and a 5lbs rise in the weights for that success could prove workable so every chance he can remain competitive here..

A big run ought to see him go close, and open still to improvement on ground that shouldn’t inconvenience then he looks worth chancing in a competitive contest to follow up his last-time win.

Team O’Neill can combine for Ascot success on Friday afternoon.

3:40 – Isobel Championship Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) Cl1 (4-6yo) 1m7½f

BUTTE MONTANA (13/2, Unibet) ran really well on his debut at Cheltenham in October, finding only Time Flies By too strong by a couple of lengths, and the Presenting gelding can put the experience to good use to go one better here.

Fergal O’Brien’s runners continue in decent form, and there was a lot to like about that first outing where he led the pack into the final furlong but was just unable to sustain his effort to the line. The front pair had pulled three lengths’ clear of the rest, and the form looks solid with both the winner and third since making the frame in Listed company.

Open to improvement on the back of that introduction, he could go close here for his yard which continues in decent form, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a big effort here as he bids to get off the mark.


12:45 – ANGELS BREATH (1/3, Unibet)
1:20 – BEAN IN TROUBLE (8/1, Coral, each-way)
1:55 – DEBUCHET (2/1, Unibet)
2:30 – MASTER DEBONAIR (5/2, Ladbrokes)
3:05 – ASHFIELD PADDY (4/1, Ladbrokes)
3:40 – BUTTE MONTANA (13/2, Unibet)