Banker or Blowout? All Seven Favs On Ascot’s Grade 1 Card Assessed!
Ascot’s Seven Saturday Favourites Assessed
Ascot plays host to a fascinating seven-race card on Saturday, with the meeting centring around the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase, billed as a fascinating clash between star chasers Shishkin and Energumene. In anticipation of what promises to be an incredible day’s action, our expert has assessed the chances of all seven favourites on the card, labelling them either a ‘banker’ or ‘blowout’.
IRISH HILL – (12:35, SBK Betting Podcast Juvenile Hurdle) 2/1
Related to multiple German flat winners, Irish Hill was himself twice a winner on the level in France last year. This Kington Hill gelding justified favouritism, albeit somewhat fortuitously, at Taunton on stable/hurdles debut last month, accounting for the reopposing Girandole.
He is entitled to improve for that initial experience, and cheekpieces now go on for the first time, but others in this lineup bring a comparable, if not slightly better, level of form into this and therefore Irish Hill looks worth taking on at the prices.
CAT TIGER – (1:10, SBK Handicap Chase) 5/2
The Paul Nicholls trained Cat Tiger only narrowly failed to provide his owner/rider with victory at Doncaster last month, losing out in a ding dong battle with the game Kalooki.
That partnership is retained here, and Cat Tiger remains relatively unexposed in handicaps over fences. He has been pushed up 4lb for that Doncaster second, however, which clearly demands more, and he comes up against both in-form and well-handicapped opponents here.
GARRY CLERMONT – (1:45, SBK Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle) 7/2
The 7yo Garry Clermont justified favouritism to land a competitive Warwick handicap hurdle in May, and although failing to add to that in two subsequent starts at this venue, he has bettered the RPR’s on both occasions.
Garry Clermont’s latest third here came in an ultra-competitive Grade 3 contest and whilst he has gone up 1lb since, the performance strongly suggested that going back up to this distance would suit.
Two of the last three renewals of this contest went to horses carrying topweight, which also bodes well for Garry Clermont’s chances, but there appears to be more than one handicap lurker in this line-up and therefore Jonjo O’Neill’s charge may have to settle for minor honours once again.
MOLLY OLLYS WISHES – (2:20, SBK Mares’ Hurdle) 2/1
Dan Skelton and Harry Skelton teamed up to land this race last year with Roksana and representing the same partnership in 2022, Molly Ollys Wishes takes her place in the line-up.
This 8yo Black Sam Bellamy mare ran out an impressive winner on seasonal debut at Wetherby in October, and that form has received some healthy boosts since.
Molly Ollys Wishes was nowhere near that level when last of five in the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle here in November, but she is back against her own sex here and steps up in distance, both of which look notable positives for her chances. With her main market rivals arriving with a little to prove; Western Victory (stable debut), My Sister Sarah (0-6 at Graded level), Molly Ollys Wishes looks difficult to oppose.
Recommended BetMOLLY OLLYS WISHES (2:20pm Ascot) 2/1 Bet Now! New Customers only. 18+. T&C’s Apply. begambleaware.org.
PALMERS HILL – (2:55, bet365 Handicap Chase) 3/1
Jonjo O’Neill’s Palmers Hill bombed out on his chase debut at Taunton back in December 2020, but he has proven completely revitalised in this sphere since returning from a break, following up a November Wetherby success when scoring in an even more impressive fashion over 2m3f here last month.
That form received a boost courtesy of the fourth home Zhiguli’s Lingfield victory yesterday, and having won over this distance over hurdles, the return to further should not inconvenience.
The handicapper has forced Palmers Hill up 8lb for that Ascot win, however, and he has been comfortably held on both of his previous runs off 137+, which makes him look a little vulnerable at the prices.
SHISHKIN – (3:35, SBK Clarence House Chase) 8/11
Nicky Henderson has previously taken the Clarence House Chase with the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Altior, and he is represented here with Shishkin, who is unbeaten in 6 previous starts over fences.
Twice a Grade 1 winning novice chaser last season, Shishkin made a successful seasonal reappearance at Kempton last month and that performance produced a joint career-best RPR of 175.
Although that figure is officially only slightly above the 174 recorded by main market Energumene for his victory in last month’s Hilly Way Chase, the level of opposition that day looked poor and if Energumene performs his usual front running tactics this should set up for the stalking Shishkin.
Recommended BetSHISHKIN (3:35pm Ascot) 8/11 Bet Now! New Customers only. 18+. T&C’s Apply. begambleaware.org.
GALIA DES LITEAUX – (4:05, SBK British EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle) 7/4
A point-to-point winner at Loughanmore as recently as October, Galia Des Liteaux justified market support to run out a very easy 30l winner of a mares’ novice hurdle at Wetherby on last month’s rules/stable debut.
Admittedly that contest didn’t appear to hold any particular strength in depth, but it was still ultra impressive the manner in which Galia Des Liteaux streaked clear on the run-in and stepping up to this distance looks a plus on that evidence.
Horses that held favouritism have won six of the last seven renewals of this event, and Galia Des Liteaux is backed to enhance that record with victory in the Saturday finale.