ITV Racing Selections From Ascot and Haydock
Six races will be broadcast live from Ascot and Haydock on ITV Racing this Saturday. Our experts have previewed each of these races and presented an antepost tip for each.
KNIGHT IN DUBAI (1:50 Howden Handicap Chase, Ascot)
One of five horses to finish close up in a competitive handicap at Aintree on his return, KNIGHT IN DUBAI, already has Harry Skelton booked up as a statement of intent for Saturday.
His fifth-placed effort at the Liverpool course came in a race whose form is working out well and he has been dropped 2lbs despite that effort having come off a 606-day layoff. Golden Whisky, who finished sixth, 17 lengths further back, in that race has been eased the same amount, making Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old look particularly well treated.
Prior to his long spell off the track, he had some very useful novice chase form in the book and a mark of 136 could underrate him by as much as a stone if he recaptures past efforts. Paul Nicholls’ Diego Du Charmil looks the biggest danger as he sets his sights on fences once again.
MACKELDUFF (2:05 Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle, Haydock)
This looks to be an extremely open handicap hurdle with a number of fascinating entries.
Of those, Stellar Magic comes back after 306 days off the track, having won two of his three novice hurdles impressively last season. After an extraordinary 700 days off, Soul Emotion, previously very useful with Nicky Henderson but now with Dan Skelton, could prove another with an excellent chance if retaining his ability.
N’golo was a Grade 3 winner with Willie Mullins last term, but has moved to Ann Duffield. However, it is MACKELDUFF who looks the most likely winner. The form of his victory on his penultimate start has been working out well and he was third in a hotter race than this at Cheltenham.
He was unlucky not to finish even closer that day and as a five-year-old, he has lots of scope to improve further.
RONALD PUMP (2:25 Howden Long Walk Hurdle, Ascot)
The final pre-Christmas Grade 1 and it is Nicky Henderson’s trio who stand out in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle.
Whether Champ can recapture his past efforts over either hurdles or fences remind to be seen after a lifeless effort in the Gold Cup, but he was also a Grade 1 winner over these obstacles.
Irish raider RONALD PUMP has not been a regular winner, but his form in finishing runner-up to Honeysuckle twice in the last year is very strong and he already has form in the book over this distance.
In the late absence of Buzz, there is a lack of potential superstar in the field, which is often what Ronald Pump has found in his way. He clearly travels okay, as he has been second in a Stayers’ Hurdle and his breakthrough at the top level could now be imminent on Saturday.
SHANTY ALLEY (2:40 Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, Haydock)
SHANTY ALLEY was progressive last season and Ben Case’s seven-year-old has already kept good company in his chasing career.
He won twice last season to go up 24lbs in the handicap, but was far from finished in terms of his upward curve. He was a battling second to Time To Get Up at Wincanton in February and a narrow third to Welsh National favourite Ask Me Early at Uttoxeter in March.
He is 2lbs lower than that day due to a disappointing reappearance, but he was carrying 12st 3lb after a layoff for that run, tough for any horse. Fitter and fresher, he should prove much better for that run.
Remastered is likely to be very popular, as he was travelling extremely strongly when falling four out in the Ladbrokes Trophy. That was quite a heavy fall, so he will have to prove his wellbeing, but his mark of 146 remains unchanged.
REGAL ENCORE (3:00 Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase, Ascot)
It might seem risky siding with a horse who will be 14-years-old in just three weeks, but REGAL ENCORE has always saved his best performances for Ascot and one more hurrah could be in the offing.
Since July 2019, his form at tracks away from Ascot reads 08PP0P9, but at the Berkshire course, he has gone 2131323. Quite simply, he is a totally different beast over Ascot’s fences.
That most recent “3” came at the end of October off a mark 3lbs higher, while his last winning mark was 145; he is at 146 now. Quite simply, he looks likely to give his running once again back at the course he loves and in an open enough race anyway, he is worth taking a chance on.
SAMARRIVE (3:35 Betfair Exchange Trophy, Ascot)
Greatwood Hurdle first and third, West Cork and No Ordinary Joe look sure to run well once again. The former’s victory after such a long time off was impressive and a 7lb rise may look kind, while the latter travelled overexuberantly, but still ran on for a place and would be very dangerous if settling better.
That said, one of the more impressive performances in recent weeks came from SAMARRIVE on his third start for Paul Nicholls. He was underwhelming on his handicap debut at Cheltenham, but clearly needed the run, as he bounced back at Ascot in fantastic fashion, sprinting away to win by 8 ½ lengths.
That was effectively over this trip and while he has gone up 11lbs, he may be even better still and there is distinct untapped potential for him to go further.