Ascot stages what promises to be one of the most competitive three mile chases of the season to date on Saturday.
Venetia William’s Houblon Des Obeaux won this of a mark of 144 last year and tries for a repeat off 157. He clearly likes Ascot as he went on to win another chase over course and distance the following month off 152. His subsequent form was dissappointing so perhaps this side of Christmas is his time of year. He won this first time out last year so lack of a prep race is of no concern. However he does like to get his toe in so a drying forecast would be against him.
With his stable in form and his excellent course record he is definitley one for the short list.
A dry week would serve the cause of Emma Lavelle’s six year old chaser Le Bec very well indeed. Lightly raced, he won two of his four starts last season, including first time out. In his second race, a three mile,one and a half furlong, chase at Cheltenham during the Paddy Power meeting he beat the subsequent Irish grand national winner Shutthefrontdoor by 3/4L at level weights, and had the useful Sam Winner who was receiving 5 lbs a further 2 1/2L back in third. Sam winner reversed the form a month later on better terms and Le Bec wasn’t seen out again until the Festival in March. Here, in the R.S.A. Chase he was travelling nicely until coming to grief at the fourth last. While we will never know for sure, more than one astute observer felt that he would have been involved at the business end. If this is the case he is well treated here off a mark of 149. As he goes well fresh, and comes from this excellent stable he is well worth considering.
Jonjo O’Neill’s 7yo Merry King is worth a second look. He was second in this to Houblon Des Mottes last year, beaten six lengths. He went on to perform creditably in the Hennessy, the Welsh National, and the Scottish National,where he didn’t seem to stay the extended four miles ,but still finished an honourable fourth off a mark of 140. As he is now 12lbs better off with Houblon Des Mottes for the six lengths he was beaten in last years race, will have a very nice racing weight of 10st 7lbs on Saturday ( assuming the current top weight Ma Filleule doesn’t run ) and will be fine first time out, he is another for the short list.
Paul Nicholls who has had five placed in this over the past decade tries with the 7yo Black Thunder. Another casualty in the R.S.A. Chase in March, he came down at the 12th when going o.k. He had a pipe opener three weeks ago at Newton Abbot where he finished a well beaten fourth of five but will have benefited greatly from the outing. Well suited by a soft surface any rain would be greatly in his favour.
David Pipe’s Standing Ovation won three times in October last year and ran a very promising race at Cheltenham two weeks ago. Believed by many to be better going right handed, he ran the very useful Roalco de Farges to 4 1/2L. Being by Presenting he will be well suited by Saturday’s likely good ground, has a pull of 5lbs with Roalco de Farges, and going his favoured way round, would seem to have a lot going for him. If he turns up he is definitely worth considering.
Robin Dickens grand servant Restless Harry would be interesting if conditions deteriorated. He beat the redoubtable Tea for Three and Houblon des Obeaux over course and distance on soft ground in Febuary. However he is now 8lbs worse of with the Williams horse and on Saturdays likely faster surface he may find things happening too quickly.
Selection. Le Bec.