The Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle Ascot

Despite Richard Johnson’s late defection to the eventual winner, Village Vic, I thought last weeks selection, Champagne West, ran a great race to come second. Despite a serious blunder at the seventh fence, he chased the winner throughout, and stayed on really well up that punishing hill. Considering it was his first run since coming back from injury, and he was conceding 14lbs to his talented stablemate, this was a performance full of merit, and he is one to keep in mind for the Ryan Air in March. Saturday’s Ladbroke may also contain some Festival pointers, as being one of the most important handicaps in the calendar it always attracts runners from the top yards. Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, who has won two of the last three renewals, has three possibles at the time of writing, and while it would be foolish to dismiss any of this superb trainers runners, none of them would seem to hold particularly strong chances.

A trainer with more obvious prospects at the weekend is man of the moment, Dan Skelton. He won this two years ago with the 6yo Willows Saviour, and has two interesting candidates for this years contest, the 5yo Hurricane Hollow, and 4yo Zarib. The former ran well following a three month break in the 2m3 1/2f Silver Trophy at Chepstow, where patently not getting home over the trip, he finished third. The form of the race has worked out exceptionally well with the runner up winning a £25,000 contest next time by 8L, and the fifth, Rons Dream, winning next time, and finishing second to hat trick scorer, Lilly’s Waugh at Cheltenham last Saturday. A winner of three of his six hurdle starts, all around 2m, Hurricane Hollow looks nicely handicapped off a mark of 139 giving him a nice racing weight of 10st11lbs. One for the shortlist!

Stablemate, Zarib, was a good sixth in the Fred Winter at the Festival where he led briefly at the last. He was made favourite for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on his reappearance, but unsuited by the steady pace, finished third. The run was not without merit however, and bound to be better suited by Saturday’s contest, racing off the same mark as in the Fred Winter, he is worth considering. The one caveat would be the poor record of four year olds in the Ladbroke, with only one coming home in front in the ten runnings since it’s inception.

As his superb record at the track bears witness to, no trainer enjoys success at the Berkshire course more than the very talented young handler, Harry Fry (pictured above), so expect his dual course winner, Jollys Cracked It, to turn up with all guns blazing. He ran another fine race at the track on his reappearance in a very steadily run affair in October, a Cl1 handicap.

Despite finishing strongly, he was beaten three quarters of a length, and a nose by Nabucco, and Saturday’s opponent, Unanimite. He meets the runner up on a pound better terms, will have come on for the run, and in a race likely to be taking place, both on a more suitable easy surface, and at a truer pace, it isn’t difficult to envisage the Fry horse taking his revenge. With Noel Fehilly, who has never ridden better, in the plate, he is another for the shortlist, and might just be the one to help with those Christmas expenses.

The all conquering Alan King runs the 4yo, Winner Massagot, and he showed what a useful animal he is when, despite running too freely, won a Class2 handicap on soft ground at the course three weeks ago off a mark of 123. His trainer hopes that the run will have taken some of the”fizz” out of him, and that Wayne Hutchinson will have a more tractable mount under him at the weekend. However the Handicapper has had his say, raising him 12lbs, and with the poor record of four year olds, the King horse may just find himself up against it.

Gordon Elliott may be the only successful Irish Trainer in the race to date, but Noel Mead certainly has prospects of improving the record with his talented six year old Waxies Dargle. He demonstrated his liking for the hurly burly of these large field handicaps, when taking a very competitive one at Killarney’s tight course last May. He ran a fine race on his reappearance in the Greatwood handicap at Cheltenham four weeks ago when, running off the same mark as Old Guard, he got to within six lengths of the Nicholls horse. In the light of Old Guard’s subsequent performance and his prominence in the Champion Hurdle market, this has to be considered a decent performance and a rise of only 4lbs seems more than fair.

Selection: Jollys Cracked It.

E.W. : Waxies Dargle.

Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle Betting Tips Ascot

Nick Henderson race horse trainer.

Our racing guru fancies Nicky Henderson’s Sign of a Victory to go close in Saturday’s Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle.

Since its inception in 2001 there have been only nine renewals of this highly competitive race at its Ascot venue. It was abandoned in 2009 and 2010 due to snow, and was run elsewhere in 2004 and 2005 due to course redevelopment. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful trainer with three wins. Five year olds have been the winning most age group with five successes. Two six year olds, one seven year old, and one four year old have also hit the back of the net. This stat may be a little misleading as four year olds have been very much to the fore in recent runnings. The market hasn’t been a great guide with only one favourite (Henderson’s Jack The Giant 2007) obliging, and two 25/1 shots winning.

Harry Fry’s 4yo Activial leads the market at 5/1 having been backed in from twice these odds since last weekend. He was a convincing winner of the Adonis hurdle at Newbury last Febuary, but then disappointed in his next engagement at Aintree in April where he was probably unsuited by the sharp track. However the Newbury form has worked out well with the runner up Commissioned ( beaten 3 1/2L ) winning twice this season, achieving a rating of 140, making Activial’s Mark of 137 on Saturday, look rather generous. His lack of a recent pipe opener and indeed experience ( has had only 3 hurdle races), may count against him, but with the very talented Mr Fry in charge and carrying the nice racing weight of 10st10lbs he is short listed.

With his three previous winners Nicky Henderson certainly knows what is required, so his very promising 5yo Sign of a Victory is worth serious consideration. In only his fifth race over hurdles ( Ascot 2ml. Nov1 ) he came home on the bridle in what was a truly run race,of a mark of 139. He has been raised what appears a quite harsh 11lbs to 150 but it will be no surprise if he ends the season racing off a considerably higher mark. Ground conditions on Saturday are a concern as he had been an intended runner in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle but was taken out because of the soft ground. However I can’t see Saturday’s likely gd/sft being a problem for this son of Kayf Tara out of a Bob Back mare, and unless conditions really deteriorate should have every chance.

Having performed with credit in a number of top handicaps Gordon Elliott’s 5yo Bayan is already a seasoned campaigner. He ran a great race to be third in the Coral Cup at the Festival, and improved again,coming second in the Galway Hurdle. However the handicapper has had his say and he is now 8lbs higher than Cheltenham. He probably needs testing conditions at two miles so if it does come up soft he is well worth a second look.

Dan Skelton’s 5yo Galileo gelding Shelford has won his last two races and is another who wouldn’t mind it testing on Saturday. Rated 89 on the flat he has made a highly successful transition to the winter game and was quite impressive in his first handicap ( 2 1/2 mls sft Chepstow ) at the end of October, where off a mark of 127 he made all and kept on very gamely to beat Aubusson by 3/4L. As the runner up went on to win the £80,000. Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock, Shelford’s 7lbs rise seems more than fair. He travels well in his races so it would be no surprise to see him leading the field over the last on Saturday.

Garde La Victoire and Clondaw Warrior are closely matched on Cheltenham form in November and the progressive Hobbs horse is fancied to come out on top again. Clondaw Warrior is 3lb better of for the 2L he was beaten but Garde La Victoire has the more progressive profile and indeed must have every chance of being involved at the business end.

Tony Martins 4yo Pyromaniac finished a well beaten 3rd at Cheltenham in November but had shown considerable potential in his previous two runs at Listowel and Killarney. Coming from this stable, this very lightly raced and unexposed animal could easily spring a surprise.

Jonjo O’Neill’s good flat horse Goodwood Mirage showed he was getting his act together when winning at Wetherby in October. Quietly fancied for the Triumph hurdle, he was brought down at the second and is definitely one to note if there is any market confidence.

Selection. Sign of a Victory.

E.W. Shelford.