Ceebee looks at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday and likes Black Corton, Callipto and Bishop's Road.
3m Keltbray Swinley Listed Handicap Chase
On a busy day’s racing at Ascot it’s one of the lesser races, a handicap chase that attracts me.
Black Corton has plenty of chasing experience to his name but this is only his second handicap start. The first one was the Ladbroke (Hennessy) which was not a going day – the ground was just too soft for him. Ignore that effort. He got his season back on track though with a fine 2nd to Top Notch over an inadequate 2m4f. Back at 3miles on decent ground he can give his best here. And off 155 against a small field of relatively exposed handicappers I think his best will be more than enough. His form is closely matched with Elegant Escape (now 162 after Welsh Nat win) and Ballyoptic (155 after Scot Nat 2nd) both of whom had decent handicap success after running down the field, without being disgraced, in the RSA. Black Corton splitting Definitely Red (164) and Virgillio (157) in the Charlie Hall is another hint that 155 underrates him having not gone down the handicap route after his novice campaign. A C&D winner this day last year when accounting for the smart Ms Parfois in the G1 Reynoldstown there’ll be no trip, track or ground excuses. The Nicholls yard has had a winner every day he’s had a runner in February.
Coneygree, now 12, last won 3.5yrs ago. He was decent at Cheltenham in November but disappointed a little in the King George. He’d probably prefer it softer, perhaps over further, and hasn’t been dropped a whole lot by the handicapper.
Regal Encore won this 12mts ago but it was a far weaker renewal and the inconsistent sort has done nothing since. Off 152 he’ll need a career best aged 11; unlikely.
Art Mauresque has been beaten off marks of 150, 148 & 152 in his three tries at the 3m trip. Off 150 here he’s not at all well handicapped nor is he at his best trip. This stretches him (Coneygree, Black Corton & Reikers Island will ensure it’s a right test). The talented 5lb claimer will help but he’s had many chances at this level and comes in off the back of a poor effort in the SkyBet Chase.
Smooth Stepper wants it softer underfoot and was well beaten last time off a 10lb lower mark over hurdles. Hard to fancy.
Calipto ran well in the SkyBet at Doncaster – his first try at 3miles. This is a similar race so in the same form he could go close. In fact there is scope for his jumping to improve from the last day. The way the race will pan out could be ideal for him (held up with against loads of prominent racers) but there’s still a suggestion it isn’t his best trip and there’ll be no hiding place here.
Crievehill was my selection in the Grand Sefton – he ran ok but nothing special. He was then poor over Christmas. The trip, form, handicap mark are all worries – hard to fancy.
Reikers Island is the youngest and least experienced in the field. So potentially the best handicapped but despite getting weight all around this is a tough ask against class horses like Black Corton. The biggest worry is he likes to race prominently and will have plenty of company on the front end.
2pts win Black Corton at 3/1 with Bet365
0.5pt win Calipto at 17/2 with Betfair and Paddy Power
Recommending win only but if there are 8 runners going to post feel free to have it each way on both selections.
Later on at 14.45 Ascot I expect Clan des Obeaux to account for Terrefort with ease and Politologue is my selection in the 15.55 G1 Ascot Chase – so it’s a terrible for Nicholls with 3 different jockeys. I’m not a big fan of Terrefort’s form – an average JLT and questionable Aintree form – and find it a minor negative that Daryl Jacob doesn’t ride. The form of Politologue’s CD win in November and his Melling win in April is better than anything else in here – the King George effort is excusable. Waiting Patiently hasn’t done much to warrant a mark of 170 – his best form is beating a 13yr old then soon to be retired Cue Card. And a half a run in 12mts is hardly an ideal prep.
Black Corton, Clan des Obeaux, Politologue Ascot Nicholls Trixie.
3m5f Grand National Trial
This is very difficult. The Peter Marsh, Classic Chase & Welsh National form lines collide. Plenty of in-form horses who look like they’ll be ideally suited by this test. A small play is all I’ll make.
Haydock is a bit of a specialist track (see Bristol de Mai & Captain Redbeard) and Bishops Road has good course form. He took this race in 2016 (off 144) and has placed here on his two other visits since. The most recent was his seasonal reappearance on ground a little too lively for him which hinted he’s in the form to take a race like this during the winter. He didn’t get past the 3rd at Newcastle and was very bad at Sandown but with a decent 5lb claimer ensuring he runs off 10-2 (adjusted mark of 132) at a track he’s excelled at before – 33/1 looks appealing.
0.75pt e/w Bishops Road