I will start tonight’s preview with the Ascot 2.05 where Cheltenham Festival winner Whiteoak has the best form in show. She is yet to win on soft or heavy ground however so it is as always worth bearing in mind the ground conditions tomorrow. On good or good top soft I would go with Whiteoak but otherwise Easter Legend, a winner on his last visit to Ascot, looks each way value at around 10/1 as long as all 8 runners stand their ground. Ruby Walsh is an interesting jockey booking.
Walsh rides Twist Magic in the 2.40 and the Paul Nicholls runner will take all the beating based on his win at Sandown in December. He was a beaten favourite on his only previous run at Ascot, in this race 2 years ago on soft ground but he remains the most likely winner. At big odds Oh Crick could be interesting. He was progressive last year winning at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals. He needs to improve a fair bit to match the likes of Twist Magic and Well Chief but he is young enough to do do.
Tasheba was my tip in the Lanzerote Hurdle last week but in unsuitable testing ground he was pulled up. He is 20/1 tomorrow and is tempting at that price, especially if the ground dries out. Nampour won off a mark of 130 at Aintree in October and despite losing twice since is still 8 lbs higher that that winning mark which I think gives hi s a bit too much to do. Pause and Clause is an interesting runner from the Emma Lavelle yard. He was 3rd in the Coral Cup last year and although 5 lbs higher now he remains one for the shirt list. He probably wouldn’t want the ground too soft. Micheal Flips was an easy winner at Kempton last week in the race where Tasheba was pulled up. Although 10 lbs higher tomorrow I can still see him getting in the frame. My selection though has to be Qozak who has a 5 lbs penalty for an easy win at Taunton in the week.
The 3.45 went to Miss Mitch last season and I fancy her to follow up that success tomorrow. She jumps and stays well and likes the track.
I had Red Harbour and Qroktou on my list to follow at the start of the season but neither has won a race yet. They both run in the 4.20 tomorrow and I certainly wouldn’t write either of them off just yet. Red Harbour won twice in bumpers last season at Ascot and I am going to give him my tentative each way selection.
There is also a good card at Haydock where I hope Peddlar’s Cross can get us off to a good start in the opener at 1.10. He is a horse with a touch of class and having won a point to pojnt and a bumper he won in impressive style on his hurdles debut at Bangor last month.
I have been following the Sue Smith chaser Garleton this season with some success. He runs in the 1.45 at Haydock and having winning form on heavy ground he is in with a squeak. He probably found the 4 miles of the Borders National a bit too far for him last time and takes a drop in trip here. The two I most fear are Mark the Book and Huka Lodge who are both real mud lovers and will relish the conditions.
The 2.20 is a race to enjoy rather that bet on. The talented Diamond Harry makes his eagerly awaited chase debut now that connections have abandoned the idea of trying for the World Hurdle. He has not always been the most consistent of jumpers over hurdles so he is certainly not home and hosed yet. He clashes once again with an old rival in Bensalem. The pair met over hurdles last season with Diamond Harry coming out on top. The Alan King runner however has the edge on experience having already run twice over fences. Knockara Beau could be a threat to the big two. He has won 3 of his 4 starts over fences and was only beaten by the highly rated Weird Al on his only defeat. I think that a solid round of jumping will see Diamond Harry take the spoils but at 11/10 he doesn’t look good value.
Punjabi is odds on to win the 2.55 and will no doubt have come on for his run when 4th at Cheltenham last month. Punjabi is the reigning champion hurdler and should win but neither Medermit nor Cape Tribulation are forlorn hopes. Medermit finished in front of Punjabi when 3rd at Cheltenham last time out and the form of his second to Go Native in the Supreme Novices at last season’s Cheltenham Festival reads well now. Cape Tribulatoon has been running well in good company and is unlikely to disgrace himself here. I think that a price of around 11/4 about Medermit could represent value in this race and he gets the nod.
With Jass out of form lately my selection in the Peter March chase is Cloudy lane. Something of a course specialist he has won 5 out of his 8 starts at Haydock.
I have had my eye on a horse called Glenwood Knight since he finished second in a Hexham bumper. The winner Lie Forritt has since gone on to much better things and Glenwood Knight himself was perhaps unlucky to lose his only other race in the stewards room when he was disqualified at Exeter after finishing first past the post. He is my selection in the 4.00 at Haydock.
Former Ascot bumper winner Vino Griego ran pretty well when 3rd in a hot contest at Sandown in December and a repeat of that sort of form would put him in with a shout in the Haydock 4.10.
My selections at Leopardstown are Sorceror in the 1.30 and Roberto Goldback in the 2.00.
Today’s picture is by kind permission of Sarah Clegg.