Sam Turner previews Saturday's live Channel 4 races from Ascot and Haydock.
Vroum Vroum Mag has looked a machine on occasions and her two Clonmel victories this term have been achieved with the minimum of fuss. She looks the latest class filly to roll off the Willie Mullins conveyor belt and will arguably need to underperform at this new trip to fail to win this.
If Vroum Vroum Mag doesn't see out the trip then AURORE D’ESTRUVAL looks a major threat following an encouraging return at Cheltenham behind Camping Ground. That was a promising effort and she should be on the scene again, along with course winner DESERT QUEEN, who is officially rated just 1lb inferior to the favourite.
Lightly-raced trio Rock The Kasbah, Theos Charm and Value At Risk, who returns to hurdles, all make appeal in a fiercely competitive handicap, but the battle-hardened LIL ROCKERFELLER just gains the nod. The selection goes well right handed (3-8) and his stats with Trevor Whelan on board read 33213312 so he should be on the scene again with trip and ground to his liking.
With Harry Fry’s hurdlers enjoying a strike rate of nine wins from 15 starts in the past five seasons at the Berkshire track, ZULU OSCAR could also give a bold sight from the front. He produced a good figure to score at Kempton last time and is unbeaten on his last four completed starts.
Sugar Baron’s owner celebrates his birthday today so this race has been the plan for some time. He is of interest at a price along with Monsieur Gibraltar who is reportedly thriving at home.
Such is the domination of Willie Mullins at present that the Closutton handler has no less than four odds-on favourites in Graded races this weekend, a quartet which includes UN DE SCEAUX in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase. His critics will highlight that he hasn’t beaten a great deal and, admittedly, names like Just Cameron, God’s Own, Clarcam and Smashing don’t rate among the great pantheon of two mile chasers. However, by and large, Un De Sceaux has destroyed his rivals with a combination of electric fencing and impressive natural pace, attributes which usually take his rivals out of their respective comfort zones.
Sire De Grugy and Vibrato Valtat arguably provide a stiffer test than he has faced for a while, but I’m not convinced either are on a par with Un De Sceaux granted a clear round.
The form of ROYAL REGATTA has also been enhanced lately and, with the handicapper showing a little kindness, Philip Hobbs’ gelding could be the answer to a tricky handicap chase.
The selection hammered Mala Beach by 11l here last time and the latter has since run a blinder in the Thyestes Chase to give the form a very solid appearance. Surprisingly, the assessor felt it was only with a 4lb increase and, although consistency has rarely been a word use to describe Royal Regatta, he can take advantage of that leniency today.
Le Prezien heads the market for this intriguing event having dominated two modest novice hurdles at Ludlow and Doncaster. He could easily take high rank, but he takes on a number of quality opponents today and might be a false price.
It has been a similar story for Vieux Lille at Exeter so perhaps one of Bigmartre and ITS’AFREEBEE, both of which have valuable course experience, could spring a mini surprise. The latter clocked a terrific time when scoring here last time and it was encouraging to see the Dan Skelton horses run well at Market Rasen yesterday.
The late withdrawal of Peace And Co hands THE NEW ONE a tremendous chance to regain the winning thread in a race desperately lacking in depth and quality. Last year’s winner jumped alarmingly right when making heavy weather of scoring 12 months ago, but he faces a straightforward task here if he can reproduced the level of his 7l defeat at the hands of Faugheen at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle.
The admirable Melodic Rendezvous looks the chief danger, but he was beaten in handicap company at Sandown last time and it will be surprising if he can beat The New One.
Reve De Sivola definitely wins the prize for the most attractively handicapped horse on show today. Trainer Nick Williams looks to have pulled a master stroke returning his likeable Ascot specialist to fences off a mark 21lb lower rating than his hurdles mark and the booking of the excellent James Reveley is another plus.
However, the likes of VIRAK, two from two at the track, and SEVENTH SKY could be worth chancing at bigger prices. The former loves today’s venue and was only a length in arrears of Wakanda at Ascot (Fingal Bay 3rd), while Seventh Sky wasn’t disgraced behind Village Vic at Cheltenham and is probably better judged on his seven-length demolition of Spookydooky over course and distance two starts ago.
The trip is a concern for Third Intention, but he has faced some tough tasks this term and could be overpriced.