BANK on some Paul Nicholls wizardry with MAGIC SAINT. This French import ran really well on his debut for the former champion trainer when runner-up in a graduation chase at Haydock on Betfair Chase day.
He would have only been third if River Wylde had not fallen at the last but it was still a promising effort. Today’s ground will be much softer and he’s got plenty of form on a testing surface in France.
Janika is another to make the switch across the English Channel after showing decent form in France. He won his last three races over there – all over fences – and he has to be respected.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect giving a fair bit of weight away on his first run for Nicky Henderson but the potential is obvious.
Movie Legend has been consistent this season. He’s come up against some fair chasers since winning over hurdles at Fakenham in October. This in-between trip might just suit him.
Gardefort didn’t run too well on his return from more than a year off the track last month. He’s got plenty of decent form in the book and trainer Venetia Williams has her team in cracking form now.
Hell’s Kitchen is good on his day but he’s not the easiest to predict. His trainer Harry Fry also runs Overtown Express. He won first time out last season and he’s not badly treated on his best form.
IT should pay to Part with your cash in the JLT Hurdle. The ground has come right for mud-loving AGRAPART.
He beat smart Wholestone in the Cleeve Hurdle last season and I liked the way he battled on over an inadequate 2m4f on faster going at Aintree on his return to action.
Nick Williams’ hope has never previously shown his best form after a break so there’s every chance he’ll take a big step forward.
My only concern is that he hasn’t shown much on right-handed tracks but he hasn’t had many races going this way round in Britain.
Unowhatimeanharry was just in front of Agrapart at Aintree. He looked to be going downhill last season when he was only third behind Sam Spinner in this race. Last month’s Newbury win was good but I reckon it will take more to follow up today.
Sam Spinner looked to be struggling when he unseated Joe Colliver two from home after getting badly hampered.
That was his first run of the season so he should improve and he has got cheekpieces on for the first time. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lifted this prize again.
Nicky Henderson has two fascinating runners in Call Me Lord and Soul Emotion. Both produced smart form after arriving from France but neither has proven stamina for this trip.
DON’T give up on THOMAS PATRICK. I was really strong on him for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury three weeks ago but he just didn’t get into any sort of rhythm.
The way he jumped on the way to winning at Newbury and Aintree last season showed he’s a hell of a lot better than his comeback run and I don’t think it would be wise to start writing him off just yet.
If he can settle on the front end he will be hard to pass.
Gold Present won this race last year before pulling up at the Cheltenham Festival and in the Scottish National. His third behind Politologue over 2m5f at this track last month was a cracking comeback.
I’m just worried about the sticky ground as he seems at his best on better going. If a summer wind operation has helped him with that respect he should go well.
Full Glass was placed in hot races in France. He departed as the contest was warming up at Haydock last month having made a decent debut for Alan King at Ayr last season.
He has stamina to prove but could be nicely treated.
I fancied Benatar for the BetVictor Gold Cup but he was pulled out on the morning of the race won by Gary Moore’s other runner Baron Alco. He instead went to Ascot to finish fourth behind Politologue and he has scope to improve. Whether it’s over 3m I’m not so sure.
The ground looks against Favorito Buck’s and top weight Otago Trail might not have had time to recover from a good comeback from nearly two years off the track at Newcastle last month.
STICK with NIETZSCHE in the Betfair Exchange Hurdle. He finished in midfield in this race 12 months ago but arrives in much better form this time.
There’s no doubt he had slipped to a nice weight despite being out the handicap when seeing off Silver Streak and Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
That form is really strong so a 6lbs rise shouldn’t be enough to stop him following up with talented claiming jockey Danny McMenamin in the saddle again.
Fiesole is interesting. Olly Murphy won this race last year with a horse making his debut for his Warwickshire stable and he has another Irish import having his first start for him.
Lightning could strike twice but I’m just worried the ground might be too testing for this Flat-bred six-year-old.
Jolly’s Cracked It has to shoulder top weight after last month’s course and distance defeat of Chatez after nearly two years off the track.
He’s now higher in the weights than when he dead-heated in this race three years ago and this is a big ask from a career-high handicap rating. His love of Ascot at least gives him some sort of chance of hitting the frame.
Western Ryder ran a blinder when third behind Brain Power in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last week.
He’d earlier been fifth behind Nietzsche in the Greatwood on ground faster than ideal and he does look to need further these days.
Alan King’s Fidux would’ve preferred better ground but stablemate Lisp seems to be improving.
He was narrowly ahead of Mont Des Avaloirs when runner-up at Newbury three weeks ago and this sort of big-field handicap should suit him.
TOP weight shouldn’t stop CHTI BALKO. He looks likely to get an easy time of it out in front and he should make it pay on his favoured soft ground.
There’s been nothing wrong with his two efforts this season and they came on a much faster surface.
His handicap win at this track on this day last season came on heavy ground so today’s conditions should help him a lot.
Ballymoy is the big danger. He’s the only other one of the five runners to have already raced this season. He won well at Chepstow on his return and then finished a good fourth behind Global Citizen at Newbury three weeks ago.
There’s room for improvement in his jumping and that just tips the balance in Chti Balko’s favour.
Seemorelights was a promising novice a couple of years ago. He’s been off the track a good while having missed last season and could get involved if ready to go.
Nicky Richards has his team in good form so it’s worth keeping an eye on Better Getalong. He’s twice won following a break and soft ground holds no fears for him.
Templegate's picks for the ITV races
- 1.50 Ascot – Magic Saint NAP
- 2.05 Haydock – Chti Balko
- 2.25 Ascot – Agrapart
- 2.40 Haydock – Testify
- 3.00 Ascot – Thomas Patrick
- 3.35 Ascot – Nietzsche
PLENTY of evidence points to TESTIFY.
He won twice at this course on heavy ground last season and he’s sure to be much sharper for his first run since a summer breathing operation at Newcastle three weeks ago.
There’s a train of thought that suggests horses are best on their second start after wind surgery so that’s a big positive.
It’s hard to argue he’s particularly well weighted but his course form gives him a great chance.
Sharp Response was well in front of Testify at Newcastle but he came into that race with several runs behind him already this season.
I think it will be a different story today especially as Sharp Response has done most of his winning on better ground.
Kimberlite Candy is an obvious threat. He looked good on his return to action at Ayr and the handicapper could easily have been harsher on him.
Duel At Dawn chased home the likes of Sizing Tennessee and Ms Parfois last season.
That entitles him to plenty of respect but he’s best watched on his first run since pulling up in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
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