The inclement weather might have its say on a potentially cracking day of racing on Saturday with the return of Sprinter Sacre the highlight, but there are plenty of other exciting horses on display, Stephen Loftus writes.
All racing fans are hoping that Nicky Henderson will allow the highest rated horse in England, Sprinter Sacre, to take his chance in the Clarence House chase at Ascot. After overcoming a heart problem, the much anticipated return of the best horse in training has been the talking point of the week with doubts over whether he will run should the ground be too soft. Bookmakers are unconvinced with the former Champion chase winner who last ran on the 27th December 2013 when he pulled up with a heart problem and put him in at an initial price of 7/4 earlier this week. Barry Geraghty seems confident the nine year old will rediscover his old form but even an average reappearance would put him miles ahead of this field. The Irish raider Twinlight will have the ground to his liking and with Ruby Walsh on board, he can take second place in what is outside of Sprinter Sacre, a disappointing turnout for a race worth £70,000 to the winner.
The undercard at Ascot features some promising types including Top Notch for the Henderson/Geraghty combination in the opening novice hurdle. The french import looked very smart when brushing aside his rivals at Newbury on debut. He should be able to beat the regressive Golden Doyen and give Nicky Henderson a second winner on the card.
The trickiest race on Saturday is the bet365 handicap chase where Niceonefrankie looks for his third successive victory but he looks up against it after taking a hike in the weights after his latest win at Cheltenham. His stablemate Tenor Nivernais is very interesting here with Tom Scudamore booked and with the ground in his favour, he is sure to run a big race. His run behind Splash of Ginge last time out was in a much better race than this and he can keep the good run of trainer Venetia Williams going. Fox Appeal appears to be well handicapped but he struggles to get his head in front in these type of races.
Away from Ascot, The New One has an easy task in his warm up for the Champion hurdle at Cheltenham where he faces six rivals and is rated twenty pounds superior to all of them. He is sure to coast around Haydock but we are unlikely to learn anything from the race unless he makes some jumping errors.
Broadway Buffalo is an frustrating horse to figure out as he often requires a very gentle, well timed ride from off the pace but on initial glance it looks like he will get the pace he craves in the Peter Marsh chase. Conor O’ Farrell produced a sublime ride on him at Haydock and the three pound claimer is retained as the David Pipe charge looks for a third course win. Not many others in the race appear well handicapped and while Corrin Wood is sure to attract plenty of cash, he makes far too many jumping mistakes for my liking.
Naas hosts two valuable and competitive races on a seven race card highlighted by the return of Rule the World from the Mouse Morris yard in the Novice chase over three miles. When last seen in November, he was finishing second to Adriana des Mottes, who has since ran below par behind Gilgamboa. However, the Peter Fahey trained Lots of Memories has also been keeping good company in his last couple of runs and he is the selection in a tricky heat. He has bumped into two useful novices in Don Poli and Shanahan’s Turn recently and this looks a slightly easier task for Johnny Burke to steer him home in. Val de Ferbet is an exciting novice but he does not have the same experience as his rivals and it is significant that Ruby Walsh travels to Ascot instead of riding the six year old.
The preceeding race looks a match between the mare Glens Melody and the progressive juvenile Kitten Rock and it is the latter who is taken to land the spoils here. His trainer Edward O’Grady believes he is a real Grade 1 performer and he should be winning this if he is to live up to those standards. Glens Melody gets the mares allowance but is entitled to come on for her appearance as she lines up for another tilt for the Mares hurdle in March.
The eyecatcher in an otherwise poor card at Lingfield is Thataboy in the 3:10 six furlong handicap where claimer Eoin Walsh takes over and the Tom Dascomber trained course winner is now back down to his last winning mark. He needs a strong pace to aim at and he looks sure to get that here with Birdie Queen and Quickaswecan in the field. If he is in the mood, Thataboy could look very well handicapped in a tricky handicap.
Broadway Buffalo- Haydock 3:15 11/2
Thataboy- Lingfield 3:10 5/1
Tenor Nivernais – Ascot 3:35 13/2
Kitten Rock- Naas 1:20 4/6