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THE focus of the action tomorrow afternoon will be Ascot, where Politologue will go off a warm favourite for the feature Clarence House Chase at 3.35.
But with Defi Du Seuil having plenty to prove and Waiting Patiently better fresh, we could be in for a massive surprise.
First Flow certainly attracts the eye following his impressive win at the track last time out, but he will surely need to fence better in this higher grade — so I am going to take a chance on FANION D’ESTRUVAL.
The Venetia Williams-trained youngster was set to successfully give 3lbs away to the classy Magic Saint at Cheltenham before pecking badly at the last obstacle, but by and large his fencing is sound.
One thing we do know about him is that he will relish the deep ground. And being an unexposed six-year-old with only the nine races under his belt, the best is yet to come.
Of course he will need a career best — and by some way — to land this famous event. But I feel 14/1 is too big a price to pass up in a race which will most likely turn into a right old slog.
There are some big field handicaps worth getting your teeth into at the Berkshire track, and the best-value wager could come in the form of another Venetia charge, ESPOIR DE GUYE (nb).
Another progressive sort from the Aramstone yard, the selection simply failed to see out the three miles last time out at the track — after previously seeing off the opposition in good style over the course and distance.
Set to race off at only a 5lbs higher mark this afternoon, his chance is there for all to see if Charlie Deutsch rides him patiently and this could be a stepping stone to graded class events.
The biggest danger to the selection could come from the top weight Bennys King, who comes here at the top of his form from a yard that’s currently firing on all cylinders.
The other major betting event is the extended 2m3f Grade Three handicap hurdle due off at 1.50. With the long time ante-post favourite Benson a non-runner in the big two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Ascot (1.50), it makes for a massively open contest.
For your information, at around 6/1 he was going to be a major win bet for us and I have a feeling that Richard Newland didn’t want his young charge to have another hard race in bottomless ground. I suspect that he will want to run him again before Cheltenham though, in order to get into the Coral Cup field.
His absence opens this race right up and I am quite keen on playing the bigger prices here. My eyes first fell upon the 20/1 available at the time of writing on I K Brunel, of which I firmly believe should be just half the price. And with the layers expected to offer five places on the day, he has each-way claims at a double-figure price.
Very lightly raced for a seven-year-old, with only 10 runs under his belt, he has shown that he stays this trip well. And the drop to this intermediate trip is perfect as he simply didn’t get home over three miles last time out and didn’t look comfortable on good ground that day.
All of his best previous form — over both hurdles and fences — has come at this distance and with plenty of give, and he is very fairly treated off his current rating based on his best offerings in the last six months. War Lord also looks a spot of value at about 10/1, but I just worry about whether he has the class to be effective around here.
So in the end I have fallen on the side of KATESON (nap). The grey gelding is a class act over both hurdles and fences, just three lengths off Champ in the Challow Hurdle, and not disgraced in three runs over the larger obstacles.
Still, he is a better horse over timber and had a nice warm up for this contest with a game success at Aintree in December over two-and-a-half miles.
A faster pace in a slightly shorter-run race should suit him down to the ground here and he is taken to outstay the two horses mentioned above along with Arrivederci.
DUBAI INSTINCT arrives fit from a run over hurdles in the 4.10 at Newcastle and could be a slice of value for us in that opener at the Gosforth Park track, but the best bet on the card could come in the form of top weight ETON COLLEGE in the 5.40.
Mark Johnston has his team really rolling this winter on the all-weather, and I think this lightly raced son of Invincible Spirit can successfully give the weight away to the likes of Tintoretto and Danielsflyer (better over a stiff six furlongs).
PEMBERLEY –2.20 HEREFORD (NAP)
Narjes – 12.40 Lingfield
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