2-25 HOLLOWAYS HANDICAP HURDLE (GRADE 3) – 2 M 3 F 58 YDS
Zulu Oscar has only had a handful of starts in his relatively short career but he has made the first two places in any race over hurdles that he has completed. Harry Fry seems eager to keep him to flattish tracks and he has been rewarded with wins at Kempton, Wincanton and Taunton. Whilst unproven at this trip, his sire gets plenty of winners at further distances than this so he has every likelihood of seeing out the extra couple of furlongs today. Noel Fehily has already partnered him to two previous victories and this improving seven year old ought to make the most of the weight he receives from the likes of Theinval and Lil Rockerfeller.
Rock The Kasbah is clearly a smart prospect and Richard Johnson prefers to ride him than to go to Haydock for Fingal Bay. That may well prove to be a tip in itself. The six year old till has plenty of scope to improve again and he looks a massive threat to the selection. Lil Rockerfeller has risen through the ranks at a rate of knots and he showed what he is truly capable of when landing a listed event at Sandown just prior to Christmas. Whilst he does have his fair share of weight he is a model of consistency and has each way prospects once again.
Zulu Oscar has already beaten the well regarded Monsieur Gibraltar by some seventeen lengths back in December. It is hard to see that form being reversed as the further they went the better winner looked that day. Harry Fry continues to have his stable in good form and another decent run in predicted by this son of Oscar.
3-15 PETER MARSH CHASE (GRADE 2 HANDICAP) – 3 MILES 24 YDS
Fingal Bay showed that retained plenty of ability when he finished a close up third to Wakanda at Ascot just last month. He was still in with a chance when coming to the last fence before succumbing to the improving youngster. He was also just passed on the run in by the reopposing Virak. He gets a little more weight off that rival today and it would be of little surprise to see him turn the tables here. Despite doing most of his winning on a better surface, he is proven on soft and heavy ground. He may well benefit for a change of jockey and Tom O’Brien takes over in the saddle for the first time today. With Philip Hobbs remaining in excellent form he has to be high on shortlist to take this stamina sapping feature.
Virak will do well to defy top weight this afternoon. Whilst he loves a slog in the mud and is the only horse proven over both the course and distance in this line up. The only concern about him is the current wellbeing of the Paul Nicholls yard and despite Harry Cobden claiming seven pounds, it is somewhat off putting. Reve De Sivola showed that he is still a force to be reckoned with when trying to defend his crown at Ascot last time. It was no disgrace being swept aside by a rapidly improving Thistlecrack and there is nothing of that one’s ability in this line up. James Reveley will be hoping for a first win on the eleven year old and the mudlark looks the main threat. At the bottom of the weights, Man With Van wouldn’t be here unless Stuart Crawford thought he had a chance. He has been placed in an Ulster Grand National and will revel in the testing ground. At double figure prices, I have seen worse each way bets.
Fingal Bay has always had a bit of class about him and he has only had seventeen career starts despite being a ten year old. With his relatively low mileage he can improve for his recent outing at Ascot and give another bold display this afternoon.
3-35 BET365 HANDICAP CHASE – 2 M 5 F 8 YDS
Royal Regatta returns to the scene of his latest success and having had over a month to recover, he should be just about ready to turn in another solid effort. That win will have boosted his confidence and Richard Johnson is once again in the saddle. The blinkers and tongue tie are applied once again and this eight year old can continue the good form of the Hobbs yard.
Paul Nicholls has won the last two renewals of this contest and relies solely on Salubrious this time around. He proved to be disappointing when outclassed by Wakanda here on his most recent run but the step back in distance could see him return to form. Bernadelli loves to get his toe in and is proven at this distance. Nicky Richards and Craig Nichol combine to try and repeat their recent success at Newcastle. They get weight off most of their rivals and look to have solid each way prospects.
Royal Regatta has proven himself around here and is the only course and distance winner in the field. Richard Johnson knows him inside out and the duo look sure to run well.
2-25 ASCOT – ZULU OSCAR
3-15 HAYDOCK – FINGAL BAY
3-35 ASCOT – ROYAL REGATTA