12:45 ASCOT

The opening contest at Ascot is a Handicap Hurdle for conditional jockeys over a trip of 2m 5f.

There is no telling how much improvement Dr Richard Newland can eke out of Game Socks, who won gamely at Plumpton on his English debut two weeks ago, but his 12lb rise looks steep.

JACAMAR has kept on improving this season and, as a five-year-old, he is inclined to keep on doing so.

He won a hot race at Aintree earlier this season and has backed that up with two good runs, finishing fourth on both starts since. A reproduction of his latest fourth at Newbury will see him bang there.

At a much bigger price, The Eaglehaslanded is now very well-handicapped on the best of his old form. In two starts this season he has looked to be coming back to his former self.

He’s the older horse in this field but is still so lightly-raced, and while he fell at Cheltenham last time, he just took off too early.

He stays well and I think he’ll run a big race if that fall hasn’t left a mark on him.

14:10 NAVAN

As you’d expect, this Grade B Handicap Hurdle is fiercely competitive.

KING ALEX has racked up a hat-trick of successes this season and keeps on winning with a bit to spare - he could also still be improving. 

However, his jumping has been a little issue that he has managed to get away with in lesser races, but he might be found out going up in grade.

Snugsborough Hall is very well-handicapped on his hurdles mark against his chase mark. He is yet to win this season but has run well in two starts and could go close here under Denis O’Regan.

Without Limites is very inconsistent but on his day he could win a race of this nature. He likes to go from the front and if he gets an easy lead he could be hard to peg back.


Horses in form often take some stopping on the Southwell fibresand surface - plenty of horses don’t act on the track, but those who do are often ridden handy.

THE RETRIEVER often goes well at Southwell and was a good winner here at the end of November off a mark of 46.

He was then raised 5lb to a mark of 51 and, while he was beaten on his latest start over course and distance, he ran well behind a horse that is now rated 67.

There looks to be mileage in his mark, and I expect him to go well under Jack Garritty.


FAIR PRAISE wouldn’t have to be a world-beater to win this race off her opening mark of 55.

She ran in some good novice races and wasn’t devoid of promise on either occasion, despite the bare form figure telling a different story.

The big question is how well she will cope with this surface, but she was fourth on a synthetic track at Wolverhampton last month.

Popple has run well at this track before and, if the five-year-old can’t win off this mark of 49, you’d have to question whether he’ll ever be able to get his head in front.

I think he’ll run a big race under Luke Morris.

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