Weather conditions mean the racing broadcaster is scouting a little wider this weekend, with four picks for Ascot.
The Flat season officially finishes at Ascot this weekend, but the weather gods seem to have decided that the National Hunt season has already started. Persistent heavy rain will likely see the jumps course in operation for the Flat finale and conditions will be testing all round.
The issue with such conditions is that those who have form on such surfaces are often well found in the market, while those that don’t are often taken out, so it can be tricky to pick your battles. There is no doubt such conditions can blunt brilliance so I will generally scout a little wider for selections this week.
BRITISH CHAMPIONS SPRINT STAKES (13:50)
The first is ROHAAN , who finished fourth in the race last year but was first home in his group. It is his excellent course record and ability to handle heavy ground that makes him look a solid selection.
He has five wins from nine course starts – including two Wokinghams (one on soft) – and one of his biggest wins at Haydock came on heavy ground. He is best coming off a strong pace but, with the ground likely to fragment the field, hopefully the gaps will be there when he needs them.
BRITISH CHAMPIONS FILLIES & MARES STAKES (14:25)
FREE WIND has ended up exactly where I expected at the beginning of the season, as favourite for the Fillies & Mares, but has fallen a long way short of my lofty expectations. Her run behind Warm Heart at York was much more like it, though, especially as she had to wait to get a gap.
She struggled to last 1m 6f in desperate conditions at Goodwood behind mudlark Sumo Sam, losing a couple of places late on, but that looked as much her stamina running out as an inability to cope with cut.
Despite being a bit of a cliff horse for me this season, I will stick to my original instincts that she is the one to give Frankie Dettori a farewell (or least a ‘hasta la vista’) Ascot winner.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (15:05)
The battle for trainer’s title between Aidan O’Brien and John & Thady Gosden is going down to the wire and Paddington v Nashwa could be a key battle. The ground has already seen off Inspiral and could well do the same for Tahiyra by the off.
However, the bet here looks to be FACTEUR CHEVAL each-way given how well he ran at Goodwood, where he looked a real threat until rolling away from the favoured stands rail and wilting late. Even a reproduction of that effort could see him make the frame and his form figures of 4122 on soft or heavy (all in Group races) add weight to the feeling he is overpriced against flashier rivals.
BALMORAL HANDICAP (16:25)
The season finale features AWAAL who is still awaiting his first win of the season – something that looked unlikely when he was runner-up to Migration in the Lincoln on heavy ground at Doncaster back in April.
He has made the frame in both the Royal Hunt and Bunbury Cups and lines up off a 1lb lower mark than for those two efforts. He will be committed to racing on the centre-to-stands side from his high draw, so hopefully that will prove the place to be.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
William Buick confirmed his liking for the Rowley Mile last week with a 21-1 treble, so here’s our regular list of jockeys riding at tracks where they have a good record:
- Ascot – Hollie Doyle (21 winners from 185 rides, actual/expected ratio of 1.52)
- Market Rasen – Sean Bowen (41/214, A/E 1.29)
- Newton Abbot – Jonathan Burke (10/40, A/E 1.62)
- Wolverhampton – Frederick Larson (17/83, A/E 1.78)
ROHAAN 12/1 (Ascot, 13:50)
FREE WIND 3/1 (Ascot, 14:25)
FACTEUR CHEVAL 14/1 (Ascot, 15:05)
AWAAL 11/1 (Ascot, 16:25)