WITH £150,000 up for grabs, Saturday's Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle (3.35pm) is one of the richest handicap hurdles of the season.
It is therefore no surprise that 19 runners line-up in what is always a fiercely-competitive race and those at the head of the market have obvious claims.
I never like taking short prices in big fields like this, though, so I’m going to take a chance on two bigger-priced contenders.
My first fancy is the four-year-old WOLF OF WINDLESHAM, who won four of his five starts over hurdles in his juvenile season, culminating in an impressive win at Sandown in April.
He has since divided his time between the Flat and jumps, and was travelling ominously well in last month’s Greatwood Hurdle when coming to grief at the second last.
Since then he has had another decent spin on the level, finishing second to Beltor at Kempton. He’s an improving horse and looks good each-way value at 16/1 with Betway.
My other selection is STERNRUBIN, who dead-heated with Jolly’s Cracked It in this race 12 months ago and has form figures at Ascot of 211.
Philip Hobbs’ front-runner is 10lbs higher than last year, but only 2lbs higher than winning over course and distance in October.
This track seems to play to his strengths perfectly and he worth backing each-way at 16/1 with Betway.
The only Grade One event on the card is the JLT Long Walk Hurdle (2.25pm), a race won in the past by the likes of Thistlecrack, Big Buck’s and Reve De Sivola.
Unowhatimeanharry, who is no bigger than 5/1 for the World Hurdle, heads the market and goes into this race with a strong chance following six successive wins.
He was impressive when landing the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance, but he’s pretty short at just 11/8 with Betway.
Instead, I’d rather take a look at UN TEMPS POUR TOUT at an each-way price.
He won the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil by 10 lengths last year, finishing ahead of the likes of Zarkandar, Thousand Stars and Hurricane Fly.
That was a hugely impressive performance and I just think he’s slightly better over hurdles than fences.
He finished down the field in last month’s Hennessy Gold Cup, but a return to the smaller obstacles can see him in a better light. Take the 14/1 with Betway each-way.
Paul Nicholls won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last week with the unexposed Frodon and I can see his IRISH SAINT plundering Saturday's Silver Cup (3.00pm).
There’s always a slight risk with a horse coming back from injury, but he ran respectably over hurdles at Cheltenham on his reappearance last month and is a fair price at 10/1 with Betway.
I’m also keen on the chances of MINELLA DADDY. Peter Bowen is normally more associated with summer horses, but this son of Flemensfirth looks as though he can star for the yard during the winter too.
His win over course and distance last time out was very impressive, with a breathtaking leap at the last proving that there was plenty left in the tank.
Although he’s gone up 11lbs, I don’t think that burden would have stopped him last time and he should go well at a general 10/1.
Un Temps Pour Tout e/w 2.25pm Ascot
Minella Daddy e/w 3.00pm Ascot
Irish Saint e/w 3.00pm Ascot
Wolf Of Windlesham e/w 3.35pm Ascot
Sternrubin e/w 3.35pm Ascot