Act Of Kalanisi too big at 16/1 for the in-form Newland yard

CHAMPION trainer Paul Nicholls sends a powerful team to Ascot tomorrow headed up by Big Buck’s who looks impossible to oppose in the Lough Derg Long Walk Hurdle (2.30pm). The eight-year-old is looking for his 14th consecutive win, but we’re not going to get rich backing him at 1/4.

Nicholls also saddles the well-fancied Prospect Wells in the Ladbroke Hurdle, the main betting race of the day, and the ex-French-trained six-year-old is no bigger than 7/2. In fact, I can see him being sent off nearer 2/1 come 3.35pm tomorrow, so if you want to beat the price, back him now.

He may have only ever run three times over hurdles to date, but he has created a really good impression in recording two impressive victories and only failing by a quarter length to reel in Steps To Freedom at Cheltenham last month. There is every chance that he could make a mockery of his mark of 142, but this is a tough assignment for a horse with relatively little experience and I’m prepared to let him go unbacked.

Interestingly, the one that catches my eye is the in-form Dr Richard Newland-trained ACT OF KALANISI at a massive 16/1 with Blue Square. The formerly useful flat-campaigner made an impressive hurdling debut at Newbury last season and bounced back from a couple of disappointments to end it with a decent win in a competitive soft ground handicap at this track.

He was well beaten on his seasonal reappearance behind Celestial Halo at Wincanton last month, but travelled much better than the bare result implies and I expect him to strip much fitter tomorrow. The ground looks ideal and with his stable in top form, it would be disappointing if he didn’t outrun his odds.

Nicky Henderson grabbed the headlines with a big race treble last weekend and I’ll also be having a few quid on his GIBB RIVER at 8/1 with Blue Square. He looked the winner approaching the last in a warm looking Sandown handicap last time on very similar ground and will surely strip fitter tomorrow. He has been raised 5lb for that run which doesn’t look too harsh a penalty.

Over at Newcastle and it’s leg six of the Blue Square Novices’ Hurdle Series (2.05pm), the aim of which is to identify jump racing’s most promising young stayers, culminating in a £20,000 final at Uttoxeter in February. Donald McCain took leg four at Sedgefield last month and he can notch another win with the well-regarded AVENGING ACE.

Looking at today’s Ascot action and Charlie Longsdon’s HAZY TOM can land the Grade Two Novice Hurdle at 1.55pm. The unbeaten five-year-old impressively shrugged off Irish raider Sea Of Thunder at Wetherby last time and he had a better race in the bag at Cheltenham last weekend before crashing out at the last. He’ll surely have too much class for Molotof whose presence should guarantee us a better price.

I was really taken by KUMBESHWAR on his chasing debut at Hereford a few weeks ago and fancy him to turn over Chablais in the 2.30pm.

You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my up-to-date views.