However, this is going to be a brutal contest in the ground and 11st 4lb is plenty of weight for a four-year-old to be carrying in such a competitive race.
Nicky Henderson has landed this prize in two of the past three years and he fires four bullets at tomorrow’s contest. The pick of those for me is easily CASH AND GO who ran a fine race to be second to Olofi in the Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
Barry Geraghty’s mount perhaps just needed that run on soft ground and although he’s gone up in the handicap, I can see this course playing to his strengths. Take the 7/1 available with Coral.
A saver is advised on bottom weight INTO WAIN at 14/1 with Coral on the back of his unlucky second to Petit Robin at Sandown last time. He clearly relishes soft ground and it often pays to have lowly weighted, progressive runners on your side when the ground is riding this soft.
Alan King can’t explain the poor performance of SMAD PLACE at Wetherby last month, but I’m willing to give him another chance in tomorrow’s Long Walk Hurdle (2.00pm).
It’s very sad that Big Buck’s isn’t going to be on show, although it definitely makes it more competitive and Smad Place has shown a liking for the course and conditions in the past. I fancy him to have too much for the likes of Trustan Times and Prospect Wells, so snap up the 5/2 with Coral.
This afternoon’s racing isn’t great, but I will be eagerly watching SIMONSIG in the novices’ chase at 2.30pm. He will be far too short to back in this race, yet the 3/1 for the Arkle should be taken.
He has reportedly been schooling unbelievably well and there is a feeling in the yard that he could be just as good as his outstanding stablemate Sprinter Sacre.
There was some good news for racing this week with Racing UK being announced as Ascot’s new broadcast partner from June 2014. Not only is their coverage always excellent, but their profits are reinvested into racing as they are wholly owned by the racecourses, which can only be a good thing.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views over the Christmas period.
SMAD PLACE 2.00pm Ascot (tomorrow)
CASH AND GO e/w 3.10pm Ascot (tomorrow)
INTO WAIN e/w 3.10pm Ascot (tomorrow)
SIMONSIG 3/1 Arkle Chase (Cheltenham Festival)