15:00 Ascot – Bet365 Handicap Chase
The Clarence House Chase is the feature race of the day but with only three runners and Altior an extremely short price to make it a perfect seventeen wins over jumps we instead turn our attention to a competitive-looking handicap for our Saturday race preview.
We begin by looking at the early market leader in Benatar who is a prior Grade 2 winner, beating Finians Oscar over course and distance in December 2017. He is yet to find top form yet this season but was a decent-enough third over a three mile trip last time out so with the return to a more suitable trip I would be surprised if he wasn’t involved at the finish. That said, he will need to step up again today and therefore looks a little short in the market considering the competitive nature of the race.
Next we turn to Mr Medic who is expected to put up a good performance and rates as a decent each-way shout. He has posted two wins from two over fences at Ascot, both at this level, and although failed to land a blow when last seen at Cheltenham in December that was a tougher race than he encounters here. A return to Ascot could see him bounce back to form, especially as his trainer Robert Walford has a 50% winning strike rate and level stakes profit of +£35 in the last 3 years with his chasers over the course.
Another to consider for each way purposes is Mister Whitaker who has been the model of consistency since tackling fences, winning four from seven and two placed efforts thrown in to the mix for good measure. A decent fourth in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham in November, he was doing his best work at the finish so should benefit from the extra furlong he encounters here so is unlikely to be too far away, for all that I feel this is very much a prep run for The Festival in March.
The Venetia Williams stable usually come in to their own when the mud is flying but, despite ground conditions across the UK generally reading more good and good-to-firm than heavy or soft over the winter, she has notched six wins from her last twenty runners. She relies on Belami Des Pictons who hasn’t been seen since November 2017 but has run well fresh is the past and has won three from five over fences so cannot be discounted with his stable in such fine form.
Despite all the afore-mentioned runners looking to hold solid chances, I am happy to look at Jerrysback as the most likely winner of this race. It is fair to say that he disappointed on chase debut but could be forgiven for being a little rusty as that was his first run in almost two years. He re-appeared just two weeks later and returned a 50/1 winner in soft ground at Bangor at the beginning of December, before following this with an excellent second to Vinndication in a Grade 2 race over course and distance last time out. He will experience slightly faster conditions today but won on similar ground over hurdles and has been given a few weeks to recover from exertions so if he takes his place (also entered at Haydock) looks to have a great chance of victory today.
13:50 Ascot – Culture De Sivola (WIN) – NAP
14:05 Haydock – Mister Fisher (WIN)
14:25 Ascot – Seddon (WIN)
14:40 Haydock – Global Citizen (WIN)
15:00 Ascot – Jerrysback (WIN)
15:15 Haydock – Daklondike (WIN)
15:35 Ascot – Altior (WIN)