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Super Saturday Racing Guide

John Burnham

| Last updated 

Super Saturday Racing Guide

We have waited patiently for this so tuck in and enjoy every single bite!

Day in a nutshell

When you spend six days nibbling on lettuce a nine-course tasting menu in one of the fanciest restaurants in town could not have come at a better time. Tuck in, you have earned every bite.

This day last week ITV4 showed an 80-109 handicap hurdle for conditional riders from Naas. Today the same channel will show ten races across four different tracks and eight of them are Graded races.


There are 444 runners in all today, at six venues in Britain and Ireland, so if you cannot find something to quell your appetite you are definitely in the wrong game. This is as good as it gets away from Cheltenham.

Ascot is the main course with last week's rearranged Betfair Hurdle and Denman Chase added to the Betfair Ascot Chase, the highlight of a marathon nine-race card, and given what we have all been through in these last ten days, there would be no more topical winner than Waiting Patiently.

Don't forget Haydock, although you might have forgotten all about Yanworth who returns from 338 days off in the Rendlesham Hurdle. Just the eight races to sink your teeth into there, including the Grand National Trial.

Sceaux Royal is showing up at Wincanton and, while there is no Presenting Percy, the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park is worth watching.


You will be stuffed be the time the 6f handicap at Kempton is over tonight. Get the Rennies ready.

We all have nine lives at Ascot

Saturdays like this one are very scarce. We all remember high winds forcing Cheltenham to turn four days into three at the 2008 festival where a ten-race Thursday card was followed by nine races on Friday but there has only been one other National Hunt card which has hosted more than eight races since 2000.

That was at Cheltenham on the final Saturday of January in 2017 when the Clarence House Chase was rerouted from Ascot to help make up a nice-race card. Winners that day included Many Clouds, Defi Du Seuil, Un De Sceaux and Unowhatimeanharry.


A nine-race card away from the all-weather is very rare indeed so make sure to avail of the occasion at Ascot. It doesn't happen very often.

If you are of the opinion nine races is too much to digest on an afternoon, spare a thought for those poor souls who flocked to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup every year. Their ten-race card commences at 10.50am.

Clan to prove King George was no fluke

Is Clan Des Obeaux a genuine Magners Gold Cup contender or were we told a fib in the King George? Beating Terrefort in the Betfair Denman Chase will make him more believable.


Percy missing but quality quartet remain

We all cried into our cornflakes when realising Presenting Percy was not declared for the Red Mills Chase (2.30) at Gowran Park but, while the absence of the Magners Gold Cup favourite is desperately disappointing, the quartet who remain are all rated 157 or higher and three of them are Grade 1 winners.

Strangely, the odd one out is Anibale Fly who has never won a Grade 1 before but is the highest-rated of the lot with a mark of 164.

Edwulf was successful in last year's Irish Gold Cup, Monalee won the Flogas Novice Chase on the same card at Leopardstown, while Killultagh Vic turned over Thistlecrack in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown in 2015.


A Grand plan for Tolworth runner-up

There is the typically competitive Betfair Hurdle with 14 runners and many believe we might see the Supreme winner lurking in there, be it Al Dancer or Didtheyleaveuoutto.

However, the last three winners of the Betfair Hurdle have all had their preps at Sandown. In fact, Agrapart [2016] and Kalashnikov [2018] were both beaten in the Tolworth Novices' Hurdle on the way to winning one of the hottest handicap hurdles of the season.

Kalashnikov was beaten four lengths into second by Summerville Boy in last season's Tolworth, while Agrapart was over ten lengths in arrears of Yorkhill in the 2016 edition. They won the Betfair Hurdle on their next starts by a combined winning distance of 15 and a half lengths.

The only one of today's field to have showed up at Sandown in this year's Tolworth was Grand Sancy who was agonisingly denied by Elixir De Nutz.

The right way around for Politologue

Waiting Patiently is the defending champion of the Ascot Chase and it was the ease with which he breezed past Cue Card in the race 12 months ago which made us realise this was no ordinary chaser.

We were deprived of finding out whether he was the real deal or not in the King George at Kempton as Bristol De Mai's tumble left him with nowhere to go and he got rid of Brian Hughes at the ninth fence right in front of the stands. Barring accidents, the secret will get out today. His five rivals are rated 161 or higher and they include Politologue, unbeaten around Ascot, so the time has come for the truth to come out.

Politologue's has won seven of his eight starts on right-handed tracks, with his only reverse going that way around arriving in the King George when he was trying three miles for the first time. He is unbeaten going right-handed at all trips less than three miles over hurdles and fences.

Apart from the King George, his eight other defeats in Britain were going left-handed, including four times at Cheltenham and twice at Newbury.

Politologue is two from two at Ascot, with his most recent visit seeing him give 6lb to Charbel over today's course and distance.

Tough cookie fancies another battle

It might go unnoticed on such a busy afternoon but the opener at Haydock, the William Hill Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle, has been a stepping stone to stardom over the years.

Top Notch was too good for his three rivals in 2015, while 4-1 shot Frodon shocked 1-4 favourite Fixe Le Kap in 2016. If we only knew then what we know now, eh?

This year's renewal features a fascinating clash between Quel Destin and the unbeaten Torpillo.

He may be only four but you will struggle to find a tougher cookie than Quel Destin who simply refuses to take no for an answer. He has won his last three starts by a combined total of less than two lengths and the way he fought back to beat Adjali in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow over Christmas was heartwarming stuff.

Paul Nicholls said he was tough after he won at Cheltenham. His daughter, Megan, said he is very tough after he won at Doncaster, His assistant trainer, Harry Derham, hailed him as very, very tough following his Chepstow success.

Torpillo will need to be very, very, very tough to take him down. What a tasty appetiser that will be.

Betfair Hurdle: punting pointers and trainer quotes as Al Dancer heads hot field

3.20 Ascot

Betfair Hurdle Handicap (Grade 3) ' 1m7½f ' 4yo+ ' ITV4/RTV

The race may have been delayed a week and moved from Newbury but the cast remains strong with Nigel Twiston-Davies, who bids for his third win in this race in the last six years, heading the market with Al Dancer.

The trainer looks to have a real Cheltenham Festival hope on his hands and Al Dancer is now tasked with extending his unbeaten record over hurdles to four.

A progressive type in his bumpers last year, Al Dancer completed his hat-trick before Christmas with an 11-length trouncing of Not That Fuisse in a Class 3 handicap at Cheltenham.

As the runner-up that day has since obliged at Taunton, the form has a solid look to it and Al Dancer now races off the 12lb higher mark of 141, the exact same rating that Kalashnikov was on when he won this 12 months ago.

Twiston-Davies said: "This race has been the plan all along for Al Dancer and we're sticking to it despite the race offering less prize-money this time.

"He's an improving sort who's quite versatile and we have no problems with the race being switched. He goes on most ground. We're hopeful."

Gifford happy with venue change

Nick Gifford is more than happy that the race has been rescheduled and switched to Ascot as his Didtheyleaveuoutto is a two-time previous winner at the track.

Owner JP McManus has won this twice in the last nine years, including in 2013 with the classy My Tent Or Yours, and again fields a live hope who is out to bounce back from a modest effort at Kempton last time.

The chestnut got off the mark in easy fashion over hurdles at Fakenham in October before following up at the expense of Thomas Darby over this course and distance the following month.

Gifford said: "We're not disappointed that they've switched the race to Ascot as he's been there twice before and won twice.

"He goes there with a chance but you have to forget his last run at Kempton. This will tell us which race we should be looking towards at Cheltenham."

King fires two bullets

Alan King has not found the key to this race in recent years but fires another two bullets in a bid to break the sequence, including one runner named after the legendary gunfighter Billy The Kid.

The hat-trick-seeking William H Bonney, one of the Kid's aliases, is joined by topweight Lisp, who ran a fine second in a Grade 3 hurdle at the track last time.

King said: "This has long been the plan for Lisp, whose form has been very good. He won at Fontwell despite racing too freely, ran Champion Hurdle contender Global Citizen to half a length at Newbury and then produced a brilliant run for a four-year-old to finish second in the big Ascot handicap before Christmas.

"He's creeping up the weights, but we hope he'll run well."

He added: "William H Bonney has started to fulfil his early potential, winning twice this winter, and though he's stepping back up in class, I loved the way he jumped and knuckled down to the task in hand at the end when winning at Huntingdon in early December. He deserves a shot at another big pot."

Nicholls out to Trump the lot

Paul Nicholls fields both Getaway Trump and Mont Des Avaloirs in a race he last won with Zarkandar in 2012.

Getaway Trump has improved rapidly since getting off the mark over hurdles at Plumpton in October and brings Grade 1 form to the table after chasing home Champ in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas.

Now back down in trip, Getaway Trump is joined by stablemate Mont Des Avaloirs who has plenty to find with topweight Lisp on recent Ascot form.

Nicholls said: "Getaway Trump is a progressive sort who should be suited by a big field and a strong pace over this trip. I ran Mont Des Avaloirs back too soon last time and we're taking a handy 5lb off."

What the rest say

Tom Lacey, trainer of Equus Amadeus

He's out of his depth a bit and needs to come down the handicap. The plan is to take him chasing in the long term.

Gary Moore, trainer of Distingo and Ar Mest

If Distingo put his mind to it he would have a chance but he's been disappointing. We could've done with the race being at Newbury as Ar Mest won there last time but he's pretty versatile and has a chance of nicking a place.

David Pipe, trainer of Nordic Combined

He likes big fields and a good pace so we're sticking a visor on him for the first time to sharpen him up. He has an each-way chance at a big price.

Nicholls expects Denman Chase win as Clan Des Obeaux prepares for Gold Cup test

2.45 Ascot

Betfair Denman Chase ' Grade 2 ' 3m' 5yo+ ' ITV4/RTV

History suggests it is rare for a horse to win the King George, Denman Chase and Chetenham Gold Cup in the same season but Paul Nicholls achieved the feat with the great Kauto Star 12 years ago and attempts to emulate that remarkable campaign with Clan Des Obeaux.

At the same age of seven, Clan Des Obeaux has already landed the first leg with a spirited victory over Thistlecrack in the Boxing Day highlight and takes on three rivals at Ascot in leg two. On ratings he is a stone ahead of his nearest rival in the rearranged Grade 2.

Coneygree (2015) and Native River (2018) won this Gold Cup trial before taking the feature event itself and Nicholls' charge is a general 10-1 chance for next month's target.

Nicholls said: "These small field races can be a nightmare as he really needs an end to end gallop as he had in the King George.

"He's clear on the ratings and should win but we just want him to jump round safe and sound to put him spot on for the Gold Cup. He can make the running if he has to but he would prefer a lead."

The biggest threat to Clan Des Obeaux could prove to be Terrefort. A winner of the Scilly Isles and Mildmay Novices' Chase last year, he has not quite built on those exploits in two starts this season but ran with promise in the Cotswold Chase last month.

The dual Grade 1 winner is a general 33-1 chance in the Gold Cup betting, although his performance at Ascot will likely help connections decide whether to take their chance in that contest, with the six-year-old also holding a Ryanair Chase entry.

His trainer Nicky Henderson said: "He's in really good form. This wasn't our original plan but it's a nice race for him to run him. On his first run there was something amiss so we had to just leave him alone and start again.

"I was really pleased with his run at Cheltenham the other day and you would expect him to come on for it. It's a competitive race and we will see where we are with him after this."

It has proved a frustrating campaign for Tom Lacey with his chaser Thomas Patrick. He started the season with an encouraging second to Elegant Escape but has struggled in three outings since. Today's small field race could spark a revival.

"There are not that many races for horses like Thomas Patrick and hopefully this is an opportunity to get his jumping back on track and also pick up some prize money," Lacey said. "We certainly don't expect to beat Clan Des Obeaux and probably Terrefort for that matter."

Ballyhill completes the quartet for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has finished third in handicaps at Cheltenham on his last two outings.

Twiston-Davies said: "Ballyhill has been running well all winter, especially at Cheltenham, and he goes there in good form. Clan Des Obeaux looks a tough nut to crack but hopefully we can pick up some more place money."

Regal Encore out to retain Swinley Chase for Honeyball after absence

2.10 Ascot

Keltbray Swinley Chase ' Listed ' 3m ' 5yo+ ' ITV4/RTV

Key questions

Regal Encore was last year's winner of the Swinley Chase, beating Minella Daddy by a length and a half, but has been absent from the track since November following a disappointing run at Aintree.

However after a lengthy break trainer Anthony Honeyball explained that the dual course-and-distance winner was getting back to his best and heads to Ascot with a good chance of winning again.

Honeyball said: "It hasn't been plain sailing this time around after a few issues earlier in the season, but we're very happy with him now and couldn't be in better shape to try and win it again."

One key factor which could hamper Regal Encore's chances is the weight he will be carrying. The 11-year-old is running off a mark of 152 this time, up from 150 last year, and Honeyball admitted it would take a lot for him to come out on top.

"To win off this mark would be a career best. A lot of it depends on where the others are but we think he has a good chance. He's won at Ascot twice and clearly likes the track but hopefully there'll still be enough cut in the ground. We're looking forward to running him."

Can Black Corton get off the mark this season with Bryony Frost?

As Valentine's Day comes and goes for another year, one of racing's most loved couples Bryony Frost and Black Corton reunite in search of their first victory of the season.

Frost has never shied away from her admiration of the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old, with whom she has partnered to seven victories, including his only appearance at Ascot in last year's Reynoldstown Chase.

But it has been a testing period for the pair, finishing second at Wetherby and Kempton either side of the Ladbrokes Trophy when he was pulled up.

Nicholls said: "He won over fences at this meeting last year and goes there in good form."

Black Corton has won five times and finished second twice on his nine runs between 2m7f and 3m1f, and Frost will be hoping more than anyone that he can return to winning ways over his optimal trip.

Nicholls also runs Art Mauresque, and said: "He may be better back right handed although he could be in the grip of the handicapper. He's capable on his day and shouldn't be discounted."

Coneygree to roll back the years?

Without a win since November 2015 and now a 12-year-old, you could be forgiven for thinking that Coneygree was entering the twilight of his career.

However, after finishing third in the Group 3 Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November and being well in contention for the King George before unseating Sean Bowen two out, the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has proven there is plenty left in the tank.

Nico de Boinville, who was on board for that Gold Cup victory, is back in the saddle and although entering the race off a mark of 159, the highest of the field, the Mark Bradstock-trained gelding could roll back the years on his Ascot debut.

What the others say

Venetia Williams, trainer of Calipto

He's been running well all season and should be competitive again. The conditions won't worry him and we hope he can go well again.

Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Crievehill

He didn't run very well on his first go over three miles last time but he has always shaped as if he would get the trip. He's at the right end of the weights and hopefully can step up on that.

The waiting is over! Patiently primed for Ascot Chase return

3.55 Ascot

Betfair Ascot Chase ' Grade 1 ' 2m5f ' 5yo+ ' ITV/RTV

It has been a season of hard luck so far for Waiting Patiently but that could change if he defends his crown successfully in the Ascot Chase.

He was fancied and going well in the King George, but when Bristol De Mai crashed out he also brought down Ruth Jefferson's runner. Lack of rain has otherwise kept him off the track but with soft in Ascot's going description, his chance has finally come.

Waiting Patiently's win in this race a year ago was a poignant one with trainer Malcolm passing away just a fortnight earlier and his daughter Ruth taking over. Now she is eager for a second win in the race.

She said: "It was disappointing at Kempton, of all the things I thought might happen, him falling like that wasn't one of them. He has been fine since and does everything I ask him to. He deserves a bit of luck.

"Everything fell into place with his preparation last season but it has been much more difficult this year. We had a few options of where to go and this was one of them having won the race last season. He's only run once this year, so it's hard to say if there's any more improvement to come; we'll have to find out."

"We've always thought this sort of trip was ideal for him. We thought he would stay three [miles] but we never found out. I think it will be a strongly run affair but he settles well and pops away over those fences. If he could win it again it would be lovely for everyone involved."

Cyrname and Politologue form strong hand for Nicholls

Paul Nicholls has won this race three times and is strongly represented with two runners in the Grade 1 event.

The popular grey Politologue is two from two at the track and is back down in trip after failing to see out three miles when fourth in the King George. Cyrname returns to Graded company after his front-running demolition at Ascot last time.

Nicholls said: "It's a toss up between who is the better and I don't expect there to be much between them. Cyrname won by 21 lengths last time and is up in class as he has to be. He should go well, whereas Politologue is back in distance as he didn't stay the trip in the King George."

Fox Norton on preparation mission for Ryanair

The Tizzards believe Fox Norton may need one more run to reach his peak, but connections are still expecting a good performance from their classy nine-year-old. He finished a respectable second to Altior in the Clarence House here on his return a month ago.

Joe Tizzard, assistant and son to trainer Colin Tizzard, said: "It's a solid race and we can't wait to see how he gets on. We wanted to get another run into him before Cheltenham and arguably the best of his form is over two-and-a-half miles when he won at Aintree [Melling Chase 2017].

"He is a very good horse on his day. He's no back number in this field but I do think he might just improve from this run."

Tizzard has one eye on the Ryanair, for which Fox Norton is a general 10-1 chance. "I'm confident this is his best trip but we'll know where we are after this race," he said. "We think he's improved from his run against Altior but we don't think we would beat him [in a Champion Chase]. Perhaps his best chance will be in a Ryanair."

Outsiders Aso or Charbel can't be discounted

Nine-year-old Aso is enjoying the season of his life for Venetia Williams after winning valuable handicaps in impressive style at Newbury and Cheltenham. He gets his fifth attempt in Grade 1 company.

"It looks a competitive race but he deserves to take his chance," said Williams. "He won well on New Year's Day and has come out of that race really well. It's a mini-Ryanair really, so hopefully we can run well here before heading back to the main event."

Kim Bailey's Charbel is the lowest rated runner in the field but has enjoyed a good campaign, winning the Peterborough Chase by eight lengths on his penultimate start.

Bailey said: "He is the lowest rated horse in the race, so he'll need a big step up. His season has gone well but I think tomorrow will be a completely different ballgame, quite honestly. He's in good form and we are happy with him; it would be great if we could finish close up."

Yala Enki back for more as National Trial attracts big field

3.35 Haydock

William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (Grade 3) ' 3m4½f, 5yo+ ' ITV4/RTV

Yala Enki bids to become only the second horse to win back to back runnings of the Grand National warm up since Silver By Nature slogged through the north-west mud to victory in 2010 and 2011.

On the latter occasion, Silver By Nature carried top weight to victory something that Yala Enki will have to match if he is to advertise his Aintree claims.

Venetia Williams, who also landed this marathon contest with Rigadin De Beauchene in 2014, has taken off some of the burden by engaging her 7lb claiming conditional Hugh Nugent for one of the biggest rides of his career.

Usually partnered by Charlie Deutsch, Yala Enki has had a productive winter already scoring on his reappearance at Bangor in November before finishing just shy of the reopposing Ramses De Teillee when third in the Welsh National last time.

Williams said: "He won the race last year but the conditions will be very different this year. He has got to give a lot of weight away to a good field but he has been in good form and hopefully he can be competitive once again."

Can Pipe strike again?

David Pipe is two-handed on the trail of a second success in this in just three years chiefly with Ramses De Teillee, who has already proven himself in one stamina test having finished second to Elegant Escape in the Coral Welsh National.

The Somerset handler also pitches his 2017 winner Vieux Lion Rouge back into the mix who later that year went onto run a respectable sixth in the Grand National.

Although Ramses De Teillee may not be making the trip to Liverpool in April, Vieux Lion Rouge could be on a return ticket for a fourth crack at the Aintree showpiece itself if he performs well here.

Pipe said: "Ramses De Teillee ran very well at Chepstow but ideally he would appreciate softer ground than he is likely to get here. He still should run a nice race. Vieux Lion Rouge was doing too much in blinkers at Chepstow so we are putting the side pieces back on which may help him get home."

Tizzard pair to step up?

Another trainer doubly-represented is Colin Tizzard, who has Royal Vacation and Robinsfirth among the final field of 16 runners.

Royal Vacation returned to winning ways last time out when winning at Taunton in January whilst Robinsfirth made an eye-catching reappearance when runner-up to the reopposing Wakanda in the Peter Marsh chase at the track a month ago.

Tizzard said: "Robinsfirth had a comeback run up there last month which was really strong and I think he has come on for the run. We know he acts around there and we are expecting a big run from him.

"Royal Vacation is back in the form of his life, he was disappointing last season but he is really good again," he added. "He did it really nicely at Taunton and that looked quite a good race. He is a Grade 1 winner who is certainly on the comeback. This was the obvious target with the National after."

Day for the underdog?

Nicky Martin only has ten horses to run under rules at her Somerset yard and is looking forward to taking on the big boys with The Two Amigos who heads north on a hat-trick.

Despite his diminutive size, The Two Amigos has already won one National as he landed the Sussex version at Plumpton last time.

Martin said: "We've never had a runner in a £100,000 race before so it's a big deal for us. The Two Amigos was winning point-to-points a year ago so has come a long way in a short space of time and he's sure to give another good account."

What the others say

Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Ballyoptic and Ballyarthur

Ballyoptic loves a real stamina test and was second in the Scottish National last year. He goes on any ground and should be thereabouts as should Ballyarthur.

Ian Williams, trainer of Red Infantry

Red Infantry is in good form at home and the long-term target is the Grand National and we will learn more about him here. He should like the trip and jumps nicely so hopefully he can then beat the cut for Aintree.

Neil Mulholland, trainer of Impulsive Star and Carole's Destrier

Impulsive Star enjoyed a true test around Warwick last time and this should suit him as should the drying ground. Carole's Destrier ran well to be fourth in the Warwick race and has been in good form at home.

Evan Williams, trainer of Pobbles Bay

We wanted to run him in the Welsh National but he didn't get in so this is plan B. He ran well on his comeback over hurdles and we're delighted to be running for such a big prize.

Sam England, trainer of Chef D'Oeuvre

The drying ground won't be in his favour but he goes there with a small each-way chance."

Across the cards: four things to note on an action-packed Saturday

Can Yanworth make a winning return?

Considering he has won 12 of his 19 starts, it's hard to believe it has been a bit of a rocky road for Yanworth, who makes his return in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle (1.55 Haydock).

Now aged nine, Yanworth announced himself as a truly classy horse at Cheltenham in January 2016. But doubts began to creep in when Yorkhill beat him in what was then the Neptune Novices' Hurdle, and he then failed to win the Champion Hurdle in 2017 despite being sent off favourite after winning three big prizes en route.

His four chase starts yielded two wins and a second, but he was far from a natural over fences and trainer Alan King turned his attention to the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he finished a disappointing sixth.

After an 11-month absence, Yanworth is back and King said: "The important thing is that he's been pleasing me at home since he returned to Barbury Castle and he's working as well as he's ever done."

Yanworth is 7lb clear of his nearest rival on ratings, Kilcooley, who is reappearing from an even longer absence, while rock-solid campaigner Clyne tries his hand over three miles again. Last year's winner Donna's Diamond, Warren Greatrex's filly Petticoat Tails, Man Of Plenty and Shades Of Midnight complete the field.

Will Alan King complete a Kingwell hat-trick?

Alan King has won the last two renewals of the Kingwell Hurdle (3.00) and he will hope to make it a hat-trick with the redoubtable Sceau Royal, who reverts back to hurdles from fences.

Having won the Elite Hurdle over this course and distance in 2016, Sceau Royal went on to finish sixth in the Champion Hurdle. More recently, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede's horse has plied his trade admirably over fences and is likely to have another date with his Tingle Creek conqueror Altior in the Champion Chase next month.

King, who won this race with Yanworth in 2017 and Elgin last year, said: "His target is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but he's in very good order and he could well get his ground. He was a good enough hurdler to finish third behind Yanworth in this before he went chasing."

The £60,000 prize is well worth rerouting for, but it won't be easy for Sceau Royal as he is due to face the Colin Tizzard-trained Vision Des Flos, who gave Buveur D'Air an ever so slight fright in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last time. Unison and Jolly's Cracked It represent the older brigade while novice Grand Sancy, who chased home Elixir De Nutz in the Tolworth Hurdle last time, takes his chance for Paul Nicholls.

Is Ben another star for Kirby?

Philip Kirby already has one very exciting chaser in his string in Lady Buttons, but Top Ville Ben could join the mare and enter that league if he were to add the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase (1.35) to his CV.

The winner of both of his starts over fences so far, including a 46-length beating of the 137-rated Red Rising at Wetherby last time, Top Ville Ben's enthusiastic racing style makes him a sight to behold.

Kirby said: "His jumping has been excellent so hopefully he'll continue to go the right way. He was a good jumper of a hurdle and then it all kind of fell apart - he got a bit brave and started stepping at the hurdles.

"Then he schooled over fences at home brilliantly, and so looked like he would make a chaser at some stage."

The seven-year-old tends to freewheel for the first mile or so before staying on dourly, and those tactics have been seen to good effect around Ascot this season courtesy of horses like Wenyerreadyfreddie and Cyrname.

Top Ville Ben is a top-priced 40-1 shot for the RSA Chase and Kirby added: "It's a nice pot to have a go at and he deserves to take his chance. All being well the plan would be to head to the RSA after this."

However, this looks a wide-open renewal and Top Ville Ben could face competition for the lead, as Now McGinty has improved rapidly since cheekpieces were applied and scored in style for the in-form Stuart Edmunds yard at Chepstow last time.

The Colin Tizzard-trained Mister Malarky produced a similarly taking effort at Newbury, while Coup De Pinceau and Yalltari complete the field.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: "He is a progressive young horse who won well at Newbury last time. He has put himself in the picture to take his chance in a race like this. This will help us decide whether to go down the novice or handicapping route at Cheltenham."

Can Triumph contender down last year's Triumph winner?

Coeur Sublime, a 20-1 shot for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and Farclas, who landed that Cheltenham Festival event last year, represent Gordon Elliott in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park, a race which the Jessica Harrington-trained Forge Meadow will bid to win for the second consecutive year.

Elliott said: "Coeur Sublime missed a Grade 1 at Leopardstown two weeks ago as the ground was too quick. He needs to improve but as a four-year-old he's getting plenty of weight from the others.

"He's in good form and so is Farclas, who has been disappointing so far this season. We're trying blinkers on him to see if they might improve things."

Harrington said of Forge Meadow: "She won the race last year and it made sense to go back and try and win it again. She would probably like the ground a bit softer than it is, but she hasn't really run a bad race all season."

All quotes from Racing Post. Visit Racing Post's guide to racing for more.

John Burnham
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