NAP: Palmers Hill is likely to progress further
Palmers Hill - 14:55 Ascot
Palmers Hill possibly hasn't been the easiest horse to train over the years, but he is finally starting to show what he can do with a clear run this season. He made light of a 241-day absence to get off the mark over fences at the second attempt at Wetherby in November, readily defying a BHA mark of 130, and a 4-lb rise in the weights was nowhere near enough to stop him in his follow-up bid at this course the following month.
That was a coming-of-age performance as Palmers Hill powered clear after the last to land the spoils by nine and a half lengths, still appearing very strong at the end of a truly-run race. The step up in trip here is likely to unlock more improvement and Palmers Hill rates a confident selection to complete the hat-trick, with a BHA mark of 142 still appealing as fair.
NEXT BEST: Western Victory is very interesting
Western Victory - 14:20 Ascot
Western Victory is as tough as they come and she proved that she has stamina in abundance when last winning a minor event at Clonmel at the beginning of December. That was her first try at three miles, but the trip clearly wasn't an issue as she dug deep under pressure to win by 11 lengths, in the process bringing up the eighth victory of her career under Rules.
Formerly trained by Declan Queally, Western Victory has recently joined Emma Lavelle after being bought for £80,000 and this looks a good opportunity for her to make a winning start for her new yard. After all, she already has the form in the book to make her a leading player and there is every chance she may yet have more to offer at this distance.
EACH-WAY: Celebrate with Unexpected Party
Unexpected Party - 13:45 Ascot
Unexpected Party was sent off at very short odds and probably should have won when filling the runner-up spot on his latest outing at Wetherby, everything seemingly going to plan until he hit the brakes at the last. That caused him to lose valuable momentum and he could never quite recover, ultimately passing the post a length behind the winner.
This will be tougher again now stepping up in grade, but Unexpected Party is fancied to prove equal to the task. The first two pulled well clear of the rest at Wetherby, so he was full value for a 6-lb rise in the weights, and it's highly unlikely that we've seen the best of him yet after only five starts over hurdles.