Matt Gardner tackles a decent card at Ascot for Friday's crack at the Placepot...
"Sinbad The Sailor is currently trading as big as 28.027/1 on Betfair, a price which has tempted me into an investment on the George Baker-trained eight-year-old..."
13:00 - Judged on his strong hurdling form last season, Royal Boy would be an easy banker in the opening leg but he made a pretty tame reappearance at Kempton last month. Admittedly that was over fences and he now reverts to hurdles, but it's a bit risky to rely upon him solely and the 'pot will pay more should he miss out altogether, so it's worth taking him on with Mac's Return and Tara Road. They could well be playing for second/third place if Royal Boy is at his best, but we ought to progress with them on side.
13:30 - The obvious starting point in this leg is Rio de Sivola, who got off the mark over fences at the third time of asking at Warwick last month, beating subsequent winner Roc d'Apsis by eight lengths. He remains with the potential to do better still now handicapping and goes into the permutation alongside Bellenos, a fairly useful performer when trained in France by Guillaume Macaire. He shaped much better than the bare result on debut for Dan Skelton at Doncaster last month, jumping and travelling well for a long way before the lack of a recent run took its toll, and early prices of around 9.28/1 are most tempting.
14:00 - Prince Siegfried and Long Lunch should improve upon the form they've shown so far, but this looks set to be fought out between Irving and Volnay de Thaix, both of whom appeal as being good prospects over hurdles. There's little between them, with Paul Nicholls' charge narrowly awarded the vote.
14:35 - Up To Something has something to find on these terms, whilst Raya Star is yet to totally convince me as a chaser, so this Grade 2 boils down to Mr Mole and Fox Appeal. It's difficult to separate them in terms of selecting a banker so we shall take the easy route and stick them both in.
15:10 - Sinbad The Sailor is currently trading as big as 28.027/1 on Betfair, a price which has tempted me into an investment on the George Baker-trained eight-year-old. He was fit from the Flat when winning over three miles at Chepstow in October and was by no means disgraced over the same trip at Cheltenham last time, travelling well and if anything shaping as though a drop to this trip would suit. Our second selection will be Andy Kelly who has made a decent start to his hurdling career, getting off the mark at the second time of asking at Stratford. He improved in defeat at Newbury last time, and could yet have a bit more to offer.
15:40 - Nathans Pride landed both bumper starts when trained in Ireland by Peter Fahey, beating a subsequent winner on his latest outing prior to changing hands for €82,000. He should prove capable of making an impact at this higher grade, as should Oscarteea who showed plenty of promise when finishing runner-up on his first two outings before improving to get his head in front at Chepstow in October, having next-time-out winners behind in second and fourth.
13:00 - 4, 10
13:30 - 1, 5
14:00 - 1
14:35 - 3, 4
15:10 - 4, 6
15:40 - 4, 6
= 32 lines