Horse Racing Tips

James Mackie's Big Race Verdict: Crambo to see off the old guard

Ascot Racecourse
James thinks Crambo can see off the older, more experienced horses in the Long Walk Hurdle

James Mackie fills in for Kevin Blake and gives his big race verdict on the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday...

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Paisley Park to Finish in the First 4 (14:25 Ascot) @ 6/42.50

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The festive period of racing is just a few days away, but before we get stuck into the 11 meetings on Boxing Day, there is the small matter of Ascot on Saturday.

There are plenty of standout races across the six-race card, but the feature is the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle over 3m 1/2f.

It's a race that has seen a plethora of superb horses in recent times, including those entered again on Saturday.

And this year's running looks to be a matchup of the old versus the new in the British staying hurdle division.

Winners over the last 10 years

There have been some fantastic winners of this Grade 1 throughout the years and more recently some household names in the sport.

  • 2013 - Reve De Sivola
  • 2014 - Reve De Sivola
  • 2015 - Thistlecrack
  • 2016 - Unowhatimeanharry
  • 2017 - Sam Spinner
  • 2018 - Paisley Park
  • 2019 - The Worlds End
  • 2020 - Paisley Park
  • 2021 - Champ
  • 2022 - Paisley Park

Can the young pretenders see off the old guard?

This year looks to be a matchup of potential over experience and in my view, it will go the way of one of the younger horses in the field.

We start with West Balboa 5/23.50 at the top of the market and this mare for Dan Skelton is the only horse receiving 7lbs off the field due to the weight for sex allowance.

With a string of 1s next to her name in the formbook you can see why she is at the top of the market with the Betfair Sportsbook. Her last two runs have shown her clear staying ability, bolting up at Aintree in a competitive handicap hurdle off 135 having made a mockery of two experienced types in Brewin'upastorm and Millers Bank at the same track on her seasonal reappearance.

More youth comes next in the market with Crambo 3/14.00 for the Fergal O'Brien team. Like West Balboa he has it all to do on ratings but from a potential perspective Crambo could turn out to be the best of the British in this year's staying hurdle division.

A prolific winner last season before heading into a Grade One at Aintree, He started this season back at the Liverpool track when landing a handicap hurdle over 2m4f in comfortable fashion, going clear in the final stages off a mark of 133.

Next seen stepping up again to 3m 1/2f at Haydock in the Grade 3 Betfair Serial winners Handicap Hurdle off 139, I thought he was one of the most unluckiest losers of the season so far back in third.

Blueking D'Oroux 10/111.00 for Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls, who has two in the race, is the youngest of the lot at four-years-old.

He has been extremely progressive on both his outings this term. Winning over 2m 1/2f at Cheltenham in October and up in trip at Ascot last time out to 2m 3 1/2f, he improved again to land the Grade 2 Coral Hurdle.

He will need to prove his stamina at three miles and only being four, he might still have some growing up to do to be at his best.

Will experience out rival potential?

This race over the last few years has been won by horses with experience at this level.

Champ 5/16.00 was successful in this race back in 2021 off the back of a long break, and heads into this contest under the same tactics.

Now 11-years-old, and soon to be 12, he does not appear to be the force of old and looks a chancey selection having never been the most straightforward horse to train during his career.

The great Paisley Park 6/17.00 is back to try and land a fourth win in this Grade 1 event and judging by his seasonal debut the fire still well and truly burns for this magnificent horse.

Paisley Park has been a superstar in this division for many years. However, he is also 11 going on 12 and although we know exactly what we will get from him in terms of stamina, it would ultimately show just how weak this division is if he was to land his fourth victory in the race.

A horse that has locked horns with Paisley Park on many occasions is Dashel Drasher 7/18.00 and like his rival he is admired by many for his willing attitude to stay all day.

A horse that very rarely runs a bad race, but doesn't win that often, and although narrowly getting his head in front last time out at Newbury in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle from Emma Lavelle's horse, he has hit the crossbar one too many times in his career to make him a reliable win option.

Other Long Walk Hurdle contenders

Ten runners head to post for the 2023 renewal of this race which leaves four more staying hurdlers to discuss, with three of them at the wrong end of the market.

The best of the rest according to the Betfair Sportsbook is Botox Has 8/19.00 for Gary Moore and last time out staked his credentials for this race when seeing off Red Risk 25/126.00 by a length at Wetherby in Grade 2 company. Both would have to step up again to win this event.

Nigel Twiston-Davies fields Gowel Road 22/123.00 who stepped up to 3m last time out when fourth behind Crambo at Haydock. He is another who is bred for this distance. Although a big price it would not be a surprise to see this seven-year-old hit the frame.

Finally, the enigma that is Goshen holds up the field at 33/134.00 and the simple reason for that is you just don't know what you are going to get from him.

A class horse on his day. That same ability has now not been seen for a while, but if going from the front he is another at a big price that could pick up each way money.

Long Walk Hurdle verdict

From my detailed analysis of the 10 horses in the race you can probably predict that I will be going with youth over experience.

The horse that I will be siding with is Crambo 3/14.00 who I believe has the potential to be the best of the British in this division.

He showed last time out at Haydock that he stays the trip and did his best work late on that day. The gelding looked to be the unluckiest loser of the season when narrowly going down in the Grade 3 Betfair Serial Winners Handicap Hurdle.

Ridden more prominently by Jonathan Burke on Saturday and given every chance to show his staying ability in the finish, he has the potential to go close against the more exposed older horses.

Back Crambo to win Ascot 14:25 @ 3/14.00

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