Timeform Radio Tip: Battler Raya can Star at Ascot

Alan King: Trainer of Raya Star.

Rory Delargy picks out a trio of selections at Ascot...

"It's possible that Raya Star has been underestimated in the market, and Alan King's charge, while perhaps lacking the scope of the top pair, is a rock-solid proposition..."

Ascot's pre-Christmas meeting is always something to provide seasonal cheer, even if the prospect of a blank midweek filled with brussels sprouts, marauding in-laws and dry turkey doesn't, so leave the bah-humbugging for next week, and put on your party hats.

The novices' handicap at 13:30 has already seen strong support for Rio de Sivola, for whom Tony McCoy seems a positive booking, and he's undoubtedly a worthy favourite having made all to beat a subsequent winner last time. He should again get his way up front, and ought to go well, but this looks tougher, and I'm taken by the prospects of Bellenos, who can also race handily and caught the eye at Doncaster on his debut for Dan Skelton last month. On that occasion he jumped soundly up with the pace for a long way, and wasn't knocked about when his chance had gone. He should prove sharper for that first run since leaving Guillaume Macaire (off more than a year in the interim), and the drop in trip should be a positive. I wouldn't want to see him get into a destructive battle with the market leader, but fluency and ability to travel strongly ought to see him in with a major chance, especially with the pick of his French form suggesting he's on a very fair mark. He looks overpriced at around 8/1.

The Grade 2 chase for novices at 14:35 is a cracker despite the defection of Sergeant Dick, and it's hard to find the favourite, let alone the winner. Unlike some, I wasn't entirely taken by Mr Mole's chase debut success, for all he did well to overhaul a last-fence deficit, and he's proved on several occasions that he isn't one for maximum faith, particularly with deteriorating conditions raising further doubts. Fox Appeal is the one to beat on the evidence of collateral form, having looked sure to beat the exciting Wonderful Charm at Wincanton last time, only to be overhauled in the dying strides. He should go well, but it's possible that Raya Star has been underestimated in the market, and Alan King's charge, while perhaps lacking the scope of the top pair, is a rock-solid proposition. He is proven both on the going and at the track, where his only defeat in 3 runs has come at the hands of Oscar Whisky. He lacked the turn of foot needed to go with Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham last time, but should relish this stiffer test, and is a renowned battler, something which will stand him in good stead against flashier rivals.

The staying handicap hurdle at 15:10 has cut up already, and plenty of the runners have questions to answer. The most solid performer appears to be Kilmurvy, for all he blotted his copybook by ducking out at Sandown last month. That blip is sandwiched by a pair of creditable efforts, notably when racing too close to an overly strong pace at Newbury last time, and it should pay to forgive him that uncharacteristic lapse. Both his hurdles successes have come this way round with Nick Sholfield riding, and with no problems regarding underfoot conditions, he can get back to winning ways. There may be more to come from the likeable Polly Peachum, who did us a favour at Kempton in the spring, but the form of that contest hasn't worked out, and she struggled a couple of times on soft ground last winter.

Recommendations:
All at Ascot
Back Bellenos @ 8.615/2 in the 13:30
Back Raya Star @ 4.03/1 in the 14:35 (NAP)
Back Kilmurvy @ 6.611/2 in the 15:10 (NB)


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