Kevin Blake

Kevin Blake on the Betfair Ascot Chase: Fakir can Pic off D'Orhy and Shishkin

Fakir D'Oudairies race horse
Fakir D'Oudairies should take the beating in Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase

Saturday's racing highlight is the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase where seven contenders are expected to go to post with a trio of big-hitters at the top of the market. Kevin Blake previews the race and fancies Fakir D'Oudairies to take all the beating...

  • Betfair Ascot Chase the highlight of Saturday's racing

  • Three fascinating contenders at head of market

  • Kevin Blake expects Fakir D'Oudairies to take the beating


Allaho injury opens up Ryanair Chase

The Betfair Ascot Chase is the main event on Saturday's card at Ascot and it promises to answer some very pressing questions.

With the dominant force in the division Allaho having been ruled out for the season in recent days, the mid-range chase division all of a sudden is very much up for grabs.

Many of the most obvious candidates to step into the substantial gap left by Allaho are set to knock heads in the Betfair Ascot Chase and the picture is likely to look that bit clearer by the conclusion of Saturday afternoon.

When Allaho was ruled out, the Joseph O'Brien-trained Fakir D'Oudairies was the one that leaped to the front of the market for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Betfair Ascot Chase had long been highlighted as a target for him and the news about Allaho hasn't changed that.

While Fakir D'Oudairies had very deliberately sidestepped past the Cheltenham Festival last year with a view to being kept fresh for the Melling Chase at Aintree, the absence of his old adversary Allaho may well make the Ryanair Chase too enticing for his connections to resist.

The eight-year-old has a fine record around Cheltenham, winning a Grade 2 juvenile hurdle, finishing a better-than-the-result fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, an arguably unlucky second in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and a well-held second to the monstrous Allaho in the Ryanair Chase.

While he hasn't hit top form in either of his starts this season, one suspects his trainer has been looking to build from run-to-run and he promises to be ready to produce a season-best effort at Ascot. Should all go to plan there, he will have a mighty chance in the Ryanair Chase if his connections elect to run him there.

D'Orhy looking to Pic off rivals

Mind, he doesn't face an easy task in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday. The main up-and-comer standing in his way is the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D'Orhy (9/4 for Saturday's race).

The eight-year-old arrived to the UK with something of a tall reputation and made his British debut in no less than the Triumph Hurdle. However, it took time for him to start delivering on his reputation, with his victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in 2020 being the main highlight until he started to come good over fences last season by winning two Grade 2 novice chases.

Pic D'Orhy.jpg

However, it has been this season that has really see him come forward, his previously inconsistent jumping has become more assured and that has translated into three consecutive victories this season including a wide-margin success in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last time.

This race has been his target since and while he has to be respected, this is a different class of contest to what he has been winning and another career-best effort will be needed to see him prevail.

Shishkin a fascinating runner but Fakir can have his measure

Without question the most intriguing runner in the field is the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin (2/1).

A star of the sport for the last couple of seasons, the nine-year-old has won four Grade 1 races including the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Mind, he is probably best known for his epic victory over Energumene in a thrilling renewal of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot just over a year ago.

The problem with Shishkin is that he hasn't looked the same since that epic victory at Ascot.

He was pulled up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was later diagnosed with a rare bone condition. While he showed more on his seasonal reappearance in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, he was ultimately a well-held third behind Edwardstone which is not the level of form expected from him.

Shishkin's connections are adamant that he is ready to return to a mid-range trip now and while such distances having always seemed likely to suit him, one worries that the change might be coming later in the day than ideal.

Nicky Henderson has performed some miraculous feats with horses that have looked on an irreversible slide in the past and this isn't the most daunting task he has ever faced in such regard, but it is still difficult to be confident in Shishkin's prospects.

All told, Fakir D'Oudairies (11/8) makes the most appeal for the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday. A sound surface holds no fears for him and the return to a much stiffer track is sure to play to his strengths. He looks to be the one to beat in pursuit of his fifth Grade 1 win.


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