Kevin Blake heads to Ascot on Saturday where he has found two horses to back, including one from Ben Pauling's yard who are in fine form at present...
"He had a tough time of it in very competitive company, being pulled up in all three of his outings, but the handicapper has shown him mercy and he returns to action off his lowest mark since February 2018."
The clocks are going back and all the action on ITV Racing will come over the jumps. If ever a weekend hammered home that winter is well and truly here, this is it! Resistance is futile, all we can do is roll with it and try to find a few winners at Ascot.
Classy Citizen can win at Ascot
The 14:10 Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle has attracted a deep field and the one I like is the Ben Pauling-trained Global Citizen. A classy performer on his day, he has won two Grade 2 hurdles and a Grade 2 chase over the years.
He had a tough time of it in very competitive company, being pulled up in all three of his outings, but the handicapper has shown him mercy and he returns to action off his lowest mark since February 2018.
Ben Pauling has his team in great form at present and with Global Citizen having a solid record when fresh, it wouldn't surprise if he's been given a good squeeze in his preparation for this race. He finished second in this race three years ago off a mark of 145 on what was his seasonal reappearance and the hope is that he'll go very well in it again here.
Chasing for more Gold
The other race of interest is the 14:45 Byrne Group Handicap Chase and it is the Dan Skelton-trained Amoola Gold that stands out from the pack. The eight-year-old had a very good campaign last season, though it could be argued that he didn't get the rewards that improving 19lb would usually translate to.
It started off very well with a win at Wetherby, but it ramped up a gear in this very race when he beat the well-handicapped Ibleo (ended up rated 25lb higher later that season) in this very race by a short-head.
That would prove to be where his luck ran out, as in his next two starts he narrowly failed to peg back First Flow (subsequently won a Grade 1 at Ascot) and finished second to Sky Pirate (subsequently won the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival) at Warwick.
While he failed to make as significant an impact in his final start of the season in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, those two runs off marks of 138 and 143 suggest that Amoola Gold can still make an impact off his current mark of 146.
He has already shown his effectiveness over this course and distance and his trainer has his string in fine form. He looks to be a very interesting contender and can hopefully get the job done.
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