By Andy Stephens
A feature of this week has been Brain Power’s price shrinking for the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase.
Odds of 8-1 on Monday had dipped to 9-4 in a place or two on Wednesday, probably due to a combination of a few bets plus the bookmakers waking up to the fact that Nicky Henderson was serious about running his novice.
Brain Power is now a general 3-1 for Saturday’s feature at Ascot and it will be interesting to see how he moves in the market.
Ascot is the track to show him to maximum advantage and if his jumping holds up - Henderson has every confidence it will - then I would not be surprised if he had too much toe for Un De Sceaux at the business end of the contest, especially if front-running Speredek softens up the odds-on favourite in the early stages.
I’d say it is a race to watch rather than be punting on (although if Brain Power drifts then I may be tempted to play) and from a betting perspective the following are more attractive.
The prices advised were correct at 4.15pm on Friday. The widget underneath each tip shows the latest best price available.
There was plenty to like about the way Chef D’Equipe won at Sandown a fortnight ago and, with this race restricted to amateur riders, it means regular rider David Maxwell is an added advantage.
The way that Chef D’Equipe moved through that race suggested he was some way ahead of his mark and a 6lb rise looks fair enough.
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Drumcliff eventually consented to get the job done on his chasing bow at Wincanton but he still seems a tricky customer and a challenge for any jockey, let alone an inexperienced amateur.
A bigger threat could be Crievehill, who ran well at Haydock last time and will have the assistance of Zak Baker.
La Bague Au Roi is a most likeable mare and was making it nine wins from 12 starts when giving 4lb and a beating to the smart Jer’s Girl upped to 3m for the first time at Kempton on her latest start.
On official ratings La Bague Au Roi has at least 6lb in hand of her rivals and she is going to take plenty of stopping, although I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know there as she’s no bigger than 11-10 with Ladbrokes.
I still like this race from a betting angle because second favourite Dusky Legend is not sure to stay this far and is reverting to hurdles after a tumble over fences.
For the forecast, I much prefer the tough and consistent Graceful Legend, a 10-1 chance with Boylesports who impressed when winning at Ascot in November and has has been crying out for this trip.
The only habitual front-runner in the 14-runner line-up is Le Breuil and, with the prospect of a relatively easy lead, he must have prospects of making all and giving Ben Pauling an overdue winner.
Le Breuil’s nine-length defeat of Benatar at Newbury in March suggests he is favourably weighted and he shaped with great encouragement in a decent heat on his return at Kempton on his return where he traded odds-on in-running but got weary late on.
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Last time out he found Black Ivory too strong at Aintree but the deep ground was probably against him and, in any case, the form does not look so bad after the winner followed up at Warwick last weekend.
Pauling has gone a month without a winner (30 runners in that time) but the majority of his horses have been running to form and it is only a matter of a time before he comes off the cold list. For instance, Red Indian was a fine third in the Lanzarote Hurdle last week.
Acting Lass is not the most sensibly named horse in the world - he is not a she - but he looks a likely lad for this valuable handicap.
He has looked an exciting prospect in winning small-field handicaps at Market Rasen and Leicester, with an aggregate rise of 8lb for those successes being offset by the experience he has picked up along the way.
A feature of his victories has been the enthusiastic way he jumps/travels and I fancy there is plenty more to come.
He has had only a nine-day break since his latest win but he had a relatively easy race and, if anything, it may have put an edge on him because his previous win had been seven weeks earlier. There is scope for him to go off a lot shorter than 5-2.
This is going to be a slog if the meeting survives a morning inspection and the emphasis will be firmly on stamina, the ability to handle heavy ground and jumping prowess.
One who ticks all those boxes is Highland Lodge, who ran a cracker in the Becher Chase for the third year in succession when chasing home two high-class stayers in Blaklion and The Last Samuri six weeks ago.
Highland Lodge meets nothing of their calibre on this occasion and, off the same mark, promises to make another bold bid provided he does not get sucked into an early battle for the lead with Hainan (who is inclined to sulk if he does not lead) and Yala Enki.Highland Lodge runs off the same mark as when third in the Becher Chase (PA)
Some are bound to question Highland Lodge’s effectiveness away from Aintree but this track is similarly flat and it’s worth recalling that as a younger horse he finished fourth in a Hennessy (off a 5lb higher mark than he will race off here).
In any case, that niggle is more than offset by the fact he is a massive 20-1 with bet365. In my book he should be among the market leaders.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
(Prices correct at 4.15pm on Friday)
1.15 Ascot: Chef D’Equipe £2 win at 3-1 with Coral
1.50 Ascot: £3 Exacta on La Bague Au Roi to beat Graceful Legend
2.25 Ascot: Le Breuil £2.50 each-way at a general 7-1
3.00 Ascot: Acting Lass £2 win at a general 5-2
3.15 Haydock: Highland Lodge £2 win and £2 each-way ay 20-1 with bet365
70p Win Super Yankee and 40p each-way five fold. Average prices in brackets.
1.15 Ascot: Chef D’Equipe (11-4)
1.50 Ascot: La Bague Au Roi (Evens)
2.25 Ascot: Le Breuil (7-1)
3.00 Ascot: Acting Lass (5-2)
3.15 Haydock: Highland Lodge (18-1)
Select any odd to add a bet