By Richard Hoiles
For the second time in my visits to Ascot on Clarence House Day the place was really buzzing. Jumps racing at Ascot is not always the easiest to generate atmosphere on a damp winter’s day.
The surrounding trees, which provide such a colourful autumn backdrop seem to hold in the low cloud and the positioning of the chase track on the inside means it can seem quite remote and a long way from the stands.
The first occasion will be one nobody who was present will forget. The first running of the Clarence House in 1989, then better known the sponsor’s title – The Victor Chandler and then also a handicap.
On that day, on cold concrete steppings the crowd rejoiced as Desert Orchid ‘ fought like a tiger’ to collar Panto Prince, despite Chris Popham’s pride and joy receiving over a stone and a half in weight.
On Saturday the difference was that the same emotions were repeated for a race that was not even stagd at the Berkshire track.
As The New One responded on cue to Sam Twiston-Davies’ urgings to challenge Ch’Tibello at Haydock, a strange murmur emanated from beneath the stands and gradually increased in volume to a full blown roar as the Naunton warhorse landed his fourth Champion Hurdle trial.
The cold was replaced by a warm glow as one of National Hunt’s favourite sons epitomised through his courage and longevity what makes the winter game so special.
The continuing spell of heavy ground means Southwell provides the most appealing betting opportunities starting with the opener.
Having thought Going Native showed some promise on his handicap debut at Lingfield in October it was slightly surprising to see him put in the Sales and even though new connections were forced to 18,000 Guineas the horse’s maiden third at Southwell last time suggests she could shortly be returning some of that investment.
She should get her own way out in front, whilst the booking of the promising apprentice Jason Watson (five wins already in 2018) is certainly no negative as is the record of her sire Speightstown on this surface.
Mick Appleby’s record with horses having a first run for his yard is impressive, but when that run also takes place at Southwell the figures are compelling - 12 winners from 51 starters with an Actual/Expected of 1.70 (Par 1.00).
Matters here are slightly complicated by the fact two fulfil the criteria here - Di'S Gift, who is 16-1 having switched from Shaun Harris, is the other but preference is for Canford Thompson, who is lightly raced in recent seasons and off a career low mark of 55.
A wide draw may be no negative, given his inexperience of the kickback though many of the yard's horses are galloped there prior to their first runs for the stable.
Has run well on both of his Southwell starts, on both occasions getting a little too far back so hopefully the application of blinkers can help him get a better position early on.
Even though he has been raised 3lbs for his last run, that handicap debut off a mark of just 51 suggests he is starting out from a mark which may not reflect his full ability.
Despite still being a maiden under Rules Tara Well has run consistently in her last three runs on similar ground over similar trips.
She is clearly no world beater but can capitalise on receiving plenty of weight from favourite Shroughmore Lass.
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