Racing UK ambassador Aidan Coleman gives us the inside track on his weekend rides and provides updates on two exciting novice chasers.
By Aidan Coleman
Tenor Nivernais, my old ally, looks to have most bases covered in the big handicap of the day at Ascot, the bet365 Handicap Chase.
He may be 11 but appears to have retained his old enthusiasm and has enjoyed a nice break since the Randox Health Grand National, which unsurprisingly took a bit out of him.
He always seems to be at his best when fresh and has a liking for Ascot too – he’s won twice and been third and fourth in his four starts at the course. He also loves the soft ground and I’d be hopeful of a very good run.
He looks to be my best chance of the day, although Champ is a horse with clear-cut claims in the Rosling King British EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
There isn’t much to go on. Champ hasn’t run for a year, I’ve never sat on him and he’s making his hurdle debut, but Nicky Henderson’s horses always have to be respected in these type of races and he’s had 12 winners from his past 35 runners so is in cracking form.
There look to be three or four horses that could win this and that definitely includes Champ.
Midnight Tune enters the Grade 2 olbg.com Mares' Hurdle on a hat-trick following two pretty comfortable wins under me. She deserves this step up in grade as she’s clearly a progressive type but she’s rated 130 for a reason and the top-rated, La Bague Au Roi, is 149, which sets out the big task ahead of her.
Vivas is another who is taking a big step up in the Grade 3 Ascot Spring Garden Show Holloway's Handicap Hurdle.It's a case of so far, so good with the exciting Saint Calvados (PA)
He’s a capable horse and is off a mark which he will be winning off soon enough, but this does a look a very tough assignment and there will be easier opportunities for him in the future.
All eyes will be on Un De Sceaux in the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase as he bids for his third win in the race. There has been money for his main rival Brain Power, who is a very talented horse and shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, Un Des Sceaux’s vast experience at the very highest level should see him win. I’ve one ride at Newcastle on Sunday – weather permitting – Swaffham Bulbeck in the Free Spins At 188Bet Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.
His trainer, Olly Murphy, has impressed everyone with the start to his training career, having already notched more than 30 winners in his first season.
I try and ride out for Olly once a month and schooled Swaffham Bulbeck on Thursday and he seems very well ahead of his jumps debut. I’m sure he’ll go well.
Readers of the column will know what high regard I held Saint Calvados in ahead of his debut at the end of last month.
He has since won both his starts very easily and it’s a case of so far, so good. He hopefully will keep improving with every step he takes, and the Kingmaker at Warwick next month looks the ideal target.
Another novice I’ve always really liked is Fountains Windfall, who enjoyed a nice confidence boosting win at Kempton following two falls.
He’ll go back up in grade for the Reynoldstown at Ascot next month. He should be up to it, given he probably would have won a Grade 1 at Kempton on Boxing Day, when he fell. They are two really nice novices who hopefully will end up at the Cheltenham Festival with chances.
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