There was both tragedy and ecstasy on Wednesday afternoon when some top Jumps racing manifested in all the emotions on the racing smorgasbord.
Over in Ireland, it was the turn of Hurricane Fly, labelled by some as the glass horse owing to his somewhat fragile profile, to throw himself into the mix as a very live Champion Hurdle contender with his defeat of old rival Solwhit. We also saw impressive performances from Toner D’oudairies and Zaidpour, whilst Jessies Dream, although fortunate with the last flight fall of Mikael D’Haguenet, is a horse that is going to go places.
The aforementioned great sadness came with the fall that claimed the life of Paul Nicholls’ enigmatic chaser Twist Magic, who has given the sport some truly top notch performance over the years and will be sorely missed.
The highlight of Saturday’s racing sees another of racing’s elite performers line-up when Big Buck’s takes his place in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle. He has to be the closest thing to a certainty that you are likely to get this side of Christmas, but that will obviously be factored into his price. Here’s hoping Tony McCoy scores a big Saturday double with the Sports Personality of the Year too.
Another horse to mention on a great day’s racing is Nicky Henderson’s Punchestowns who makes his chasing return in a graduation chase at Ascot. Many will have marked him out for great things this year so it will be very interesting to see how he gets on.
Over at Lingfield we should begin with a winner when Western Aristocrat takes to the stage in the 12.20. Combining one of my favourite all-weather partnerships in trainer Jeremy Noseda and jockey George Baker, this juvenile was a good winner on his debut at the same distance at Newmarket and I’d be very surprised if he isn’t good enough to go in again here. His opponents look no better than average and on ratings I’d expect Amwell Pinot to give him most to do.
Haydock provides a couple of televised races with the highlight being the Tommy Whittle but the best opportunity to back a lively outsider would be in the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle (2.35) at Ascot.
This does look a tricky event as Aegean Dawn has the world at his hooves after a couple of highly impressive performances already this season whilst Nearby, Get Me Out Of Here, Luska Lad and Oscar Whisky all have the class to run very big races. Mille Chief, Toubab and Salden Licht would all be horses that I’d be afraid of if I was getting heavily stuck into one in this race so all I can recommend is small stakes on Bothy, who could become the forgotten horse in such a star-studded line-up even though he chased home the mighty Menorah last time, albeit in receipt of lumps of weight.
Ridden again by capable conditional Danny Cook, I think Brian Ellison’s 4-year-old will bag one of these big handicap hurdles this year, and could well be a Coral Cup type as he’s ran well at Cheltenham. Another very good young jockey in Ian Popham has another big Saturday too as I wouldn’t put it past Advisor to run a big race after he was totally wiped out last time.
Saturday, December 18
12.20 (Ling) WESTERN ARISTOCRAT
2.35 (Asc) BOTHY