Kicking Friday off with a trip to Wales for a 3 mile handicap chase. Current third favourite ONURBIKE is one I backed recently during a trip to Uttoxeter and since the application of cheekpieces he’s knocked up a hat trick.
The 11 year old has a real engine on him and even when his nearest rival closed on the run in at Uttoxeter he found more and was pulling away again at the line. The handicapper gave him another 4lbs for that win but I don’t think that’s enough to curb his enthusiasm or his stamina. He holds a few in this field on back form and although they are getting a weight swing in their favour Onurbike has been defying the handicapper and still looks well treated in class 5 company. All of his wins have come on soft ground so today’s underfoot conditions will be of no concern to this veteran.
Main rivals are Heavenly Promise and Kilcrea Bridge. The former is on her own upward curve having won her last 2 races. But both of those wins came at around 2.5 miles and she’s up a mighty 13lbs for her efforts. She won at Sedgefield back in October and quickly followed up a few days later but it was considerably harder work. Now fully in the grips of the handicapper she might struggle, despite her yard still being in red hot form.
A trip over to Ascot for the next two selections and first favourite MASTER DEBONAIR is going to be hard to oppose here after he was narrowly denied at Cheltenham. This 2 mile hurdle race doesn’t look as deep as what he faced last time so is looking the most likely winner.
This form could get an immediate boost from the race before as Fred finished behind the selection at Cheltenham and is currently favourite for the 1.30 race on the card. In this small 6 runner field Master Debonair represents some real class and by far brings the best form to the table. Back in November last year Master Debonair beat the exciting looking Thyme Hill in a bumper. He’s now a multiple winner over hurdles and looks an exciting prospect for the Ballymore next season. Although the Colin Tizzard trainee didn’t get the perfect start over timber he ran creditably behind Heaven Help Us who then went on to place in a class 2 affair not long after. He’ll definitely come on for that run and with Robbie Power smashing in winners to a 18% strike rate in the last 2 weeks it looks likely he’s on another certainty here.
Main competition is looking like Mr Grey Sky for the Kim Bailey yard as he won a couple of class 4 bumpers at Haydock last December. With nearly a year off the track and not being seen to jump a hurdle in public I’ll side with the short priced favourite to shed his maiden tag at the second time of asking.
Rounding out today at Ascot in a 2 mile 5 furlong chase with SKY PIRATE currently heading the betting.
He was last seen 37 days ago at Wetherby running a stormer behind Crievehill. Swinging for home there was only himself and the eventual winner left truly competing in the race. Crievehill had come under pressure first and was just leading 4 out where Sky Pirate unfortunately took a crashing fall. The selection was yet to be asked for his race clinching effort and was travelling much better than the eventual winner Crievehill. This drop back in trip looks to really suit the 6 year old as previously he was running over 3 miles or slightly longer. Coming back to around 2.5 miles he looked really dangerous last time and sill had plenty of gas left to be challenging on the home straight. The stiff finish of Ascot shouldn’t bother him too much as he has the stamina for further and he’s still looking very well handicapped off a mark of 132. Jonjo O’Neill Jr can claim 3lbs off his mounts back making him even more appealing in a competitive looking race.
What he probably needs is a decent pace to come off of and he gets that here with Mercian Prince and Didero Vallis both being likely to go forward. Around 5 from home Sky Pirate will start picking off rivals from the back to mount his challenge as they swing into the straight. If he doesn’t come to grief this time he can exploit this lenient looking handicap mark most likely at the expense of Didero Vallis and Mr Medic who won this race last year on his reappearance.