Betfair Ascot Chase Day (Ascot) – Saturday 17th February 2018

We have quality National Hunt cards on offer up and down the country this coming Saturday, with this seven race offering from Ascot in addition to the big National Trial at Haydock. It is late Cheltenham clues which are the order of the day in Berkshire though, particularly in the Grade 1 headline event.

The day’s feature contest runs at 3:35 in what looks set to be a fascinating renewal of the Ascot Chase. Is there to be one last hurrah for dual winner of the race and equine legend, Cue Card? Or will one of the young pretenders emerge to steal his thunder on the day? Read on for our take on the big one and each of the day’s other contests.

1:15pm – Ascot Schools Art Competition Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) – 2m3½f

Captain Cattistock to win at SP

With three wins and three runners up finishes here in the past 10 years, anything Paul Nicholls sends to post is worthy of note. Nicholls has just the one entry this year, in the form of the hat-trick seeking Captain Cattistock.

A winner on both soft and heavy ground, the underfoot conditions here are unlikely to prove an issue for Captain Cattistock and he could hardly have done it any easier in a Class 3 at Wincanton last time out, despite the narrow winning margin of half a length. Count Meribel is taking a big drop in class here and may prove the big danger to the Nicholls runner.

1:50pm – Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) – 3m

Black Corton to win at 6/4 with Betfair

The talented Bryony Frost has rarely been out of the headlines so far this season, with a Saturday barely seeming to slip by without her now famous smile lighting up the TV screen after yet another winner. Bryony seems to strike up a rapport with just about everything she rides, but there is no horse with which she gets on quite so well as Black Corton.

In seven starts aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained seven year old, Frost has won on six occasions, beginning in a Class 4 Novice contest at Worcester and culminating in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last time out.

A rating of 155 buts him two pounds well in on the figures here, even accounting for his seven pound Grade 1 winner’s penalty. Ms Parfois arrives at the track seeking a four timer and looks a likely danger, but we will be backing Bryony to do it again.

2:25pm – Keltbray Swinley Chase (Listed Race) – 3m

Gold Present to win at 7/2 with Coral

It’s the Nicky Henderson runner, Gold Present, who will carry our cash here. This always looked like being a big year for the eight year old given the abundant promise he displayed last term, including when finishing an excellent second in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

A perfect two from two this term, his three length verdict over Frodon last time out looks all the better now with that runner having since gone on to land a Grade 3 at Cheltenham by 17 lengths off a mark of 154.

Gold Present will be saddled with top weight here, but with Frodon now up to a rating of 164, the selection may well have enough in hand running off 155 to come out on top.

3:00pm – Ascot Spring Garden Show Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) – 2m3½f

Master Of Irony each way at 20/1 with Betfair

This has been the preserve of the younger up and coming handicappers in recent years. Nine of the past 10 winners have been younger than eight, with only one carrying more than 11st 2lbs to victory.

From a clutch of contenders who fit the bill, the one we like the look of from an each way perspective is the John Quinn runner, Master Of Irony. This one’s most recent start in a soft ground handicap over this sort of trip resulted in a two and a half length success at Market Rasen from a mark of 129. He’s only four pounds higher here, whilst his previous second to Sam Spinner – when well clear of the rest - doesn’t look too bad now either. Running on strongly at the finish over two miles last time out, he can go close stepping back up in trip here.

3:35pm – Betfair Ascot Chase (Grade 1) – 2m5f

Waiting Patiently to win at 5/2 with Bet365

There’s no doubting that Colin Tizzard’s superstar chaser, Cue Card, would be the most popular winner of the day’s feature contest, and he certainly has previous here having come home in front in both 2013 and 2017. Still the top-rated runner in this line up, despite his advancing years, it may be a bit early to write him off on the back of a fall and a second on ground which all bar Bristol De Mai failed to handle in the Betfair Chase. Were there just one more runner, we would rate Cue Card a cracking each way bet at 10/1 with Ladbrokes.

We will however be siding with the new kid on the staying chase block, the seven year old, Waiting Patiently. Whether this one ultimately struts his stuff at the Cheltenham Festival may depend on how much rain falls at Prestbury Park in March, but in the meantime he does seem set to get his favoured soft conditions here.

Along with Top Notch and Frodon, the Ruth Jefferson runner is rated just two pounds inferior to Cue Card, but on what will be just his sixth chase start, he has significantly more scope to progress than those rivals. Nothing has managed to lower his colours over fences to date, and we see him extending that winning streak still further here.

4:10pm – Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) – 2m7½f

Ballyheigue Bay each way at SP

The one to catch our eye in this stamina-sapping handicap hurdle is the Chris Gordon representative, Ballheigue Bay. This one won a conditional contest in good style last time out at Plumpton, but did well to win at all at that left handed track, as his propensity to jump right-handed threatened to prove his undoing throughout. He should therefore be suited by a return to a right-handed venue here.

In addition, whilst he is up five pounds for this success, the conditions of this race mean that his conditional jockey is able to claim seven pounds here as opposed to three pounds for that Plumpton success. He looks set to go well.

4:45pm – Millgate Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Class 4) – 1m7½f

Lust For Glory to win at SP

A previous win under rules has pointed the way to the two previous winners of this race, but with this year’s field being jam packed with newcomers, or those whose only run has come in the point to point sphere, that particular trend doesn’t look like bearing much fruit in 2018.

Nicky Henderson’s Lust For Glory does however appear to have more going for her than most. Nicely bred, being by Getaway out of a Presenting mare, this one showed enough when winning her point to point at Lisronagh to subsequently fetch the not inconsiderable sum of £240,000 at the sales. We suspect she may well start favourite on the day, but does look the most likely winner here on the limited evidence we have available.