Sparklers On Show at Ascot

Ascot stages its first national hunt card of the season on Saturday and is inviting patrons attending this weekend to stay behind after racing to enjoy a firework display and bonfire.

Those more interested in seeing a winner rocket up the home straight will be hoping that their cash doesn’t go up in smoke by the time flames light up the night sky.

See what Dan Roebuck, horse racing betting expert, has to say about this weekend’s competitive card at the Berkshire track.

12:40 – GL Events UK Novices’ Hurdle

Desiremoi D’Authie is an interesting recruit to Alan King’s yard this season.

The Wroughton-based trainer was gushing in his praise of the French-bred four-year-old, who won his only start across the channel at Fougeres, and may have pulled a little too hard in the early stages of a slowly run British debut at Huntingdon last month.

He let punters down at 4/9 in October, but is given a chance to get it right this time.

1:15 – Gardiner & Theobald Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Punters also got their fingers burnt with Burst Ya Bubble last time out, with Seamus Mullins’ runner beaten at 6/4 by Lovato at Uttoxeter back in July, but on an expected softer surface at Ascot he can be expected to go one better.

His only success to date came on good to soft ground at Uttoxeter back in June, and he has proved a consistent and tough performer always giving connections a run for their money in seven starts to date.

1:50 – Ascot Underwriting Chase

Topofthegame (at 4/1) has enjoyed success at Ascot previously – claiming one win and one runner-up spot over hurdles last term – and on his chase debut under rules looks the one to follow in the third race of the Ascot card.

Trained by Paul Nicholls, he did win an Irish point to point at Belclare before coming across to British shores.

The only proviso would be to make sure the ground hasn’t got the quick-ish side of good. Most of his runs have come on soft surfaces and if the rain stays away conditions under hoof could be of concern.

2:25 – Byrne Group Handicap Chase

Calipto (at 9/1) gets the nod in the fourth contest of the day.

Venetia Williams’ trained runners have won this race three times in the last decade at double-figure odds, while she has also sent out three other placed representatives.

She’s double-handed for this year’s renewal with Zamdy Man and Calipto hoping to keep up her excellent record.

The latter was well backed when falling last time out last season but looks a value play against the likes of Ballotin and Quite By Chance, who both have realistic claims of victory.

3:00 – William Hill Handicap Hurdle

Lough Derg Spirit (at 7/1) might be considered Nicky Henderson’s second string in the fifth race, but while main hope, Jenkins, is respected, there may be more juice in the price of his yard rival.

Lough Derg Spirit disappointed on Grand National Day at Aintree back in April, when pulling up, but if he shows the same sort of form that he did when winning at Musselburgh last February he could easily reward each-way backers.

3:35 – Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase

The 12th renewal of the Sodexo Gold Cup is the feature of the Ascot card.

Gary Moore’s Antony won the race 12 months ago, held up before dominating the closing stages to win impressively at 10/1.

We’ve seen little from him since and he’s still rated above what he was ahead of the 2016 contest.

I couldn’t put anyone off the consistent Braqueur D’Or or Art Mauresque, who has an excellent record when fresh, but the selection is Go Conquer (at 6/1).

Jonjo O’Neill’s runner put in a very good round of jumping when winning at Fontwell on his seasonal re-appearance, making all to defeat the well-fancied As De Mee and the aforementioned Antony.

If he can control the race from the front, as he did in his victory in Sussex, he will be hard to beat. Seven of the last ten winners carried 10st 10lb or less which puts Go Conquer within the mark of a significant trend.

4:05 – Thames Materials Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

The bumper that completes the card might be a race to keep stakes to a minimum, although it’s worth pointing out that seven of the last ten favourites have obliged.

The market can, therefore, be a handy guide. I was impressed, however, with Kateson’s success at a big price on debut at Chepstow last month and Tom Lacey’s runner is the pick in the last.

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