Alex Hammond: French fancy!
Sky Sports News presenter Alex Hammond unveils a French fancy for Saturday's Ascot feature in her latest blog.
If you owned The New One, would you now be dreaming about winning the Champion Hurdle, the World Hurdle or going fences after Saturday's victory over My Tent Or Yours?
Nigel Twiston-Davies' assistant trainer Carl Llewellyn said after the win that he would like to step him up to three miles next and let the result dictate where they go after that. He said he would be keen to give him a chance in the World Hurdle and as he knows the horse as well as anyone, I won't argue with that.
Of course, plenty would depend on what happens in Saturday's Long Walk Hurdle, but more of that to follow shortly.
It's also worth bearing in mind that he has had his chance to shine in the Champion Hurdle and that hasn't happened for him, so I feel there is little to lose by trying him over further especially if the staying division does continue to appear pretty open.
The form of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup tends to work out well for the rest of the season. Did any of this year's runners take your eye with regard to future prospects?
The winner Frodon is just a four-year-old, so you would have to say his best days should still be to come. This French import has been a revelation since going over fences which always looked like it would be his game. I'd imagine he should be capable of improving out of handicaps in time and Paul Nicholls should have a few options at the spring festivals with this horse, who looks like a strong stayer and jumps wonderfully for one so young.
There was high-class racing in Ireland at the weekend. Did you learn anything from the victories of Douvan or Djakadam or did something else on the cards go into your notebook?
The Willie Mullins fightback begins! Did we ever doubt him? Four winners at Punchestown and two at Cork and it was business as usual for the Closutton maestro. Back in your box Gordon!
I don't think we learned a great deal that we didn't already know, or suspect, about Djakadam or Douvan, but it was good to see them both in great heart. If you have an each-way antepost voucher tucked away on Djakadam for the Gold Cup, you can rightly feel a warm fuzzy glow as we head towards Christmas.
As for Douvan, his first start out of novice company was sublime and it's hard to imagine him being beaten this season barring accidents. What a beast.
Elsewhere on the card, I tipped up American Tom to win the Beginners' Chase and despite his short price it wasn't without it's risks as the five-year-old was returning from more than a year off the track and making his debut over fences. His performance wasn't without its flaws as he persistently jumped out to his left, but it was a good starting point for the latest Mullins-trained novice with star potential.
With experience his jumping might straighten up and I'm sure it's something the team will work on, with a step up in trip another possibility for a horse who has only had three starts.
There are two big handicaps at Ascot on Saturday – give us an each-way double to pay for the Christmas expenses!
Wouldn't that be nice?! Well, at least you have asked for an each-way double, which gives me a bit more chance, so here goes.
My selection to finish in the places in the Silver Cup Handicap Chase is The Druid's Nephew if he lines up for this three-mile contest. I'm not concerned that this is his seasonal reappearance because he has won after a break in the past. Neil Mulholland's 2015 Cheltenham Festival winner is looking well-handicapped nowadays having slipped to a mark of 148. He ran well off marks in the mid-150s at the end of last season including in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown which came after a below-par effort in the National. The ground should be suitable on Saturday and I hope he runs well.
I fancy Wolf Of Windlesham to run into a place in the Grade Three Handicap Hurdle, formerly The Ladbroke, which rounds off the card. He showed his well-being with a good run on the all weather at Kempton last time out and that came after a moderate seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham followed by a better effort (although unsatisfactory result) when falling in the Greatwood Hurdle two out, still going well at the time. He runs off the same mark here and after a confidence-boosting run on the level could be a lucrative second leg of my each-way double.
Can Reve De Sivola have a say in the Long Walk Hurdle in his bid to win the race for the fourth time or does favourite Unowhatimeanharry look impossible to oppose?
So, as promised, back to the staying hurdle division.
Reve De Sivola is a dangerous horse to discount, particularly given his record in this race. Three wins and then a runner-up effort behind Thistlecrack last year is impressive to say the least. He has been a magnificent servant to connections, but he's rising 12, can he really beat some of these up and coming stayers again? On ground that is on the faster side than he prefers he looks up against it.
I opposed Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle which prove to be an error. He is unbeaten in six since joining Harry Fry and has just kept on improving from humble beginnings. That run at Newbury was his first of the season which will have helped to get the freshness out of him and Saturday's race will be more of a test of his top-class staying credentials.
Lil Rockerfeller is an admirable horse. He only found Yanworth too good over two and a half miles at Ascot last month and showed his battling qualities by running Alan King's smart performer to less than a length and only conceding in the last half a furlong, in his brave attempt to give the winner 4lbs. In fact he has had to give weight to all of his rivals on both starts this season and that isn't the case in Saturday's Grade One. Noel Fehily takes over from regular rider Trevor Whelan, who is suspended, and his mount should run well.
One horse they will all have to be wary of is French raider Alex De Larredya. This will be his first sortie outside of France, but owner Simon Munir is sure to be hoping for a strong showing.
The form line that we will all be able to relate to is his runner-up spot behind Ptit Zig in the French Champion Hurdle back in June, when making a bad error at the last in a race run over the extended three miles.
I think it's a tough race to call and probably won't be entirely straightforward for antepost gamble Unowhatimeanharry, who is on offer at cramped odds.
I may live to regret this, but I'm going to take on the favourite as he's pretty short and think it is worth taking a chance on the French runner, Alex De Larredya, although I almost had to flip a coin between him and Lil Rockerfeller. What decided it was the slightly quiet form of the Neil King stable.
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