Pont worth an Ascot punt
Ian Ogg takes an early look at this Saturday's big handicaps with Adrien Du Pont well-fancied at Ascot.
Adrien Du Pont (left): Worth an each-way bet at Ascot
There's no shortage of ante-post races to get stuck into this weekend and they include the Keltbrays Holloways Handicap Hurdle at Ascot where they're betting 7/1 the field.
Naturally this is competitive and naturally there are any number of runners that you could make a decent case for but there are two horses that I want to keep onside.
I've always been a fan of ADRIEN DU PONT and I believe Paul Nicholls' six-year-old is well enough handicapped to win this race from a rating of 145 and he's certainly well enough built to carry the top-weight of 11-10.
A Grade One winner in deep ground as a juvenile, he skipped the Triumph Hurdle but won a fair handicap at Ascot in April from just 6lb lower. He was well held on his seasonal reappearance in October but duly stepped up on that form for his principal early season target when a close third in a French Grade One just three weeks later.
Kept on the sidelines until January, he unseated Sam Twiston-Davies too far out in the Relkeel Hurdle to be certain as to where he would have finished but the Califet gelding certainly appeared likely to play a leading role in the finish of that Grade Two until his untimely departure.
If that had been the case, it's quite likely that he would now be the owner of a rating in the mid-150s and he looks more than capable of performing to that sort of level granted his conditions and the winter ground and extended trip of this handicap look perfect for him.
Class has had a habit of coming out on top in this race too with Smad Place and Lough Derg (twice) successful in recent years while Paul Nicholls has won it with Irish Saint, a not dissimilar type to Adrien du Pont who raced in the same colours. The Ditcheat handler also saddled Ptit Zig to finish second in another competitive Ascot handicap from a mark of 151 a few years back and the message is loud and clear that he feels Adrien du Pont will be competitive from this mark.
He looks a decent each-way wager for me at 9/1 (bet365, Betfair Sportsbook) but I have to have a small interest on French import MAX DO BRAZIL. I know little about how he's settled in at Pond House but he represents powerful connections and there's one piece of his form that suggests he could be well handicapped.
As well as sending out Lough Derg to win this race, trainer David Pipe also won it with Mamlook in 2010 so anything he runs merits close attention and that would be true of this £160,000 purchase who holds plenty of alternative entries for the coming days.
On his second start at Pau he beat Optimus Prime by six lengths and that horse is now with Dan Skelton and rated 143 which means Max Do Brazil stands out from his perch of just 128. Of course, there's been water under the bridge since then and he finished well behind Capivari (who beat Adrien du Pont) in September but he is of interest nonetheless at a top price of 12/1 (bet365, 32Red).
Another French import has been making rather more waves ahead of his British debut and that's Alary who takes out a fair chunk of the book in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock.
Trainer Colin Tizzard reported last month that his new recruit had worked well with fellow Gold Cup entrant Thistlecrack while his former jockey has described Alary as 'something out of the ordinary' but that's going to need to be the case if he's to defy a rating of 162 on his British bow.
It would be hugely exciting for the sport if the seven-year-old can deliver that sort of performance but he's worth opposing on Saturday with so much to prove.
The case for DEFINITLY RED is obvious but he's well worth backing at 8/1 (bet365). Not every horse is suited to Haydock Park since its redevelopment but Brian Ellison's runner has form at the track having finished second in the 2015 renewal of the Fixed Brush Hurdle, a handicap regularly contested by classy performers.
He's progressed well over fences through his novice campaign last season and in three runs this term, producing a career best to win the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. The handicapper could have dished out a harder penalty than the 8lbs he received for that seven length success and the form has already received a couple of minor boosts.
Our Kaempfer only got as far as the third but he is now rated just 1lb below Definitly Red after making mincemeat of his rivals at Kempton on Saturday. Henri Parry Morgan failed to finish that day and on his next start but was in the process of running a big race in a competitive Cheltenham handicap while Actinpieces, who pulled up, came within a whisker of winning back at Wetherby on Saturday.
The form is rock solid and he should relish the conditions.
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