Veteran Cue Card will bid to further enhance his legend by landing back-to-back renewals of the Betfair Ascot Chase (15:35) on Saturday.
Colin Tizzard’s 12-year-old has been the darling of the jumps racing public and would bring the house down at Ascot should he and Paddy Brennan land the Grade 1 over 2m5f.
This season has brought enough signs of Cue Card’s decline to ensure he’s opposable despite odds of 10/1.
Nicky Henderson has the likeable and improved Top Notch in the line-up and, at odds of 2/1, Daryl Jacob’s mount can justify favouritism.
He delivered a flawless effort to win the 1965 Chase over C&D back in November and had few problems following up in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase next time out at Taunton.
Racing in the familiar two-tone green colours of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, this very smart hurdler looks destined to be even better over fences and can show that by accounting for the likes of Waiting Patiently and Coney Island, as well as Cue Card, as Ascot.
This weekend well be the last chance to catch some decent Cheltenham Festival clues, with the Cotswolds showpiece now a little more than three weeks away.
Gowran Park in Ireland stages one such contest on Saturday in the Grade 2 Redmills Chase (14:00) where Our Duke and Presenting Percy lock horns.
Our Duke was a superb novice last season, landing the Irish Grand National in sublime fashion at Fairyhouse. He came into this season with aspirations of Gold Cup success but has had problems and is now going to have to answer questions after successive defeats.
His Irish Gold Cup run recently was more encouraging but it would be a brave call to back him here at 6/4. Presenting Percy will hope to win this Gowran contest en route to the RSA Chase at Cheltenham next month.
Winner of the Pertemps Final in the Cotswold last March, Pat Kelly’s charge has won two from three over fences this season while last month he switched back to win the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park.
Davy Russell, like many more, thinks the world of Presenting Percy and, with the 2m4f trip and heavy ground in their favour, it is worth taking the 15/8 that they can condemn Our Duke to defeat.
The Kingwell Hurdle is also down for decision at Wincanton on Saturday, with Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello marginally edging favouritism from the Nicky Henderson-trained Call Me Lord in what has the appearance of being a really close-fought affair.
Kempton is up last on Saturday, with an all-weather meeting taking us through the evening.
Neil Mulholland’s filly Happy Escape has really progressed in three runs for the yard and is fancied to complete a C&D hat-trick in the finale at the Sunbury track (20:15). The manner in which she recorded her pervious win suggests a 6lb ratings hike won’t stop her obliging once more at odds of 2/1.
In the opening 6f handicap (17:45), Irish raider Downtown Diva looks to be overpriced at 5/1. She has gone close at Dundalk this winter on a couple of occasions and could be thrown in here off a mark of 54, with Ross Coakley taking another 3lb off and a first-time visor also likely to help.
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