THE second day of the Howden Christmas Weekend meeting with an intriguing and open renewal of the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle. Unfortunately, the favourite for the contest Buzz, trained by Unibet Ambassador Nicky Henderson, sustained a fractured pelvis on Friday morning at the end of a routine canter and we look forward to hearing that Buzz will make a full recovery.
Of the key contenders Paisley Park, twice winner of the Long Walk Hurdle, including a last gasp win in 2020, has underwhelmed a little on his last two starts, with his third in the Stayers’ Hurdle and then last time out at Newbury when third behind Thomas Darby and On The Blind Side after the front running tactics didn’t work out. The first and second both reoppose on Saturday.
Thyme Hill, who ran a blinder when pipped on the line by Paisley Park last year, found it hard going in the Grand Prix d’Automne last month and needs to step back up too.
Ronald Pump has the most consistent form and ran well after a six-month break when second to Honeysuckle over a trip shorter than ideal.
Nicky Henderson still has two runners with On The Blind Side and Champ, who is a fascinating contender on his return to hurdles.
Earlier on the afternoon a horse I followed closely last season Enormouse 14/1 Unibet, runs in the 12.40 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, and really shouldn’t be ignored over this trip on his way to a chasing career.
Enjoy whether at the races or #athome
The Wine Tipster
1.50 Ascot – Howden Handicap Chase (2m 3f)
Palmers Hill won well at Wetherby last month when going away at the finish to beat Topofthecotswolds. This was his first start after eight months off and he raced with plenty of enthusiasm. Palmers Hill looks the type to keep progressing and he can follow up here.
2.25 Ascot – Long Walk Hurdle Grade 1 (3m ½f)
Champ (nap) was last seen over hurdles when winning the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 at the Grand National meeting in 2019 in good style. Since then he has embarked on a successful chasing career, with victory in the RSA at The Festival, although last time out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup he was never going and was pulled up early on by Nico De Boinville. Champ has been reported to be working well at home by Nicky Henderson and has previously shown he goes really well fresh. We know he has the class and Champ can run a big race on his return to hurdling.
2.40 Haydock – Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (3m 1½f)
Remastered tipped up in my Unibet blog for the big Handicap Chase at Newbury last month was travelling really well and surely would have had a hand in the finish but for taking a heavy fall four out. He was thankfully fine after his fall and providing he hasn’t lost any confidence he will go really well today, as Remastered has won in the heavy, with strong form over further.
3.00 Ascot – Howden Silver Handicap Chase Listed (3m)
Valtor won this race in 2018 when trained by Nicky Henderson and this twelve-year-old has an excellent record at Ascot, with form figures of 1120. Valtor has a good record fresh too, winning off a break of 231 days previously and is having his first start for his new trainer Mel Rowley, who will have him fit for his first appearance since June. This race looks wide open and in the last five years has seen four double figure priced winners.
3.35 Ascot – Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (1m 7f)
Onemorefortheroad is going for a four timer after striking up an impressive run of successes. Last time out at Newbury he was allowed to dictate a four-runner Listed handicap on his own terms in a steadily run contest beating Captain Morgs, with Soaring Glory last on that occasion. The pace will be much quicker today, yet this six-year-old Onemorefortheroad is a smooth traveller, lightly raced and Ascot looks sure to suit.
Garry Clermont travelled like the best horse here on his last appearance, hitting the front coming to the last and then jumped dramatically to the left giving Captain Morgs the lead. Garry Clermont won’t be doing that again and the strong pace will certainly suit this talented individual who is capable of significant improvement.