HARRY HAS SOLID CLAIMS IN ASCOT GRADE 1
Christmas is only just around the corner, but I have one more port of call before settling in for the festivities and that is Ascot on Saturday.
My main ride of the day is on the Harry Fry-trained UNOWHATIMEANHARRY in the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle (2.25).
He was very good at Newbury. It was great to see him get back to winning ways, especially at such a good level. The longer trip, softer ground and first-time cheekpieces were all a help to him and he’ll have those things in his favour again on Saturday.
That said, he was well treated by the weights at Newbury and his main rivals all ran disappointing, so he looks to have much more on his plate at Ascot.
Call Me Lord would look to be the main one to worry about, but he has never raced over this far before and will have to prove his stamina. There will be no hiding place in these conditions and one thing about my lad is that he’ll relish that test.
It would be hard to be bullish about him at this level at this stage of his career, but he looks to have solid prospects and was successful in this contest in 2016.
I have another ride for Harry Fry earlier on the card with HELL’S KITCHEN in the My Pension Expert Handicap Chase (1.50).
The form he showed when winning at Kempton on Boxing Day last year would have given you great encouragement that he could kick on and progress, but it hasn’t happened in his two starts since and he hasn’t been the easiest to train.
He settled better than he often does on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree last time, but he ended up being disappointing on the day. He needs to improve a lot on that to get involved in a race like this.
He is dropping back slightly in trip here and that might be a help to him, but he just needs to show more spark before the trip becomes really relevant.
My final ride on the card is in the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (3.35) on the Colin Tizzard-trained CYRUS DARIUS.
I haven’t sat on him before, but looking at his form he showed plenty of ability for Ruth Jefferson and he looked to shape quite nicely on his first start for Colin at Haydock last time.
This looks a very competitive race, but hopefully he can step up enough from that run to get competitive.
MY QUARTET OF MIDWEEK WINNERS
The week so far has been quite good to me, so now might be a good time to look back on it before we head into the Christmas madness.
I won on a really lovely horse for Nicky Henderson and JP at Newbury on Wednesday called RATHHILL.
It rode like a good race, he jumped and travelled nicely and did the job well. He had been showing all the right signs at home, but you never know until you run them and it was great to see him make such a good start.
Since the first day I schooled him, he’d always strike you as having a lovely way of going and was always uncomplicated. Nicky is fond of him and I’d be very hopeful he can progress up the ladder in time.
Earlier on that card I had finished second on STYLE DE VOLE in the juvenile hurdle.
He had only just scrapped home when making a winning hurdling debut at Newcastle and while I had hoped he could step forward from that, he was beaten on merit here. To be honest, I felt he was beaten jumping the second-last flight.
He’ll need to step up if he’s going to come up to the level we were hoping he could.
I rode a double at Exeter on Thursday on two nice young mares. The pick of them was the Harry Fry-trained DALILA DU SEUIL in the mares’ novice chase. Harry had her well schooled and she felt very natural over fences.
She had shown lots of ability over hurdles in France and based on this she’ll be a lovely ride in any of those mares’ novice chases going forward.
The other winner at Exeter was the Philip Hobbs-trained EVIDENCE DE THAIX in the mares’ novice hurdle.
It represented a good step forward from her first start in Britain, but she ended up being a bit workmanlike and will need to kick on again to reach her potential. Hopefully she can maintain that arc of improvement and kick on again next time.
I’ll be back on attheraces.com on Sunday to talk you through all my rides on St Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day.