Jamie Lynch

Jamie Lynch looks at the key talking points ahead of Ascot’s fixture on Friday, featuring to Grade 2 contests, live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Thursday 17 December
  • Blog
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BUMPER GRADUATES

In National Hunt racing’s framework, the primary purpose of bumpers is to educate horses ahead of their jumping career, but there are still classifications, and, generally speaking, the better the bumper the higher the field may fly over hurdles.

Take the listed bumper on this card 12 months ago, for example. Behind the winner Israel Champ, the fourth and fifth have already won listed handicap hurdles this season, Benson and Kid Commando, while the sixth, Bravemansgame, is well on his way there after back-to-back strolls in novices. And ahead of them that day, in second and third,Soaring Glory and Shantou Express are returning to Ascot this year for the Grade 2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial.

Soaring Glory is performing another function here, namely Dusart by proxy, having finished second at Newbury to Henderson’s big white hope who was earmarked for this race, but hasn’t made it. Henderson instead relies on No Ordinary Joe, in at the deep end for his hurdling debut after winning an ordinary bumper at Sandown. As you’d expect, there’s promise aplenty in this Grade 2, none more so than My Drago who looks the part in every respect, but for the ‘form horse’ we’re back to Soaring Glory, who beat the aforementioned Bravemansgame on his hurdling debut at Chepstow, besides trying to give weight to Dusart, and he had a novice at Wetherby at his mercy last time when making an uncharacteristic error.

Watch the December Racing Weekend at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December.

He said: “He travels, jumps and stays, and you can put him anywhere. He can handle horrendous ground too - he just wouldn’t want to be in front too soon.

FIDDLERONTHEGROUND

There were two horses that were 6/1 for the Supreme in March. One was Shishkin, and the other was Fiddlerontheroof, an SP snapshot of his status back then. It’s fair to say that he hasn’t hit the immediate heights anticipated of him as a chaser, but there’s a discernible difference between his three races so far over fences and Ascot on Friday: the ground.

The reason he was so short for the Supreme was because of what he did not once but twice in winning at Sandown under very testing conditions, including in the Grade 1 Tolworth, and now he’s back in the mud, music to his ears, as when the going gets tough Fiddlerontheroof gets going. He wasn’t the best hurdler of those lining up for this Grade 2 novices' chase, as that distinction goes to Pic D’Orhy, winner of the Betfair Hurdle, but he’s made a stuttering start to his chasing career, beaten favourite at Market Rasen and tipping up at Ascot.

Talking of stuttering starts, Colin Tizzard’s stable looked to have turned a corner in November, only to slow down again this month, a niggling worry for Fiddlerontheroof, but the ground is grounds for optimism about the full-power Fiddlerontheroof rocking up at Ascot, which might be too hot for the rest to handle.

FRANKED FORM

Sir Valentine has to carry top-weight in the novices' handicap chase (1.55), but he has earned it, and his mark of 133 might even be on the low side given how his fencing form has been franked. At Cheltenham he was second to high-achiever Fusil Raffles, with subsequent winners back in third and fourth, and then at Wetherby a bad blunder cost him against Malystic, who has since followed up with ease off a mark of 140.

Some others in this race likewise rest on strong form-lines, Mack The Man for one, having no chance with Hitman for his sympathetic introduction to fences, and Editeur Du Gite found only Sully D’Oc too strong in a handicap around here in October, while Flegmatik’s Carlisle win was boosted by Whoshotthesheriff. Giving them all weight will be a tough task for Sir Valentine, but handicaps brought the best out of him as a hurdler, including a third in the valuable event at this meeting last year, prior to going close in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

THE BREFFNIBOY WAVE

If there was an award for jumps horse of the season so far, Breffniboy would have to be on the short-list, his mark now 128 following win number five at Cheltenham, as much as two stones of improvement from his roll began at Exeter in October. The horse who ran him closer than anything else was Chazza, who pushed him all the way at Leicester for the fourth of Breffniboy’s wins. 

The opening conditional jockeys’ handicap at Ascot contains a host of up-and-comers, but Chazza brings substance along with his scope, courtesy of Breffniboy, and the extra distance involved on Friday should unlock more of his developing talent (won a point in Ireland). Kim Bailey had two winners at the last Ascot fixture, and Chazza has already won under this conditional rider, he and Chester Williams having teamed up together successfully in a Bangor bumper.    


Watch the December Racing Weekend at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December.

Jamie Lynch
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