WHAT’S UP D’OC?
There was nothing really wrong with Sully D'Oc AA, but whatever the missing link that has so far prevented him from winning in Britain might well have been remedied by a wind op. Prolific in France over hurdles, Sully D’Oc AA has yet to put it all together over fences in this country, but the ingredients are clearly there, and this may be the day to successfully stir them, bouncing fresh and breathing freer, in a race in which he shaped very, very well last year, from a 6lb higher mark.
The last time we saw him was in the Timeform Novices Handicap Chase on trials day, when the first two were subsequent Festival winners, Simply The Betts and Imperial Aura, both far stronger stayers at 2½m than Sully D’Oc AA, who got into contention easily – and traded only 4/1 in-running - before fading to fifth.
We’re not quite in ‘now or never’ territory with him, but everything is in place for a big run, from the wind op (and added tongue strap) to his helpful handicap mark, and from the perfect trip to the stable form, Anthony Honeyball having won with three reappearing runners in the last week, including Acey Milan, who likewise had breathing surgery over the summer.
Watch every race from Ascot’s first National Hunt fixture of the season live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Saturday 31st October.
A SCORE TO SETTLE
Think back to this race last year and one of the most bizarre finishes you’ll ever see, when Capeland was disqualified after stablemate Diego Du Charmil effectively elbowed him off the track at the last fence. There’s no Diego Du Charmil to get in his way this time, though Capeland has got top weight, in a fairly lop-sided handicap, where only one other horse carries above 10-10.
In theory, therefore, Capeland’s class should count all the more, and, like most Paul Nicholls horses, he goes very well when fresh.
What else helps Capeland is the presence of Flaminger and Molineaux, who pretty much have the one speed and the one style, and the faster they go the happier Capeland will be, plugging into his high cruising speed and accurate jumping; and he has won before under Bryony Frost.
A FRESH START
His stats through late-summer and early-autumn show that Tom Lacey means business, and you get the feeling this Listed handicap has been circled by him for Sebastopol for some time. That’s because Sebastopol is best when fresh, from the evidence so far, as he has won first time out in 2018, 2019 and 2020, each time off an absence.
In other words, Lacey has saved up the horse’s freshness this season for this high-end handicap, for which Sebastopol has a big weight, but justifiably so from the way he won at both Wincanton and Musselburgh last term, significantly the twice he was fresh.
It was either this or the Greatwood for him (entered at Cheltenham in a fortnight), probably an either/or scenario given how he operates, not one for quick turnarounds from what we know, making it more meaningful that his target is Ascot.
A PONT TO PROVE
Adrien Du Pont is only eight, and I say ‘only’ because it feels like he’s been around for years and years. He did a lot early on, in fairness, winning the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow and soon into Graded company as a chaser, too, but he never really got going last season, when he ran just three times, including when pulled up (off 149) in this very race.
The upshot is that he’s suddenly a very well handicapped horse, effectively racing off 139 here, incorporating Bryan Carver’s 5lb claim, and that puts him right in the game, if he has been refreshed and reprogrammed during the summer, something at which Paul Nicholls excels.
There’ll be plenty ahead of him in the betting, understandably so, but he went off only 13/2 for this race two years ago, when doing well for fourth, and he might just be a lively longshot off a career-low mark.