Is it a forgone conclusion? Betfair Ascot Chase Preview
By Izzy Phillips
Twitter: @IzzyPhillips Instagram: @izzyphillips93
During what has been a cold and dark lockdown February, for many of us, racing has been the beacon that provides us with our warmth and light; despite not being able to attend in person, once again, we can look forward to a fantastic weekend’s racing. This Saturday we see an exciting renewal of the Betfair Ascot Chase. In the field are previous winners Cyrname and Riders onthe Storm. It’s a field that may still cut up with horses such as Lostintranslation and Kalashnikov also holding entries for the Denman Chase at Newbury on Sunday.
At the head of the betting is a previous winner of the race and Paul Nicholls’ stable star, Cyrname. Despite the progressive Master Tommy Tucker also featuring amongst the runners for the yard, stable jockey Harry Cobden has sided with Cyrname. Cobden is bullish in his confidence of Cyrname’s ability claiming that he’d be hard to pass even if only showing ‘three-quarters of the ability he showed at Ascot 2 years ago’. When you go back and watch the exuberance with which Cyrname took the fences in the 2019 Ascot Chase, against Altior, it’s hard not to agree with Cobden’s sentiments. Team Ditcheat has announced that they will not risk Cyrname getting into the situation he was in 12 months ago, where he was unenthusiastic in his racing; this time he will be ridden more aggressively. The new tactics and stable confidence make Cyrname incredibly hard to pass up, even at 6/4 favouritism. However, with no real reason behind his pulling up last time out, he is on something of a comeback mission and could be vulnerable if not on a going day.
Defending champion Riders onthe Storm is coming into this race during what seems to be a lacklustre season; not seen to best effect since falling in the Ryanair at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. Having been beaten by Master Tommy Tucker at Kempton last time out, it’s hard to side with him. I’m a massive fan of the Twiston-Davies team, but there have only ever been four dual winners of this race and the only one to do it in successive years was Riverside Theatre. To repeat last year’s performance in his current form would be an uphill climb for Riders onthe Storm. However, he is two for two at Ascot over 2m 5f and will handle, Ascot Clerk of the Course, Chris Stickles’ predictions of soft or heavy ground.
Dashel Drasher is beginning to look something like an Ascot specialist with a 100% track record at the course. He could be a danger after making all the running to win the same Ascot handicap that Cyrname won before winning the Ascot Chase in 2019. Chasing Dashel Drasher home in that January handicap was Bennys King. Although Bennys King couldn’t get to Dashel Drasher that day, with the recent form of the Skelton team I’d fancy him to reverse the placings this time around.
After racing very keenly in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day Saint Calvados looked dangerous turning into the home straight. However, he quickly became a tired horse, and his jumping let him down at the last. There was then a clear change of tactics in the Cotswold Chase (run at Sandown) where Saint Calvados was ridden to get the distance and came to grief at the railway fences as Native River and Yala Enki began to turn the screw. One has to fear that with Cyrname being ridden more aggressively, Saint Calvados’ jumping could be put to the test. However, it’s encouraging to see him dropped back in trip and if he can switch off and settle into the race, there is no reason he won’t be there in the finish. Harry Whittington and his team will be hoping for a strong showing from their top chaser but, who will get the leg up? With Saint Calvados’ regular jockey, Gavin Sheehan, booked to ride Itchy Feet and Emitom at Haydock on Saturday you have to wonder which jockey will be steering Saint Calvados around the Berkshire track.
If remaining in the race, both Kalashnikov and Lostintranslation offer interesting chances. In the Peterborough Chase last time out at Cheltenham, Kalashnikov looked to have put his Haydock run behind him and seemed to relish the return to 2m 4f. Kalashnikov is also entered for the Denman Chase at Newbury. Amy Murphy wants to see the declarations and will make her decision for Kalashnikov towards the end of the week. She expressed concerns about Kalashnikov going right-handed which leans towards him running in the Denman Chase instead. Also entered in the Denman Chase is Lostintranslation who has had a wind op since pulling up last time at Kempton and this will be the first run since then. Lostintranslation is undeniably a class horse who, if back to his best and benefitting from the wind op, could pose a serious threat. However, only Native River has managed to buck the trend of the Tizzard’s current dip in form, and it is, of course, a concern when thinking about where to put your money. For me, he’d be one best observed this time out, but you’ve got to want to see a bold showing if he’s to retain any popularity for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Other runners include Fanion d’Estruval a 6-year-old who has made little impression in his past couple of races and Terrefort who hasn’t been seen since pulling up in the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019.
Overall, I’d have to side with Cyrname, the new tactics and stable jockey preference swayed it for me. However, Cyrname is a very short price, so if you’re looking for a bit of value, I fancy Bennys King to run well for the red-hot Skelton team.