Disappointing news yesterday that this year’s Grand National winner One For Arthur will not be able to defend his crown at Aintree next spring, for which he was 16/1 favourite at BetVictor, having injured his right fore. A great shame but not a career threatening injury although it is a blow to connections.
The highlight of today’s Ascot card is the listed Noel Murless Stakes named after the legendary trainer, born in Cheshire, who saddled the winners of no fewer than nineteen classics from his base at Warren Place Newmarket.
The ground, at the time of writing, is given as soft on the round course although a sunny day is forecast and conditions are likely to be nearer good to soft one would imagine by post time.
Mount Moriah finished third behind Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger last time and form was given a boost when the winner ran another cracker in Sunday’s Arc in Paris. He must go close but marginal preference is for On To Victory (3.45) who has had a terrific season and deserves to step up in grade having won a minor conditions event at Salisbury last time in taking fashion.
The selection was trounced by Raheen House over a mile as a juvenile but has improved since his gelding operation and receives 6lbs from the penalised Brian Meehan-trained runner.
Maths Prize (4.20) has not been getting home over a mile on soft ground in recent starts and drops back in trip a furlong this afternoon in the colours of Her Majesty the Queen. The handicapper has dropped the selection 4lbs in recent starts and I hope jockey Kieran Shoemark rides the horse more prominently with only Mukalal in the field who like to race prominently.
Adam Kirby hung around Kempton for the last race on Wednesday in order to steer St Andrews’ into the winners’ enclosure for Ian Williams and the pair team up with Big Easy (4.55) having his first start for the yard in the Ascot finale.
The selection won the Cesarewitch from a 2lbs higher mark three years ago, likes to get his toe in and has run well fresh in the past. He hasn’t run on the level for over two year, but he has some pieces of form over timber, which suggest he can give weight and a beating to his juniors.
At Hexham it is interesting to see Forest Des Aigles (4.45) step up in trip for Lucinda Russell. The selection scored at Kelso (2m 1f) on heavy ground from a 3lbs lower mark back in March, and was described as an “exciting horse” by the trainer in the immediate aftermath of that success. The selection is bred to get a trip and remains open to significant improvement. The yard were not firing on all cylinders last week at Perth, but the hope is that six-year-old is ready first time out.
Bigirononhiship (3.35) stays further but the combination of heavy ground and a stiff track can play to his strengths for Rose Dobbin and Craig Nichol. I am convinced the selection will be rated higher than 122 by the end of the season and, if fully wound up for his reappearance, he can give 6lbs to Beau Bay for Dr Richard Newland. The betting should provide valuable clues as to how far forward Bigirononhiship is for his return to the track.
The ground is described as good at Fontwell and I hope to see Kozier go close in the opening juvenile hurdle for Alan King but the French import Risk And Roll (2.10) finished fourth in a listed contest at Auteuil on his racecourse debut and has since joined the yard of Paul Nicholls. The selection was a bit keen on debut and is fitted with a tongue-tie for his British debut, but he has invaluable hurdling experience and that might prove decisive this afternoon.
The same connections saddle Adrien Du Pont (2.45) in the Novices’ Chase and it is worth noting the Nicholls’ yard have won this corresponding race four times in the last six years. This near 2m 6f trip may be as far as he wants to go but Nicholls wastes little time getting this five-year-old over the larger obstacles.
Go Conquer (3.55) is perhaps better going right-handed and it will be interesting to see how he copes with this unique figure-of-eight chase track. Jonjo O’Neill has his string in fine form, good ground suits and Aidan Coleman is riding out of his skin at present.
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