Best bets for the horseracing this weekend

We have one last day of horseracing before Christmas and hopefully I have a couple of winners to help pay for the last minute Christmas shopping panic. I am concentrating on Ascot for Saturday afternoon.

Best bets for the horseracing at Ascot Saturday 

Race of the day is the 3m½f Grade One Howden Long Walk Hurdle at 2.25. I am a bit of a Champ fan, done me a couple of favours down the years, and the Nicky Henderson-trained 11-year-old won this in 2021 when the race was last held here; he had to settle for third when the race was rearranged for Kempton’s Boxing Day last year. He has become a bit of a rascal since his unbelievable RSA Insurance Novices' Chase victory back in 2020 when he came from ten-lengths plus back at the last to win. He does go well fresh though and this appears to have been the target over the summer as his seasonal debut plus it is interesting to me that Henderson has taken out Marie's Rock and Chantry House so relies solely on Champ for the race. Frank Berry racing manager to JP McManus said on Monday “He’s a great old horse, Nicky is happy with him and the plan is, all being well, to go there. He runs well fresh so you would hope he would run well. He enjoys Ascot and has run some good races around there and Nicky is happy with him at the minute.” I am on at 6-1in the hope that a fresh Champ is a winning Champ.

The lucky last at 3.35 is the two-mile Betfair Exchange Trophy. JP McManus looks to hold a strong hand with the Greatwood Hurdle winner Iberico Lord and Impose Toi in the line-up; if the money comes for either it could be significant. Their trainer Nicky Henderson said of the pair on Friday "Iberico Lord is in great order, he jumped five hurdles on Thursday morning and he looked very sharp,” the Seven Barrows handler told Sky Sports Racing. Impose Toi won at the same Cheltenham meeting. We were thinking of going to Sandown but that ground was so unattractive that we kept him back and JP was happy to run the two against each other. They are the same age, have similar profiles from France so they’ve got to take each other on, it’s a big prize. You probably need all the bullets you can find." There has been money for Altobelli this morning and Luccia has shortened slightly as well (another one for Henderson). Hansard is the one that interests me though. Owned by the Noel Fehily Racing Syndicates the five-year-old has always been held in high regard and stepped up on his reappearance second in the G.2 Elite Hurdle to win what looked like a competitive renewal of the Gerry Feilden at Newbury earlier this month. A mark of 142 here will require a career best, Niall Houlihan takes off 3lb with Jamie Moore still sidelined, but his victory last time and second to the pretty decent Rubaud in the G.2 Elite Hurdle before that looks solid form. This has been the target since Newbury apparently and Noel Fehily said this week “He won nicely at Newbury in the Gerry Feilden and roll on Ascot, it’s the obvious next step for him. It will be much more competitive, I suppose, but we will roll the dice and see how we go. He carried 12st at Newbury and he’s going to be carrying a big weight again, but it’s a handicap for a reason and that is what he is rated. He has a bit to go, but when a horse is on the up you never know when they will stop improving and he certainly looked like he was getting his act together at Newbury. He had been over-racing and his jumping had been a bit sloppy and everything else, but at Newbury he looked like he was starting to put it all together and hopefully he will carry on going the right way.” Trainer Gary Moore said on Friday “He’s got his fair share of weight and it will have to be a big performance (to win), the good thing is Niall hasn’t been able to ride a winner recently, so he’s still able to take 3lb off. He’s a horse we’ve always thought highly of.”  Hopefully he has more to give as I am on at 11-1 each-way a fifth first four.

Be lucky