Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com and new racing radio station racingfm.com looks forward to the weekend’s two big hurdle races at Ascot.
We look set for another disappointing low field for Saturday’s Long Walk Hurdle.
The event is named after The Long Walk, an avenue of trees in Windsor Great Park. It was first run in 1965, and it was initially a handicap race. It became a conditions race in 1971, and it was given Grade One status in 1990.
Since 1971, four winners of the Long Walk Hurdle have gone on to win the World Hurdle in the same season – Derring Rose (1980–81), Baracouda (2001–02), My Way de Solzen (2005–06) and Big Buck’s (2009–10, 2010-11 and 2011-12).
A raft of small fields dominated the jumping action last weekend, and the Grade One contest, won four times by Baracouda and on three occasions by Big Bucks, has lost seven of its 12 entries from the last forfeit stage. However, among the five is the Nick Williams-trained Reve De Sivola, winner of the last two renewals.
In two outings in France this season the nine-year-old has been well beaten, but Williams may also run Aubusson, an impressive winner of the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock.
Paul Nicholls has taken out the impressive Newbury scorer Silsol but could be represented by Zarkandar, winner of a Grade One in France on his last outing.
Alan King’s Medinas, who took advantage of a below-par More Of That at Newbury, will be looking to capitalise on any weaknesses from the others.
Dell’ Arca, who has been novice chasing without success this season for David Pipe, completes the quintet. Pipe said on his website that he has always fancied running Dell’ Arca over further. “We have Dell’ Arca in the race and while he has performed creditably over fences this term, a return to timber over this longer trip could be on the card,” he said.
“Despite winning the Greatwood Hurdle over the minimum trip he has always looked as worth trying over further and while he has it to do on official figures, this looks a decent opportunity to give him a go.”
The Grade Three Ladbroke Hurdle is the final race of the day at Ascot on Saturday. Monday evening saw some frenzied betting on the race with particular attention focusing on the chances of the Harry Fry-trained gelding Activial. The four-year-old had been available to back at 12-1 on Thursday but he is now half that price and a point behind the market leader following sustained support since.
Activial has had just four starts in his career and has not been seen since finishing eighth, 16-and-a-half lengths, behind Guitar Pete in a Grade One at Aintree in April.
Prior to that he won Kempton’s Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle and it is that form Fry believes puts his runner in with a chance. “He is in good form and the more rain the better as he will stay further than two miles in time,” said Fry. “But if you win an Adonis at Kempton you have more than enough speed, and that was soft ground that day. “If he can run anywhere near that then we are hopeful of a big run on Saturday.”
David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “He is unexposed and is clearly fancied to rediscover the best of his novice form of last term.”
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