Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch can preserve his perfect record around Ascot by landing Saturday’s feature contest and cementing a passage to next month’s Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in doing so.
In the familiar two-tone green colours of owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, Top Notch looks ready-made for his graduation into Grade 1 class in the Betfair Ascot Chase (15:35).
He delivered a flawless effort to win the 1965 Chase over C&D back in November and had few problems following up in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase next time out at Taunton.
A very smart hurdler, this seven-year-old appears destined to go further up the pecking order as a chaser and he can illustrate that with a top-level success at odds of 2/1.
The race has plenty to recommend it, with 9/4 chance Waiting Patiently perhaps the one feared most over this trip for trainer Ruth Jefferson. Victory would be an emotional one should he maintain his winning streak so soon after the passing of his former trainer, Malcolm.
The house will be brought down should the veteran Cue Card, priced at 10/1, manage to emulate last year’s success for Colin Tizzard and the recalled Paddy Brennan in the saddle.
This weekend well be the last chance to catch some decent Cheltenham Festival clues, with the Cotswolds showpiece now inching ever closer.
Gowran Park in Ireland stages one such contest on Saturday in the Grade 2 Redmills Chase (14:00).
Last season’s Irish National winner Our Duke was a leading fancy for the Gold Cup this season but has not looked himself in two runs. Jessica Harrington’s charge shaped better in the Irish Gold Cup last time out and is not to be written off.
He is the 13/8 favourite for this Gowran contest but may have his work cut out in conceding 7lb to Presenting Percy. Pat Kelly’s charge made a fine start to his chasing career, with two wins from three before reverting to hurdles last month to win the Galmoy Hurdle at this track.
Presenting Percy is thoroughly likeable and extremely consistent. At 15/8, he has conditions in his favour on testing ground over 2m4f and can take the scalp of Our Duke.
The Kingwell Hurdle is also down for decision at Wincanton on Saturday, with Dan Skelton’s Ch’tibello marginally edging favouritism from the Nicky Henderson-trained Call Me Lord in what ought to prove a good scrap.
Our last selections are from the all-weather at Kempton on Saturday evening. Neil Mulholland’s filly Happy Escape has really progressed in three runs for the yard.
She’s looking for a C&D hat-trick in the finale at the Sunbury track (20:15) and the manner in which she recorded her pervious win suggests a 6lb ratings hike won’t halt her from doing just that at odds of 2/1.
In the first race, a 6f handicap at 17:45, odds of 5/1 could prove very generous about Downtown Diva. She gets in for her British racecourse bow off a mark of 54 and has a further 3lb taken off by Ross Coakley.
Given that she has gone close from higher marks at Dundalk this winter, and she has a first-time visor to eke out some more, it is worth siding with her to upset likely favourite Chloellie.
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