VALUE HUNT IN THE LADBROKE: Daqman leads Pricewise (Racing Post) 5-4 in tight early rounds to their value challenge for the current jumps season. Today’s main target is The Ladbroke, one of the big hurdles of the year (3.30 Ascot). They also clash in the 2.05 Haydock and 3.00 Ascot.

THREE WINNERS IN A ROW: Daqman had winners in three consecutive races at Ascot yesterday, with his column headlined: ‘Watch for the Barry Geraghty Serge!’ They were:

WON 1-1 L’Ami Serge
WON 6-4 Ptit Zig
WON 5-2 Batavir


12.45 Ascot Five-year-olds have swept the board in this, although punters have been waiting to see Spookydooky back up in trip for the stable that won the race last year.

He scored in Ireland over 3m but, very green last year, is lightly raced, with just half a dozen runs in his entire life.

Similarly, The Tourard Man cannot be discounted though he’s eight years old, with a CV of only three hurdles, a chase and a bumper.

If the five-year-olds are to maintain their hold on the race, it is most likely to be with Rascal, expected ‘to improve and improve’, according to trainer Dan Skelton, but he has to, up 10lb. He was 7.0 in a punter-friendly 104% BETDAQ orange this morning, so worth a punt.

1.15 Ascot Paul Nicholls has had four wins in a row in this with his second-class citizens; only one of them improved to score above this level. All were five, like Irish Saint, slightly better than evens on BETDAQ, as I write.

Irish Saint has been winning over 2m but, as a 2m 3f Graded-hurdle winner (on this course), ought to be ok with today’s trip over fences.

Puffin Billy won his beginners’ chase over the 2m 3f course here but the others look well behind on form. Thomas Crapper was the equivalent of 30 lengths off Irish Saint over hurdles.

1.50 Ascot Bellenos and Venetia Williams’ Last Shot both have to bounce back. The trainer likes to target this, with four in the frame out of four (two winners) since 2006, if you delete a favourite which ran unaccountably badly.

Ballygarvey also needs a new lease off life, with just one run last year: he was a fine fourth in the PP Chase at Cheltenham but he came out of the race with a leg injury.

The one among a race of strugglers who might be on target is Lancetto, who was back to something approaching his best on the last day and tries to repeat his 2013 win in this.

But he’s 4lb higher now and Ulck Du Lin (the 2012 winner) is 16lb better with Lancetto on his last year’s fifth, if you include Sean Bowen’s claim.

The ground may have gone against Malibu Sun (up 11lb) and Key To The West, who has never been able to emerge from the novice stage over hurdles or fences.

It’s a muddling afair and maybe the glass horse Ballygarvey (offers of 5.7) can win it, with Philip Hobbs a dab hand at bringing them back to just the right race.

2.05 Haydock (Tommy Whittle Chase) Dan Skelton has a big day at Ascot with Rascal and Shelford but a leading chance here, too, with Toby Lerone.

Toby strolled home 20 lengths on this heavy ground at Lingfield but is now saddled with his highest-ever mark.

Broadway Buffalo looks good on Cheltenham form with Charingworth, who earlier split The Young Master and Troytown winner, Balbriggan.

But he seems hard to win with, and the handicapper is not impressed, dropping him 11lb below his hurdles mark. That puts him very well in with Firebird Flyer, if they reproduce their form here ‘over the sticks.’

Fill The Power– seventh in the Scottish National – looked back to form last time and I remember him slogging through the mud at Wetherby in the Spring. Back down the weights, and on the oche for a big run at 7.0 offers.

2.25 Ascot (Long Walk Hurdle) Nick Williams was duty bound to seek the hat-trick in this with 151-rated Reve De Sivola but his four-years-younger Aubusson (officially 153) has already overtaken that one, in terms of a rating, impressively winning the Fixed-Brush Hurdle at Haydock from the Cesarewitch winner, Big Easy.

On Chepstow form earlier, Aubusson and Shelford are roughly the same horse, so another good run from Aubusson would highlight Shelford’s chances in The Ladbroke.

But this is a fascinating contest. Both Williams’ contenders are well in arrears on the ratings of Zarkandar (160) and Medinas (157), the 3m Cup winner at Cheltenham in 2013 who returned to form in the mud at Newbury recently.

Zarkandar, from the Big Buck’s stable which dominated this for years, hadn’t won since the Aintree Hurdle of 2013 until he beat the top French stayer Gemix on very soft ground at Auteuil on the first day of November. I’ll punt Aubusson at 8.2 but careful to save on Zarkandar.

3.00 Ascot Silver Cup Last year’s winner, Houblon Des Obeaux, is 9lb higher in a better race this time around, though ran a superb second in the Hennessy at Newbury on the last day, and is still only seven.

The Young Master, unbeaten last year (5-5 still standing), barring an unlucky fall at Exeter, had much worse luck at Wincanton six weeks back, when disqualified as not eligible for the race.

The form of his previous success at Cheltenham was franked twice in major races, when the runner-up won at the next Cheltenham meeting, and the third, the ill-fated Balbriggan, took a classy running of the Troytown Chase at Navan.


3.30 Ascot (The Ladbroke, ABC Guide: see Thursday Archive) Topweight Garde La Victoire has form through Vaniteux which is close to the favourites of both Champion Hurdle and Arkle.

He may be better than his Greatwood victory, when forced to make all, but will have to be, worse off as he is today with the third, Clondaw Warrior, and the fifth horse home, Pine Creek.

The sun is shining for Clondaw Warrior, whose best form is on top of the ground, and the Ascot groundsmen have been good to him, too, providing fresh strips of turf along the rail.

Cool Macavity – the one who ticks most of my boxes in the ABC guide – will also welcome a drying day and, like Clondaw Warrior, looks attractively weighted. I’m not sure about Pine Creek, beaten when well backed in this race last year.

It would be unusual for a four-year-old to win this but gambled-on horse of potential Activial and McCoy-ridden Goodwood Mirage have good chances, better I think than Ballyglasheen, Pyromaniac and Jebril, of the same generation.

Shelford seemed an above-average novice when he beat Emerging Talent (we were robbed of a form line when that one fell yesterday) and even more so when second in the Silver Trophy, the winner Aubusson beating Big Easy in Graded company at Haydock.

Bayan, whose just missing out on major handicaps at Cheltenham and Galway has cost him a steady rise in the handicap, seems to be a horse without a trip. He has about the same chance as Cool Macavity on a line through The Game Changer.

He’s consistent and should be in the frame but it is hard to see him giving 19lb to Clondaw Warrior (8.2 on BETDAQ early mouse) or 12lb to Shelford (offers of 7.8).

Daqman’s 1-2-3-4: Clondaw Warrior 1, Shelford 2, Garde La Victoire 3, Bayan 4

DAQMAN’S BETS (each horse backed to win 30 points at morning BETDAQ offers unless otherwise stated. Bankers to a fixed stake)
BET 5pts win RASCAL (12.45 Ascot)
LAY 3pts PUFFIN BILLY and BANKER: BET 20pts win (nap) IRISH SAINT (1.15 Ascot)
BET 6.4pts win BALLYGARVEY and 1.2pts win (stakes saver) ULCK DU LIN (1.50 Ascot)
BULL’S-EYE BET (to win 50) 8.2pts win FILL THE POWER and 1.3pts win (stakes saver) BROADWAY BUFFALO (2.05 Haydock)
BET 4pts win AUBUSSON and 3pts win (stakes saver) ZARKANDAR (2.25 Ascot)
BET 9pts win THE YOUNG MASTER and 2.5pts win (stakes saver) HOUBLON DES OBEAUX (3.00 Ascot)
BULL’S-EYE BETS (to win 50) 7pts win on each CLONDAW WARRIOR and SHELFORD (3.30 Ascot)

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