GOLD CUP FORM: FORGET ASCOT: Yesterday’s Ascot Chase trial was a trial most of all for punters, says Daqman and will have no bearing on the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Only trainer and jockey on the winner come out with any credit.

BETDAQ OUTSIDERS BEST TODAY: Another trial today! Daqman and Pricewise remain 25-9 in their value challenge, with Daqman opposing the favourite for the Grand National test at Punchestown with 14.5 and 15.5 bets on BETDAQ


Two champions won the same race. Forget the horse until Aintree: Pic D’Orhy’s no Gold Cup winner and his Ascot Chase victory yesterday was down to the champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, and future champion jockey, Harry Cobden. Though they did get a little help from their friends.

The ‘contest’ of only four runners – just three with a winning chance – produced a result where two of the three gave it up to the winner from the start.

I thought front-runner Ahoy Senior would be shadowed by L’Homme Presse who would then show his class at the finish.

In the event Cobden poached an early lead on Pic D’Orhy (pictured below) and both Charlie Deutsch on L’Homme Presse and Derek Fox on Ahoy Senior let him go so far clear that it became apparent neither would catch him short of hailing a cab!

By chance, the Racing Post reported on the same day the story of an Australian jockey defeated when odds-on at Flemington by a 150-1 shot.

Punters went wild and the defeated trainer of the runner-up advised that the rider, Craig Williams ‘just had an absolute brain fade! It was a very poor ride.’

Our own punters are more ‘sporting’ – it’s the jolly British way, you know – and allowed that connections would be happy if L’Homme Presse just ran well on his way to the Gold Cup, as trainer Venetia Williams said on ITV.

After the ‘event’ Derek Fox said that Ahoy Senor was ‘going the right way’ (really?) and Charlie Deutsch commented that the run ‘might put L’Homme Presse right for Cheltenham’ (might?)

In other words, it was a one-horse ‘race’ and the winner’s 13-8 SP was big value. All credit to backers on the spot.

Only because Venetia Williams made her comment in a quick tete-a-tete with ITV’s Matt Chapman just before the race was ‘the strength’ known to those punters who could patiently stomach the coverage in order to glean any genuine items of news on the horses.

Even then, it is left to the viewer to judge the relevance of comments made in a jocular chat with precious little time left, a busy trainer told of ‘three things to worry about L’Homme Presse.’

To which Ms Williams responded that the interview itself was top of her own list of worries!

In fact, the Ascot Chase was Pic D’Orhy’s Gold Cup’- he next runs at Aintree – and the riding of Harry Cobden was exemplary, according to trainer Nicholls.

I ran the race again in my mind alongside the Irish favourites for Cheltenham, and I was not in the least surprised that L’Homme Presse drifted after the Ascot Chase, however much he will ‘come on’ for it.

Punters are heartily sick of small-field races.

No one is suggesting that horses do not run on their merits but clearly they can be manipulated by a rider’s skill and a trainer with nous who has a thorough command of the racing programme. Arise Sir Paul; get in the Pic-ture, Harry!


⭕ 2.35 Punchestown (Grand National Trial) Quality horses usually win this – Coko Beach and Death Duty the last two for Gordon Elliott – from a position in the handicap between 10st 11lb and 11st 4lb (six of the last seven).

Only Dunboyne of the Aintree entries remains in the line-up but no doubt there are more with the Irish Grand National as their target.

Dunboyne is the ultimate nearly horse in staying events: beaten just a short-head in last season’s Thyestes, fourth in the Kim Muir; Troytown fourth in the autumn then weakened out of this year’s Thyestes.

So maybe Where It All Began (presumably Jack Kennedy’s pick) is the one for a Gordon Elliott hat-trick in the race.

He has a featherweight in his first marathon attempt, getting an 8lb pull on Clonmeen, his New Year’s Eve conqueror here at Punchestown,

The favourite, We’llhavewan, has been well placed by Willie Mullins to win three out of six and has a much higher hurdles rating but Willie himself has criticised his jumping and Stormy Judge could just as well be seen as thrown in on hurdles form.

Of the more established chasers, Champagne Platinum is half a stone lower than when fourth in this last year and now has the ground in his favour, back to form the last day.

Betdaq Betting Exchange 14.5 Where It All Began 15.5 Champagne Platinum


⭕ 7.00 (sprint) and ⭕ 8.00 Kempton (mile) If Oisin Murphy is to return to championship level, he must handle sprinters and milers alike and produce the goods for one who has stood by him, Andrew Balding.

Balding is scoring at 33% right now and the return of Murphy from Doha is well timed for Fire Demon who won for him here in early January. BETDAQ 5.7 taken

But the better bet may be King’s Vanity, first and second in January while Murphy was away but well backed this morning for the partnership to land the Kingman gelding’s first handicap. BETDAQ 4.7


2.35 Punchestown (win-50 bull’s-eye bets)

7.00 Kempton (win 10)
BET 2.5pts win FIRE DEMON

8.00 Kempton (win 12 nap)
BET 3.25pts win KINGS VANITY

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