Steve Hughes previews the Friday racing action from Ascot and the all-weather card at Wolverhampton.
Ascot stages the first of its two day pre-Christmas fixture and the focus is on the youngsters with several good quality novice events over both hurdles and fences. The Grade2 hurdle is the race I am concentrating on plus a competitive sprint which is by far and away the best race on Wolverhampton’s floodlit card. Silly Billy landed the place part of the each-way bet at 10/1 (advised) yesterday.
Ascot 2.00: Volnay de Thaix
Two from two so far over hurdles since joining Nicky Henderson, Volnay de Thaix can put himself near the top of the pecking order of the posse of leading novices from the yard with victory in this top class contest at Ascot.
I noted this horse as one to follow in my Cheltenham preview column recently after he sauntered to victory on his British debut at Kempton, quickening 11l clear of Devon Drum. It would be fair to say he did not have to be up to much to land odds of 1/16 at Newbury on his last start, but again he did not have to come off the bridle to win going away.
The form of those two races may not amount to a great deal, but it has been the manner of the performances that have impressed and he is preferred to main market rival Irving who has shown plenty of speed in slowly run races to date, but could be found wanting in this higher grade and with Splash of Ginge surely set to provide a fast pace, just as he did when winning at Aintree recently.
Wolverhampton 4.50: Alben Star
On an otherwise very moderate card, the Class 2 6f handicap shines like a beacon and it is the class horse of the field Alben Star that appeals as the most likely winner.
A horse who has met with his share of injury problems in his career, Alben Star looks to be running into peak fitness after getting his first three runs of 2013 under his belt during the past month. Looking rusty when well beaten on his return at Lingfield last month, he made eyecatching progress into fourth over 5f at the same track (his first attempt over that short since winning on debut as a 2yo at Musselburgh) and ran just as well over his favoured 6f on Wednesday, again at Lingfield in a race with far more strength in depth to it than this.
Encouragingly the gelding has an excellent record around Wolverhampton reading 121, the most recent win coming off an identical mark to today in the spring of 2012. There are plenty of horses yet to prove they have the speed for 6f in this race, dropping down in distance and with Alben Star’s pace confirmed, he could quicken away from his rivals in the straight.
2pts win – Volnay de Thaix – 2.00 Ascot at 6/5 (William Hill)
1pt win – Alben Star – 4.50 Wolverhampton at 2/1 (Betfred)
Betting Record for 2013: 213 pts staked; 8 pt profit; ROI 4%