Court can spring Ascot Surprise

Steve Hughes focusses on Ascot’s final jumps meeting of the season

There is a terrific card over jumps at Ascot today for the final meeting over obstacles before the flat boys take up residence. Two handicaps later on the card have plenty of interest for punters. We had a reasonable Saturday with double point selection Dougan winning (advised 3/1) and Lady of Lamanver placing for the each-way bet (advised 13/2), although those lucky enough to bet with a firm paying out on first past the post would have collected on her too.

Ascot 4.20: Court by Surprise & Grandads Horse

You can usually rely on a veterans chase to provide a competitive contest and this feature of Ascot’s card is no exception. Two horses against the field looks worthwhile here.

Court by Surprise is a horse caught best fresh and hence we only get to see him on 3 or 4 occasions each year. He has had just the one race in veterans company previously when a fine second at Chepstow on his seasonal debut in October. Since the he took in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster, but at a time when the stable was woefully out of form. They are certainly going better now and a two month break since that race will have done him some good. A thorough stayer (he was second in the 2013 London National over 3m5f) he also is best on a right-handed track and should enjoy the strong pace likely to be set by Creevytennant.

Grandads Horse is far from consistent but showed he was in good form when second to Saint Are in another veterans race at Doncaster in February. He made little impression in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival recently, but in five runs at that track he has never finished better than sixth so is easily forgiven that poor run against largely younger opponents. He did win on his last win to Ascot however and is the sort to be running on at the end when others tire.

Ascot 4.55: Taj Badalandabad

Still only 6yo, Taj Badalandabad should still be improving and in a relatively light campaign to date has progressed nicely. He should still be in top shape for this stamina test.

Second to recent Cheltenham winner Minella Rocco in his only point in Ireland over 3m, he has gone up a notch every time he has been stepped up in trip under rules. He was impressive in winning two bumpers at Ffos Las a couple of seasons ago and then landed two wins in modest soft ground novice hurdles last winter.

However his fourth to Silsol in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las was a better effort again when stepped up to 2m4f. That was the last we saw of him until December, but after a poor run at Sandown when the yard was out of form, he has been going better since Christmas. His first run in excess of 3m saw him land a Pertemps qualifier at Huntingdon, where first time cheekpieces were fitted. He ran well enough when fourth in another qualifier at Haydock last time where I thought he was given too much to do. He did not make the cut for the final at Cheltenham, but can gain compensation today from the same rating of 133.

Recommended bets:

0.5pts each-way – Court By Surprise – 4.20 Ascot – 16/1 general

0.5pts each-way – Grandads Horse – 4.20 Ascot – 9/1 Totesport, Betfred

1pt win – Taj Badalandabad – 4.55 Ascot – 6/1 Bet365, SportingBet, Coral

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