Steve Hughes looks ahead to the first of two fine days of jump racing at Ascot.
Although Saturday is the really big day at Ascot there are some interesting looking contests on Friday too, so both my selections come from the Berkshire track.
Ascot 2.10: Thomas Campbell
Having been well beaten on his racecourse debut, Thomas Campbell is learning fast and should have a decent future ahead of him on the evidence of his hurdling debut win at Cheltenham last month.
He is clearly progressing with each run and put that poor first effort behind him to win a Kelso bumper on his next start with ease back in the spring. The Cheltenham contest he won was a weak race for the track, but he could do no more than win with something to spare and he looks a willing horse who will find plenty for pressure. The second home Khezerabad has franked the form since (and runs at Haydock earlier in the afternoon.)
As much as there are positives about the selection, I see nothing to worry about in the opposition. Criq Rock was very disappointing on his hurdling bow at Chepstow and his fine bumper performances last autumn are becoming ever more distant. Resolution Bay only won a weak race at Exeter and on much faster going.
Ascot 3.20: Alternatif
There are plenty here making their seasonal debuts who might not be fully sharp for today, so the fact that Alternatif if able to come here off the back of a promising run at Cheltenham last month could give him an edge.
He has been extremely consistent throughout his career, especially since joining David Pipe two seasons ago. He made the first two on all four outings over hurdles, including a win at Kempton. His form has transferred well to chasing, making the first four home on all bar one of his eight outings – and that came in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.
Whilst he does not win perhaps as often as he should, his consistency makes him a strong each-way fancy and he was not knocked about when fourth to Coologue last month. He will be fitter today and he has been dropped 2lbs to a rating of 131, his lowest since making his winning British debut at Kempton two years ago.
2pts win – Thomas Campbell – 2.10 Ascot – 5/4 general
1pt each-way – Alternatif – 3.20 Ascot – 13/2 Bet365, BetVictor