Preview of Sunday’s 3:05 Ascot

(Thank you to Alexander Peperell – follow on Twitter – for this preview. JP)

On a weekend where the main focus is the return of the flat season at Doncaster, we have a decent enough card at Ascot on Sunday. This Novices’ Chase has a solid line-up and could make for good viewing. Phillip Hobbs will no doubt be looking forward to seeing his highly promising juvenile Defi Du Seuil at Aintree in a few days time, but before that he saddles Brother Tedd here. He was rated as high as 155 over hurdles but hasn’t quite been able to transfer that ability to fences being winless in four attempts over the larger obstacles. However, he does receive weight from all bar one of his rivals and will like the good ground.

Value At Risk unfortunately missed his engagement at the Cheltenham Festival and instead is taking his chance in this lower class contest. A fifth in the Albert Bartlett in 2015 is strong form but he hasn’t been able to build on that. He fell on his first two chase starts and subsequently reverted back to hurdles for a short period. On his couple of starts over fences this season he hasn’t set the world alight, a disappointing fourth at Uttoxeter was followed by a victory in a class 4 at Bangor. He wears cheekpieces for the first time today and that may help him, but based on his appearances this campaign I am looking to take him on.

Getting off the mark at the fourth time of asking for Gary Moore, Casse Tete scored emphatically at Sandown by 27 lengths. I wouldn’t get too carried away with that though as the second that day was beaten further than that on his previous appearance. He is clearly improving but has gone up 13lb for that win and could find life tough in this better company. Dark Flame has a bit to find on official ratings with most of these, but I wouldn’t rule him out. His last two starts have been on soft and heavy ground which hasn’t suited him, so this sounder surface should play to his strengths. Prior to that he had produced three good performances which saw him win at Ascot (hurdles) and Sandown, the form of the latter victory is solid with More Buck’s 8 lengths behind. Then a third at this track in December where the first, second and fourth have all won since, adds to his credentials.

Another one who should enjoy the ground is Paul Nicholls’ Present Man. The Champion Trainer has been operating at a 42% strike rate for the last couple of weeks so I’m eager to catch his runners while they’re hot. A three times winner this season Present Man has really come into his own, I’m willing to forgive him his last run which was in a Grade 1 at Kempton where Might Bite ran the field ragged. He is a Grade 2 winner over fences and this is a massive drop in class, Jack Sherwood takes off 3lb and this slight drop in trip won’t be a problem.

Minellacelebration actually beat the rival mentioned in the above paragraph over hurdles last year but was receiving plenty of weight that day so I expect the tables to be turned. He has won over fences this season but he seems to have found his level now. Finally Crowd Control is firmly up against and would need to find a ridiculous amount to get involved.

Selection: Present Man
Watch out for: Dark Flame

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