Last updated February 29th, 2016
Both market leaders in the betting for Saturday’s Ascot Chase are on a recovery mission (3.35pm live on Channel 4).
Silviniaco Conti, the 11/4 favourite, was last seen pulling up three out in the King George on Boxing Day. This 10-year-old had only failed to finish once before in his 29 runs, when he fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
His trainer Paul Nicholls did have a rather lean festive season. He failed to saddle a single winner over the two day Christmas meeting at Kempton. That had not happened since 2004. The yard is in much better form now though, scoring a treble on Thursday across three tracks but it is not quite business as usual at Ditcheat yet. Two of their three odds-on favourites got beaten last weekend.
Silviniaco Conti’s rating has dropped to 164 from 172 this season but he is still rated 2lb above this field. He has six Grade 1 chases to his name but they were all run over longer distances than this 2m5f trip. Horses of his age don’t usually grow wings and the drop back in trip is puzzling. Testing ground will help him, as will first time blinkers – especially if they work as well as cheekpieces once did.
David Pipe (pictured) is also upgrading the headgear to blinkers on the 7/2 second favourite, Dynaste. His stable had a very slow start to the season but is gaining momentum. Dynaste bucked the early trend and finished a creditable second to Cue Card in the Charlie Hall Chase in October. Most recently he was a dire disappointment in the Long Walk Hurdle here in mid December. He was not only last but completely tailed off.
Another 10-year-old, Dynaste has scored over this distance at the highest level. He won the Ryanair in 2014 and is rated just 2lb lower than the favourite. He has had a breathing operation since his last run but we will only know if it has worked at the end of the race.
A nine-year-old that has had every breathing operation going is Nicky Henderson’s 2013 Hennessy and Topham winner, Triolo D’Alene (8/1). He has also had a knee problem and appeared after a year’s absence in January to contest a listed chase at Kempton on soft ground. Triolo D’Alene had got the better of Nicholls’ Ptit Zig before Sam Twiston-Davies was catapulted out of the plate at the second last and he finished strongly, beating Philip Hobbs’ Wishfull Thinking 49 lengths.
Henderson said years ago that Triolo D’Alene was a ‘stuffy’ horse who would always come on for a run. That ought to be particularly true after such a long break. Triolo D’Alene is rated 9lb below the favourite but he seems in good order and is at an age where further improvement is likely. He could well be a beneficiary if the market leaders underperform.
Henderson also saddles the striking grey mare, Ma Filleule (11/2). She won the Topham as a six-year-old in 2014 and was the runner-up in this race and the Ryanair last year. She lines up on the back of a win in a listed mares’ chase at Doncaster at the end of December. The strength of the form is questionable though as two fancied runners hit the deck and she was receiving plenty of weight from her closest pursuer. The handicapper lowered her official rating slightly after her victory.
It will be Ma Filleule’s fifth outing this season but she has had her usual January break. Even when trained in France she didn’t ‘do’ January. She has always run well on her reappearances in February. This is her optimum trip and she will benefit from the mares’ allowance but her rating has dropped 9lb since last year. Conditions shouldn’t inconvenience her and she ought to earn some prize money for her deep-pocketed owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
This 2m5f distance could be a challenge for the ten-year-old Savello (16/1). Previously trained by Tony Martin for Gigginstown, Dan Skelton bought him for £46K at Doncaster in September. He has picked up place money in his three starts for the new yard – all of them over two miles. He has twice been tried in handicap hurdles to exploit his relatively low mark but was beaten seven lengths into fourth both times. He also finished third, 16 lengths behind Sprinter Sacre, in the Shloer Chase.
Savello is a nervy hood-wearer who is often held up. Different tactics were tried last time at Sandown in December but he faded when it mattered after racing more prominently. His jockey Bridget Andrews looks very unlikely to become the first female winner of this race.
A horse on an upward curve is Philip Hobbs’ eight-year-old Royal Regatta (5/1). His rating is at an all time high of 152 on the back of two good performances over course and distance. The first was an imperious win in a graduation chase in mid December. He was wearing blinkers for the first time and won easily by 11 lengths. He was last seen here a month ago, getting beaten a couple of lengths into second by Venetia Williams’ Dare Me in a handicap chase on soft ground. He was giving the winner 10lb.
This will be Royal Regatta’s first experience of top class company and he will have to post a lifetime best to score. His price looks distinctly ungenerous, especially as stable jockey Richard Johnson has presumably chosen to ride at Haydock. Tom O’Brien will deputise.
The veteran of the field is the 11-year-old Irish raider, Flemenstar (10/1). He has four Grade 1 victories to his name, achieving three of them when he was the star of Peter Casey’s yard in Co. Meath. He was moved to Tony Martin in 2013 and won first time out for him but missed a season through injury and failed to impress in his subsequent runs for the yard.
Flemenstar is now trained by Anthony Curran, the owner’s son, in what appears to be a string of one. Flemenstar gets to spend plenty of time out in the field and appears rejuvenated. At the end of December he took the Grade 1 Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown – the hot favourite Un De Sceaux fell. We last saw him finishing a couple of lengths behind Willie Mullins’ Felix Yonger in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown three weeks ago, looking to need slightly further. The distance and conditions should pose no problems for him. This will be only his second trip England. He looks to provide decent each-way value.
The seven-year-old Amore Alato (25/1) completes the line-up for Johnny Farrelly. He looked the likely winner when unseating Harry Skelton at the last over course and distance in a novice chase in December. Most recently he was well beaten in January, finishing over 30 lengths behind Bristol De Mai at Haydock. Amore Alato looks better suited by a right-handed track like this but seems out of his depth here.
Our Ascot Chase Preview’s Betting Tip
Half the field appear to have chances and you have to take note when top trainers try blinkers. Paul Nicholls has a particularly impressive record with headgear but Silviniaco Conti still looks poor value at 11/4 over this trip.
If Dynaste can breathe he might well win but there is too much uncertainty for 7/2 to appeal. Flemenstar looks an interesting each-way proposition at 10/1 but our preference is for a horse with more experienced connections. Nicky Henderson has won this race three times. Triolo D’Alene has demonstrated his well-being and should improve significantly after his comeback success.
- This preview’s Ascot Chase betting tip is to bet on Triolo D’Alene each-way, best priced at 7/1 with Bet365.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.