The Ladbroke Hurdle is a hugely competitive 2m handicap run at Ascot, but interestingly Irish trainer Gordon Elliot (pictured) has won two of the last three renewals (3.35pm Saturday live on CH4 Racing).
So Elliot’s four-year-old Vercingetorix (33/1) is worth more than a cursory glance. The Dylan Thomas gelding won a maiden hurdle on his debut for the yard at Limerick last December, but has failed to add to his winning tally in seven subsequent starts. He has been beaten off handicap marks of 130 and 126 on his last two starts, so he hardly appears well handicapped off a mark of 135.
However his trainer is as shrewd as they come and Vercingetorix may run a bigger race than current Ladbroke odds suggest.
At the business end of the market, Jolly’s Cracked It (5/1), trained by Harry Fry, and Winner Massagot (5/1), trained by Alan King, are disputing favouritism. Jolly’s Cracked It made a promising reappearance over course and distance seven weeks ago, when third of 11, beaten just three-quarters of a length, behind Nabucco in the Listed William Hill Handicap Hurdle. He has won twice over course and distance, including on soft going, so much have every chance once again off just a 3lb higher mark.
Winner Massagot was confidently ridden when beating Rayvin Black (33/1) by 2½ lengths in a 0-145 contest over course and distance on his reappearance last month, but is 12lb higher in the weights in a better race this time. He possibly has more scope for improvement than his main market rival after just five starts over hurdles but he lacks experience of the hustle and bustle of a race like the Ladbroke Hurdle.
Sternrubin (12/1) is 2-2 over hurdles this season, having made all to win the Listed Bet365 Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury last month. He takes another step up in class off a 6lb higher mark. While he fully deserves his place in the field, he is likely to find it much more difficult to execute front-running tactics on this track in a race as competitive as this.
Devilment (20/1) has run creditably in defeat on his last two starts, but is probably a little high in the weights now and it is interesting that Aidan Coleman, who won on him in October, switches allegiance to John Ferguson’s other runner Galizzi (25/1).
Galizzi took another step forward when second of 20 beaten 2½ lengths behind A Hare Breath (who was landing a monumental gamble) in a 0-125 novices’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last month. He is another who lacks experience and steps up in class off an 8lb higher mark, but remains an interesting contender.
There are any number of viable alternatives, but Waxies Dargle (12/1) races off a handicap mark just 4lb higher than when third and beaten 6 lengths behind Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
The winner has since followed up in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham, so the form looks red hot. Returning to properly soft going, WAXIES DARGLE looks a cracking each-way bet to win The Ladbroke Hurdle at current best odds of 12/1 with Bet365, Betfred or SkyBet bookies.