A Long Walk on Saturday just perfect for Pettifour
Nicky Henderson must be one of the most envied trainers on the jumps circuit with his monopoly of the big Saturday races showing no sign of waning as he saddles the first two in the betting for the Long Walk Hurdle.
Punchestowns at 3/1 and Duc De Regniere at 7/2 have both already won extremely impressively this season and will have other trainers wondering how Henderson does it.
The Long Walk Hurdle is one of the best indicators for who will be the leading contenders in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham seeing as in the last ten years, eight of the World Hurdle winners ran in the Long Walk Hurdle with My Way De Solzen the last horse to win both races.
Punchestowns thumped a decent field under top-weight last time out and won in the style of a horse going all the way to the top. His limitations are unknown and there is a slight concern that if it is testing as Ascot then the favourite might struggle to get home.
The same can be said for Duc De Regniere who may struggle if it is a real test. He has done no wrong this season having won both his starts and claimed the scalps of some of the horses he re-opposes today.
However that race was run to suit Henderson's runner and he had the best of it at the weights and we could well see some placings reversed at Ascot.
Alan King's 11/2 shot Blazing Bailey was quite disappointing on his seasonal reappearance. He may be better later in the year as has seemed the case in past seasons.
The headgear he won in a couple of runs ago will not be reapplied on Saturday which will give cause for concern again about his jumping and it is hard to see him turning the tables on Duc De Regniere.
Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Paul Nicholls' 7/1 chance Mobaasher as opposed to his 9/1 stable mate Elusive Dream which is a strong suggestion that Mobaasher is expected to put in a big run.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' big chance is Pettifour who at 7/1 makes more appeal than Mobaasher. Twiston-Davies' horse should have the beating of the Nicholls on previous form having claimed his scalp at Wetherby in good style.
Mobaasher finished ahead of Pettifour last time out but that Newbury race was not run to suit Pettifour and he had to meet Mobaasher on much worse terms there and it looks like the tables should be turned this time out and a big run is expected with Paddy Brennan in the saddle.
Last year's winner Lough Derg will appeal to many at a big looking 16/1. David Pipe's tough horse loves it round Ascot and although this race looks tougher than the one he won last year he is almost certain to be on the scene at the business end of events with the ground and distance being of no concern. With a quarter of the odds being paid on the first three home Lough Derg could give a big run at an extremley attractive price.
If Lough Derg goes off in front and makes it a real stamina test then the likes of Punchestowns and Duc De Regniere will have all their credentials tested.
The selection for Saturday's big race is Pettifour. There is very little between him, Mobaasher and Duc De Regniere and with a stronger gallop almost assured with the presence of Lough Derg, Twiston-Davies' charge should give punters a big run for their money.
Punchestowns could be a special horse but 7/1 about a proven stayer appeals more than 3/1 about a horse is potentially a superstar but currently has questions to answer.
Lough Derg at a big price looks the danger and will surely make another valiant attempt to win the race for the second year running.
Pettifour - 7/1