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Rupert Wyman 17th Jan 2009 - 1:00

Saturday Ascot previews

Saturday's racing from Ascot is live on BBC One and here at William Hill we strive to give you the best, so we have got Weatherbys exclusive race previews for all the televised races written by Paul Jones.

As the build-up to Cheltenham heats up Saturday's Ascot card features the top-rated two-miler in Master Minded.

Ruby Walsh will look to win yet another big race for trainer Paul Nicholls on a Saturday. Can anyone stop the lethal Walsh/Nicholls combination?

Read below for Paul Jones' thoughts.


1:05 Ascot - victorchandler.com Holloway's Hurdle
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1:40 Ascot - Montpelier Group Lightning Novices' Chase View preview Bet Now
2:15 Ascot - Victor Chandler Chase
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1:05 Ascot

There may be 18 runners but there is a lot of dead wood in here and I am not sure it is as competitive as first appears.

Lough Derg loves Ascot and came back to form last time and bids to follow up his win in this race last season off a 2lbs higher mark and I wouldn't put it past him but prefer Serabad on the proviso that it rains and am not uninterested in the look of a couple of horses with something to prove judged on their last runs in Lead On and Procas De Thaix.

Lead On looks very fairly handicapped off 135 looking at his form in novice chases last season but he disappointed on his only start this season and the fact he has not run for 84 days suggests he had a reason for that poor effort.

If back to his best, he can make them all go having finished second off a not much lower mark in a valuable handicap hurdle at Chepstow last season to a very well handicapped rival that day.

Procas De Thaix showed little on her only start this season but represents the Henderson yard that has carried all before them at Ascot this term and could be well handicapped if rediscovering her best form which would be a narrow defeat by Diamond Harry.

As for Serabad, I took a chance on him at a big price in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle where he was basically outstayed over 3m1f taking on older horses. This trip looks ideal but soft ground is important to him and overnight rain is expected which brings him right into this. The softer the ground the better his chance and he would jump to the very top of my list if it starts to get in.

1:05 Ascot betting
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1:40 Ascot

I really can not understand why Calgary Bay is running here over 2m in preference to Haydock over 2m4f later today where Free World is likely to burn it up from the start.

Nothing against Dominic Elsworth but if I was on Calgary Bay I would much rather McCoy in the saddle to keep the partnership intact but he is at Haydock which further baffles me why he is not running in Merseyside especially as he has to give Free World 6lbs and he is officially the second highest rated 2m novice chaser seen this season.

I feel that Free World will beat him today as Ascot is now a speed-favouring track since it was relayed where front runners excel and think Paul Nicholls' five-year-old will take some catching around here and there is every chance he can run Calgary Bay off his feet over this particular two miles but Cheltenham's two miles would be another matter. Being a Calgary Bay for the Arkle, I hope I am wrong.

1:40 Ascot betting
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2:15 Ascot

Master Minded is so far clear the best two-mile chaser in training, it will be disappointing if he does not win this race in anything other than impressive fashion given his massive ratings edge.

The second favourite for example, Petit Robin, is rated 30lbs his inferior and he looks the obvious one to chase the favourite home to me with doubts over the other three runners.

Given his main market rival Twist Magic threw in a stinker I was disappointed he couldn't win his most-recent race but he was giving weight to the winner, Fieppes Shuffle, he did run free early on so that contributed to him being re-passed after the final fence, he couldn't dominate proceedings from the front like he has done for his other wins and after the race Henderson felt he would be better suited to a stiffer track.

The presence of Or Noir De Somoza could therefore pose a problem as the French Gold Cup ninth when last seen on a racecourse has often front ran (not to say he will here now he has changed stables and dropping back to 2m) and if he leads then Petit Robin will not have his own way.

This looks very much like a fact finding mission for Or Noir De Somoza though and although the Pipe team have shown some green shoots of recovery (just to be topical), they have also had some fancied horses still run poorly of late.

Mahogany Blaze's yard continue in shocking form and Natal likes good ground and disappointed last time so it has to be Petit Robin for forecast backers and, although beaten last time, that was still a career-best effort so he is still improving.

2:15 Ascot betting
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