This Saturday Ascot hosts the Ladbroke Hurdle, a race which pits some of the best 2 mile handicap hurdlers against one another. This is normally an important race in terms of the Cheltenham Festival and is worth a cool £85,000 to the winner. Here are the all important trends for the race.
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8 out of the last 10 winners were aged 5 or 7
9 out of the last 10 winners were placed in the first three places in previous runs
9 out of the last 10 winners were in their second season of hurdling
8 out of the last 10 winners had official ratings between 122 & 136
8 out of the last 10 winners carried 10st 9lb or more
7 out of the last 10 winners had run within 30 days of the race
6 out of the last 10 winners were priced at an SP of 12/1 or higher
5 out of the last 10 winners were trained by Martin/David Pipe or Nicky Henderson
1 out of the last 10 winners were bred in Britain
Nicky Henderson has won this race three times in the past ten years and saddles another two leading fancies this year in the form of Rolling Star and Chatterbox. Rolling Star (15/2 Stan James) returned with a smooth win at Haydock on soft ground in preparation for this race and meets plenty of the trends. Slight concerns however, include both his age and rating; only 1 horse aged 4 has won the race in the last 10 years and no horse has won off a mark as high as 150. These factors coupled with the poor record favourites have in the race are enough to put me off his chances. The other runner out of the Seven Barrows yard is Chatterbox (7/1 bet365). This horse looked a star in the making when beating My Tent Or Yours at Newbury but was well beaten at Newbury on his most recent run. Like his stablemate, this horse meets nearly all of the trends as he is a second season hurdling 5yo but looks second best to Rolling Star in terms of the jockey bookings.
Totalize (8/1 Coral) has snuck in right at the bottom of the weights here and could be another handicap plot from trainer Brian Ellison who has scooped some big prizes this year. The horse has a massive weight swing with Flaxen Flare and Ptit Zig from last years Fred Winter and has been the feature of a big antepost gamble. Despite that; his lack of a recent run, the fact he’s bred in Britain, and the fact that he is a only 4 years old are all significant negatives.
CITY SLICKER (8/1 Coral) is one of the Irish raiders trained by Willie Mullins, a trainer who normally has them fully primed when sent over the Irish Sea. Two easy Punchestown victories put the horse on a nice mark and the horse meets pretty much all of the trends. Add to that the jockey booking of the champion AP McCoy, City Slicker could be a slick option for the shrewd punters.
David Pipe sends six runners to the race and Dell’Arca (10/1 Ladbrokes) rates the best of his chances after running a huge race on his British debut at Cheltenham in the Greatwood. That race could well prove to be a springboard to greatness, the horse beat a solid field that day and is one to watch. In terms of the trends, age seems to be the only negative for a horse whose stock is on the up. Shotavodka (28/1 Stan James) was unlucky at Newbury latest but needs to step up, Ronaldo Des Mottes (33/1 BetVictor) and Waterunder (33/1 Coral) both failed to impress in a weaker race than this and Dan Breen has struggled lately. Swing Bowler (14/1 bet365) was well touted last year and returns from a break but that in itself will be a negative and he will more than likely need the run.
Other horses to note are Chris Pea Green (14/1 Ladbrokes) for Gary Moore, a horse who has had a good novice year but age and weight probably scupper his chances. Ptit Zig (20/1 Stan James) won a French grade 1 event but shoulders a penalty which would mean that he would have to run a massive race to win this. Willow’s Saviour (16/1 BetVictor) has been running well but in much lower company and Flaxen Flare (14/1 Coral) hasn’t quite lived up to the quality of his Fred Winter win. Pine Creek (16/1 Coral), Kaylif Aramis (20/1 Stan James) and Irish Saint (20/1 BetVictor) also hold chances but on the form of their latest runs they will need to show improvement to win this.
To find a winner I’m going to try and stick close to the trends and eliminate the 4yo’s, despite Cause of Causes shock win, it’s a tough ask for a 4yo to win this against hardier types. Then ruling out the poor record of the British bred horses lowers the pick to half the field and it can be lowered further by looking at the record of horses who have won/placed last time out which leaves 3 with chances. One of those is Shotavodka who I will rule out as I think this is a big step up which leaves Chatterbox and City Slicker. As much as I like Chatterbox this is going to be a big ask without the help of Barry Geraghty who is on Rolling Star. CITY SLICKER is the one for me, watching his previous two performances fills me with confidence as the horse was barely asked to move a muscle despite the opposition not being too great and City Slicker is my idea of the winner.
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