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Saturday tips: Five horses to follow at Ascot

It’s a pulsating afternoon of racing at Ascot on Saturday, and Declan Rix has five runners to keep onside in what could be a telling day in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival.

Kilbeg King

1.50 Sodexo Live! Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase

Five runners to contend with in this Grade Two novice chase contest, but we will hopefully have a fairly-run race thanks to Apple Away and Brave Kingdom going forward.

The former is a Grade One winner over hurdles, but I’m not sure she has replicated that form over fences yet and comes here on the back of a below-par effort, for all she was taken on for the lead early. The latter is a likeable, straightforward sort whose recent chase form has worked out nicely, but Kilbeg King simply has the best chase form and at 3/1 looks the soundest bet.

Kilbeg King is back in action this weekend
Image: Kilbeg King is back in action this weekend

The former Irish point-to-point winner has clearly been a late burner in a career that has had its injury setbacks, but the nine-year-old comes here on the back of a big career best and has done nothing but progress in his last two seasons.

His run last time out against the likes of Il Est Francais and Hermes Allen was a fine effort and he meets nothing of that calibre here. Nice ground and first-time cheekpieces really sharpened up the son of Doyen in that Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and I’m backing him to prove that effort no fluke.

Rare Edition

2.25 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle

As the 2022/23 campaign progressed, the previously keen-goer Rare Edition (6/1) settled down and improved his jumping, making hay in the first half of the season, winning his first three starts over hurdles at Worcester, Doncaster and Kempton, the final effort coming in a usually smart novice hurdle on Boxing Day.

Rare Edition goes off a mark of 139 at Ascot
Image: Rare Edition goes off a mark of 139 at Ascot

The second half of last season saw the wheels come off, but he scoped poorly after a disappointing Huntingdon effort while the ground went against him at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals, for all both runs saw him highly tried in Grade Ones.

A mark of 139 still looks fair based on that 2022 Kempton effort alone while quickening ground at Ascot is massively in his favour. While Rare Edition looked pacey as a novice hurdler, his two efforts this season really have suggested he could thrive over Saturday’s longer trip, a view backed up by his pedigree.

His recent success at Kempton probably deserves a small upgrade too given he sat in the teeth of a gallop in a race that got going a long, long way from home. A 3lb rise appears fair with Harry Cobden again taking the ride.

Shan Blue

3.00 – Injured Jockeys Fund Ambassadors Programme Swinley Handicap Chase

A field of 10 chasing this £56,950 first prize and on paper, it could prove to be quite a tactical contest despite the staying trip. Quickening ground and a relative speed test is a set-up Shan Blue (6/1) could thrive off, for a team that have had great success targeting these big handicaps in recent seasons.

Shan Blue is a Grade One winner going right-handed
Image: Shan Blue is a Grade One winner going right-handed

We shouldn’t forget this 10-year-old is a Grade One winner going right-handed, thanks to his classy 2020 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase success. The following season, the son of Shantou was 22 lengths clear when falling three out in the Charlie Hall Chase, showing himself to a potential star, but that tumble would change the trajectory of his career.

Indeed, before his last time out third here at Ascot, Shan Blue had form figures of PPP and looked, as they say, gone at the game, but, first-time cheekpieces on some ground sparked him back to life. It was lovely to see. Genuinely.

The step up in trip really should see him in a much better light, and if the fire still burns like it did 56 days ago, a mark of 143 still looks workable, especially on the back of Harper’s Brook, who he finished just behind last time out, subsequently winning.

Rapper

3.00 – Injured Jockeys Fund Ambassadors Programme Swinley Handicap Chase

Rapper is a hard horse to call at the moment and clearly one with his fair share of issues, as his most recent form figures of PP4P suggest. Within those pulled-up efforts there have been bleeding and heart issues reported, but two runs back, he looked a horse in great order when finishing fourth in a stronger handicap than this at Cheltenham.

Rapper has previously showcased his talents at Cheltenham
Image: Rapper has previously showcased his talents at Cheltenham

That was behind the likes of Broadway Boy, the reopposing Threeunderthrufive and Protektorat where he travelled sweetly and jumped well despite softer than ideal ground. He was over seven lengths behind Threeunderthrufive this day, but a 5lb swing in the weights can see him get closer, if on a going day.

The late market may well be key because last time out Rapper was a heavy drifter ahead of the Classic Chase at Warwick and ran accordingly, despite an excellent previous effort. A switch in track on quicker ground with a change in headgear and jockey can hopefully revive the old boy with his trainer Henry Daly among the winners this week.

Pic D’Orhy

3.36 Betfair Ascot Chase

Just the four runners in this British Grade One, but no Irish raiders for the home team to contend with. L’Homme Presse is the undoubted class act of the field, but it must be of some concern he backs up in 27 days after a lengthy 391-day break off the track due to injury. The fact Venetia Williams’ inmate has consistently jumped left in his career over fences isn’t ideal around Ascot’s right-handed track either.

Pic D'Orhy was beaten by Banbridge in the Silviniaco Conti Chase last time out
Image: Pic D’Orhy is set to rival L’Homme Presse in the Betfair Ascot Chase

For a horse Gold Cup-bound, Saturday’s intermediate trip may also prove less than ideal, on quickening ground, but both those variables are a big plus for Pic D’Orhy. The Ditcheat-based galloper was a well-beaten second to an in-form Shishkin in last year’s renewal, but doesn’t meet anything of that quality here.

That said, you can make the case that the nine-year-old has consistently come up short when facing true top-notchers, of which L’Homme Presse is, but now Pic D’Orhy has sorted his jumping and become far more consistent with that element of his game, he is overall a harder horse to beat in this grade, especially going right-handed.

The talented but unpredictable Ahoy Senor is capable of winning if on a going day, but with doubts about the odds-on favourite, Pic D’Orhy is a sporting play against him given so much looks in his favour.

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