Racegoers at Ascot on Saturday receive a post-Christmas treat with Altior lining up in the Clarence House Chase (3.35pm), but it’s disappointing from a betting point of view with Nicky Henderson’s stable star set to go off one of the shortest-priced favourites for a Grade 1 in two decades.
Unfortunately, Henderson’s charge faces only two others and is rated 8lb higher than nearest market rival Fox Norton, who has the added disadvantage of not being seen in public for 389 days, and a massive 19lb better than outsider of the three Diego Du Charmil.
Sometimes with a very strong ‘jolly’, an option is to have a bet on the horse’s future target.
But punters are unlikely to gain an advantage doing that as he’s already 4/9 for the Champion Chase and it’s hard to see him shorten unless he crosses the line with the other two still in Swinley Bottom. So if you’re a massive Altior fan, you might as well back him for Cheltenham after this contest!
Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase (3.15pm) looks a much tastier dish for backers to get their teeth stuck into if the snow keeps away, but despite a 7.30am race day inspection, the clerk of the course is confident the card will get the green light.
All eyes will be on 2017 Grand National hero One For Arthur (14/1) in the feature to see if he can put a disappointing return to the track at Aintree, where he unshipped his pilot at the third, behind him.
But preference goes to Charlie Longsdon’s Ballydine (9/1) who ran a fine race last time at Newbury just before the New Year only to get collared in the last half furlong by Carole’s Destrier and go down fighting by three-quarters of a length.
That was an improvement on the selection’s fifth in Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase, but to be fair to him that was a good effort as it was his first run for 10 months and he was only beaten 10 lengths.
Whether he’s a Grand National horse this year is currently open to debate, but he’s certainly a solid citizen finishing in the first three on four of his last five outings and the step up to around this weekend’s extended 3m 1f trip really seemed to work the oracle.
Ascot also hosts a Grade 2 mares’ hurdle (1.50pm) and despite only six combatants, it looks a lovely betting heat with any one of four animals possibly going off favourite.
Jessie Harrington is arguably the pre-eminent current dual-purpose trainer and the Moone magician relies upon Magic Of Light (9/4) to conduct a successful overseas smash and grab raid.
The fancy is slightly best in at the weights and couldn’t have been more impressive last time in December when very easily disposing of a high-class field at Newbury by 14 lengths.
The Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is probably a bit short for her, but victory on Saturday will set her up for some nice spring prizes.