Saturday's horse racing selections: Agrapart looks the part for Ascot
Agrapart is a formidable opponent when the mud is flying and, in anticipation of his favoured conditions, is the choice to prevail in Ascot's JLT Hurdle.
Nick Williams’ seven-year-old is a remorseless stayer who has long proven he belongs in or very close to this top bracket, having already banked two Grade Two victories.
Unsurprisingly, those Cheltenham successes came on ground described as soft and then heavy over the past two years.
The former currently prevails this weekend, and will be more to Agrapart’s liking than any of his rivals.
One run so far this season puts him and regular partner Lizzie Kelly bang in the frame on form.
They finished half-a-length behind Unowhatimeanharry, out to regain his ‘Long Walk’ crown on Saturday, on good ground and over just two and a half miles at Aintree.
Agrapart is 4lb better off here - and although he has stuck conspicuously to left-handed tracks for much of his career, he did little wrong as a novice at Sandown when third in the Tolworth Hurdle over a trip which did not play to his strengths.
Doughty opposition can be expected from both Unowhatimeanharry and last year’s winner Sam Spinner - while Paisley Park would have been the selection on good ground.
Call Me Lord is likely favourite on the basis of one hugely impressive win when upped in distance last spring. If taken literally, Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old undoubtedly has everyone covered - but on his seasonal reappearance, there are grounds for siding instead with Agrapart.
A stellar card at Ascot serves up several other enticing prospects, not least Alan King’s Full Glass - despite the fact he takes on a personal favourite Benatar in the Listed Garrard Silver Cup Handicap Chase.
French recruit Full Glass produced a highly-encouraging stable debut when third at Ayr in April.
He was again making a good fist of it on his return at Haydock - where he was caught out by the sharp track but was getting back into it when he fell foul of one of the controversially big fences, and unseated.
King has made no secret of the fact Full Glass needs this softer surface, pulling him out of a big handicap at Cheltenham last weekend when the rain did not arrive in time, and the move up to three miles will surely suit too.
Another who will appreciate conditions is Martin Keighley’s aptly-named outsider Forecast in the Betfair Exchange Trophy.
After a rise in the weights for this famous handicap, Forecast gets in on a handy 10st 6lb following his runaway victory at muddy Lingfield last month.
The six-year-old is back in trip after previously hunting up both the in-form Fidux and Paisley Park, on quicker ground, and is definitely worth a shot at this big prize.
There are one or two unknown quantities near the top of the market for the My Pension Expert Handicap Chase, but De Dollar Man is safe as houses.
Evan Williams’ seven-year-old made an eye-catching return at Newbury last month, on ground slightly quicker than he prefers, and looks primed for this.
There is untapped potential up at Haydock, in the shape of On The Blind Side and Danse Idol.
Nicky Henderson was equivocal about the stiff fences there last month, but has identified the Smarkets Betting Exchange Novices’ Chase for the fencing debut of On The Blind Side - one of last season’s best staying novice hurdlers and also a point-to-point winner in Ireland.
Paul Nicholls’ Danse Idol was a well-backed and impressive winner on hurdles debut at Wincanton, and will surely take some stopping in the Smarkets Betting Exchange Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
There is an all-weather highlight at Lingfield, where emphatic Cambridgeshire victor Wissahickon returns in the Betway Quebec Stakes.
John Gosden’s three-year-old colt is still hugely-unexposed, looked a natural on this surface before proving he is very talented on turf too - and will be expected to take care of this decent Listed field.
ASCOT: 12.40 It’s Got Legs, 1.15 Kildisart, 1.50 DE DOLLAR MAN (NAP), 2.25 Agrapart, 3.00 Full Glass, 3.35 Forecast.
HAYDOCK: 11.50 Shantaluze, 12.25 On The Blind Side, 1.00 Danse Idol, 1.35 Elixir Du Gouet, 2.05 Shalakar, 2.40 Clan Legend, 3.15 Closing Ceremony.
LINGFIELD: 12.00 Social Butterfly, 12.35 Becker, 1.10 Water’s Edge, 1.45 Pride’s Gold, 2.15 Wissahickon, 2.50 Redicean, 3.25 Seasearch.
NEWCASTLE: 11.40 Derrynane, 12.10 Skipthescales, 12.45 Sam’s Adventure, 1.20 Chidswell, 1.55 Eternally Yours, 2.30 Treshnish, 3.05 Alright Sunshine.
THURLES: 12.15 Minellafordollars, 12.50 Well Tom, 1.25 Barna Venture, 2.00 Honeysuckle, 2.35 Voices Of Spring, 3.10 Getaway Kid, 3.40 Pragmatic.