Turf Talk: Ascot hoping to beat the freeze and host popular pre-Christmas meeting

Harrogate Advertiser horse racing correspondent Jeff Garlick’s latest weekly column.
Ascot Racecourse in the snow. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty ImagesAscot Racecourse in the snow. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Ascot Racecourse in the snow. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The recent cold weather that has decimated UK racing over the last week looks set to continue well into the weekend.

The Ascot Racecourse ground staff have been pulling out all the stops to ensure that their popular pre-Christmas meeting goes ahead. The entire course has been covered for over a week so fingers crossed we get some racing action.

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The Howden Long Walk Hurdle features Champ and Paisley Park, two adversaries who know each other well.

Champ won this race last year beating Paisley Park into third and again held the upper hand when winning at Newbury beating his old foe by a neck.

I would expect Champ to come out on top again but I think both could struggle to beat the young mare Miranda. She was very impressive when winning at Kempton and being a seven-year-old will have age on her side against the two old stagers.

If Gordon Elliot sends Queens Brook over from Ireland then I would have her for an all-female forecast.

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Miranda is trained by Paul Nicholls who could also win the Howden Handicap Chase with Dolos. He is the oldest horse in the race and will be saddled with top weight but he has that touch of class.

His recent second to stablemate, Greaneteen, in the Haldon Gold Cup is arguably the best form in the race.

Dan Skelton has been cleaning up in the big races on a Saturday and I fancy his Pikar to win the Betfair Exchange Trophy which concludes the Ascot card. He won well at Chepstow after a 277 day break and gets into this race on bottom weight.

The Silver Cup can fall to the wonderfully named Bobhopeornohope. This Kim Bailey-trained seven-year-old was third over course and distance last month on his seasonal debut and that run should have him perfectly primed for Saturday.

The Skeltons’ Flegmatik was third at the track in November and is the one for the forecast.

Garlick’s Goodies: Saturday Ascot 1:45 - Dolos; 2:20 – Miranda; 2.55 - Bobhopeornohope; 3:30 - Pikar.