Punters are bound to feel a little queasy when faced with the prospect of taking odds-on about Cyrname (3.35), bearing in mind that Paul Nicholls’ star has let his supporters down three times out of four since his famous defeat of Altior. He had an unhappy experience in last year’s running of the Ascot Chase, falling at the last when already beaten and taking his time to get up, and was pulled up in the King George when last seen.
There are some interesting types ranged against him here, including his stablemate Master Tommytucker. But that one and Dashel Drasher are natural front-runners who could muck things up for each other and this testing ground is probably not what Master Tommytucker wants for such a tough race.
Cyrname’s career took off when the hood was removed but he has settled down so much that cheekpieces are tried here. So long as they sustain his interest, he might find things working out well for him.
1.50 Ascot This Reynoldstown may lack a future star but it is very competitive. Demachine seemed well suited by this place when landing a handicap in November and it could be worth forgiving his lesser effort at Newbury, which was quickly followed by a wind operation. His jumping let him down that day but a cleaner round can make him hard to beat.
2.05 Haydock The conditions of this race work out nicely for Itchy Feet, who gets weight from half the field. It is more than a year since he got his head in front but recent efforts suggest this return to hurdling and step up in trip could be the right combination.
2.25 Ascot Considering he hadn’t raced for more than a year, Jerrysback is due plenty of credit for his keeping-on third here last month, especially as the first two are in the Grade One race on this card. This return to three miles will help and he has a 9lb pull for three lengths with Regal Encore on their December 2019 meeting here.
2.40 Haydock The straight at Warwick wasn’t quite long enough for Achille when failing by half a length to reel in Notachance in the Classic Chase last month. With a 3lb pull and the possibility that this more galloping circuit may help, Venetia Williams’s grey appeals most, though Enqarde demands respect.
3.00 Ascot This big-field handicap is a new experience for Gladiateur Allen, so it could be worth opposing him with Pileon. A switch to chasing hasn’t worked for Philip Hobbs’s runner but he was a close second at the Festival when last seen over the smaller obstacles.
3.18 Wincanton Returning to a right-handed track might help Goshen but he has plenty to prove on this first start since flopping in the Bula. Navajo Pass is saddled with a penalty for a flattering win last time, so Song For Someone has every chance of making it four Grade Two wins in a row, a run that started in this race last year. CC
Goshen ‘needs to put a lot of things right’ says trainer
For what feels like the 10th time at least this season – but is in fact no more than the third or fourth – Gary Moore’s luckless hurdler Goshen will try to get his campaign back on track on Saturday when he heads to Wincanton for the Kingwell Hurdle. “He needs to put a lot of things right tomorrow and hopefully he can,” the trainer said on Friday, “but time will tell.”
The ante-post market on next month’s Champion Hurdle tells the story of Goshen’s last 12 months, as he started as the 5-1 second-favourite following his desperately unfortunate departure at the final flight in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle when a long way clear of his field. He is now a 25-1 shot, having finished last of 10 when 6-4 favourite for the International Hurdle in December, following two more defeats on the Flat.
In all, Goshen has now set off as favourite for his last nine starts, but the last four – including the Triumph – have ended in defeat and the punters seems likely to desert him on Saturday when Tom Symonds’s Song For Someone is expected to head the market.
“He’s been fine [since Cheltenham], he had a short break and he’s trained well ever since,” Moore said. “It was thought that he might have had a fibrillating heart there, but nothing came of it.
“He should have run twice by now but the meetings just haven’t been on. He was supposed to have gone to Sandown 10 days ago and there was somewhere else as well, but because of Covid and the weather, he just hasn’t been able to go, it’s just been a messed-up preparation for him. It’s not been that easy but these things are sent to try us and we have to do our best for him. Now he’s got to put things right.”
It is a big weekend for Moore’s yard, with runners on trial for the Cheltenham Festival at all three of Saturday’s National Hunt meetings before Fifty Ball, a 14-1 shot, runs in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sunday. A win for the six-year-old, who runs for Goshen’s owner, Steve Packham, would be Moore’s fourth in the race, equalling the record of Ryan Price, who took four of the first five runnings in the 1960s in its original guise as the Schweppes.
“It would be nice to do that and hopefully he’ll have a strong chance,” Moore says. “He’s a talented horse and the softer the ground the better. He’s got a great racing weight [10st 5lb], I think you need to be under 11 stone to win that race, unless you’re Champion Hurdle class, anyway.”
The juvenile Nassalam will be on trial for the Triumph Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday just before Goshen runs at Wincanton, and Full Back, who holds an entry in the three-mile Brown Advisory Novice Chase at Cheltenham, lines up for the Reynoldstown at Ascot earlier in the afternoon.
There is even a runner for the yard on the Flat at Lingfield, but Goshen will be central to the thoughts of anyone who witnessed his extraordinary mishap last March. “He’s just got to put things right,” Moore says, “otherwise God knows what we’ll do.” GW