No Turffontein – But Group Action In UK

The loss of the Turffontein race meet today means players may be looking elsewhere for fun races. Ascot and Wincanton seem like two great places to start.

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies stands in the way of trainer Nicky Henderson completing a feature race triple at Ascot this afternoon.

Can Fakir D’oudairies defend his title today?

The Irish-trained runner defends his crown in the Gr1 Betfair Ascot Chase (17h35). Six go 2 miles and 5 furlongs to start, with track conditions reported as good.

Owned by McManus, the eight-year-old jumped last in style before holding his own bravely at the finish last year. Since then he has improved with two easy wins, first at the Gr1 Melling Chase at Aintree in April and then at the Horse & Jockey Chase at Thurles last month. Between those wins he finished fifth behind Allaho in the Irish Gold Cup and second to Galopin Des Champs at Punchestown over Christmas. This looks to be at its strongest over Saturday’s distance, his optimal journey.

Paul Nicholls saddles Pic D’Orhy and he will have his followers after three easy wins this season. However, this is looking much more difficult and he will likely be fought for the lead by First Flow from the start.

The top rated runner in the field is Nicky Henderson’s Star Shishkin. The nine-year-old is at least 8 pounds ahead of his five competitors, but that rating was achieved over 2 miles over a year ago.

Shishkin and Nico de Boinville aim for more Class 1 glory at Ascot (Image – RacingTV)

He has since been pulled up as a clear favorite in last year’s Champion Chase at Cheltenham. He was diagnosed with a rare bone condition after the race and rested for nine months before returning in December, finishing just a distant third behind Edwardstone at Tingle Creek.

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That disappointing seasonal reappearance was followed by a wind operation and he’s now going 5 stadia in a sort of salvage mission.

The money has come for him throughout the week as the stable are happy with his well-being but with two dismal runs ending his seven-race unbeaten streak I will side with the Irish attacker.

Earlier on the map, Henderson was expected to hit the bull’s eye with Bold Endeavor in Gr2 Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (15:50).

This doesn’t appear to be the strongest renewal, and Bold Endeavor holds 10lbs or more in the rating with its three rivals.

Wincanton Racecourse hosts the Kingwell Hurdle at 5:12 p.m. Track conditions at the Somerset route are said to be good, although showers are forecast.

Only four contest this Group 2 feature and Nicky Henderson’s First Street should confirm the form of his last run over Knappers Hill and I Like To Move It. They finished well behind him at Cheltenham.

Knappers Hill enjoys home field advantage for Paul Nicholls here and this course and distance should end closer to First Street. However, with a 2-pound pull on the weights, Henderson’s younger horse should take all the beating.

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