Taking a look at the Ascot Chase and all things Grand National

Cyrname is the one to beat in the Ascot Chase this weekend.
Cyrname is the one to beat in the Ascot Chase this weekend.

Our new columnist Tanya Stevenson takes an in-depth look at the action at Ascot and Haydock this weekend, which will provide a host of Grand National clues...

Grand National weights were unveiled earlier in the week, allowing connections a huge sigh of relief, an odd eyebrow raised or a wry smile. For better or for worse Tiger Roll was allotted 11-9, unrest eased? Here’s hoping racing’s most valuable commodity goes to Aintree on Saturday 10 April as in a year with very little cheer, he is a shining light of hopes and proof twice already that dreams do come true.  

Martin Greenwood, BHA Handicapper stated that with a bit of fortune if at this stage you're 70th or above in the weights come final declaration stage you could get the holy grail of a place in the World’s greatest steeplechase.  

Which is of importance if like me Secret Reprieve is 67th in the weights with 10-1, it’s a peach of a weight for the Welsh Grand National winner, the owners the Ruckers have an amazing record in the race with the likes of State Of Play, Cappa Bleu and Alvarado placed in a combined 7 occasions.  Could this be the year they find themselves in that illusive winners enclosure.  Plus he might get a form boost from Haydock’s Grand National trial, more of that later.

Trevor Hemmings has already fulfilled his dream three times over with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds, is he blessed as has he found an enviable fourth name to add to that list?  Cloth Cap turned the Ladbrokes Trophy into a procession at Newbury in November he had Aye Right and potential rivals The Conditional and Beware The Bear well behind, he gets in on a handy 10-5, he is sure to attract much attention and his price currently is very favourable.

Grand National Odds 2021

A horse already well accustomed to the big spruce fences is Kimberlite Candy, twice second in the Becher Chase at Aintree, and a winner of the stamina sapping Warwick Chase in between, he will head to the big race with all the credentials ticked off the checklist. 

They are my three against the field, though a special mention ought to go to Vieux Lion Rouge who has made the Grand National course his own, 223 spruce fences jumped including a resounding success in the latest Becher Chase, 24 lengths and counting was his margin of victory.  

Haydock hosts the Grand National Trial, although it is unlikely to produce April’s victor it could indirectly point to the eventual result.  Haydock always presents a real test of stamina not that you would have known that from Royal Pagaille in the Peter Marsh.  

Both Ramses De Teilee and Lord Du Mesnil have finished runner-up in previous renewals of this contest, they bid to go one better, the former is anchored by top weight, while the latter has a big task to reverse form with a couple who finished ahead of him in the Welsh Grand National.

The form of Chepstow’s race has always transferred well here when scouring through previous results of this Haydock marathon.  The Two Amigos, will gain plenty of friends coming into this as he ran with courage behind Secret Reprieve at Chepstow, leading with a beautiful rhythm over 20 of the 23 fences and gallantly keeping on after the last.  

That same rhythm and positivity will stand him in well here, but he will be vulnerable to fresher legs from the last and the mark of 144 is a bit restrictive.  He will be a saver for me as he might just keep galloping as the ground is soft.

A horse who still may be under the radar is Achille, only seen twice in 650 days, he was an excellent second in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January, Charlie Deutsch, played an exaggerated waiting game and didn’t really move into contention until three fences from home.  The distance he made up to get near the leaders may have meant he expended too much energy, yet he was still only beaten a length.  Its hard to gage the limit of his rating he is currently on 138 I sense he will push through the mid-140s.  Owned by Mrs Vida Bingham whose colours were carried by Mon Mome to win the 2009 Grand National. Mon Mome ran four times in this Haydock contest finishing third in 2007, seventh in 2009, sixth in 2010 and sadly pulled up in 2012.  Achille’s trainer Venetia Williams has won the race twice and boasts a nice few addition places, so hopefully Haydock won’t be the Achilles heel!

Grand National Trial Handicap Chase
Achille silk

Achille

placed

What would I do with Dashel Drasher, if I were Jeremy Scott?  I’d send him straight to the Topham, collect trophy and move on, but I suppose you can’t not try your luck in an underwhelming Ascot Chase, when but for Cyrname there are definite prize money incentives and runner-up opportunities.  It’s not going to be for the want of setting a furious and frenetic pace, but instead of taking on handicappers as he did on his last visit to Ascot he pits his speed against Grade 1 performers.  For info Rockforce in 2000 was the last horse not to have even run in a Grade 1 prior to winning the Ascot Chase.

Assessing Cyrname under current circumstances presents many problems as he pulled up in the King George VI Chase. How do you explain that run?  He bounced back in winning the Charlie Hall imperiously and perhaps we shouldn’t be so worried as Silviniaco Conti pulled up in the King George prior to winning this on his very next race in 2016.  Cyrname has won this race before, but then he was on the up and the expectancy was not so high.  Harry Cobden has to boost not only the horse’s confidence but deal with a race where he should be superior to his rivals.  Having a look at his recent runs he is probably running at mid-160s on the ratings which is still good enough here.  

Concentration and focus are key with Master Tommytucker, the dynamic of the set up of this race is an easier conveyance than what he has found himself in before.  He can gallop round Ascot in a Grade 1 with nothing to lose, Daryl Jacob must be rubbing his hands together.  There are no pace issues, and he can just stalk Dashel Drasher, keeping an eye on where his stable companion sits, if he wins hooray, if he doesn’t nothing ventured.

It’s a race that has been kind to favourite backers with 15 of the 26 market leaders obliging. Specific ages appear to be no boundary in the 26 runnings.  Only 9 of the last 26 had won on their most recent run.  However, it is mandatory that you had at least run in Grade 1s previously.  Obviously, it strengthens your credentials having won them.  Seven of the last 14 winners had taken in the King George VI Chase prior, now that may well be key.  

This is not a race I’d like an investment, because I’m keen on Song For Someone in the Kingwell and Achille at Haydock, but I sense Cyrname will once again bounce back.

Ascot Chase
Cyrname silk

Cyrname

Pulled Up
Kingwell Hurdle
Song For Someone silk

Song For Someone

placed
Cheltenham Festival

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