ASCOT 1.15PM – THE DAVID JOHNSON SHAWBROOK BANK GRADUATION CHASE
PUFFIN BILLY has a great record at Ascot, winning all three starts and he looks the one to beat in this. He really impressed me last time out, jumping well and staying on strongly at Ascot and over this extended trip, he could be even better. The yard is in fair form and the ground is in his favour, so a big run is expected. Irish Saint is the obvious danger and is very much respected, but he was beaten too easily for me last time out and he has to concede three pounds, so he will need to put in a classy performance to win.
ASCOT 2.25PM – THE JLT LONG WALK HURDLE
ZARKANDAR is a top class hurdler that has won 9 of his 20 starts over hurdles. His first attempt at three miles was in the World Hurdle and he stayed on to finish a fair fourth, ahead of both Reve De Sivola and Medinas and followed it up with another decent run, this time at Aintree. He has since run twice over three miles in France, finishing third on his first visit and then easily winning at Auteuil in November on soft ground. That looked an improved run and connections believe that he can develop into a serious World Hurdle horse this season. He is still only seven and faces a relatively easy task here for a Grade One and he is the top rated horse. It is also worth noting that on his five starts going right-handed over hurdles, he has won three and finished second on the other two occasions to top horses. He deserves to be favourite and should be odds on in my eyes and should win.