The Prince’s Countryside Fund Racing Weekend provides two days of high-quality Jumps action with more than £485,000 in prize money on offer.
Friday gets underway with the Prince’s Countryside Fund Charity Race which takes place over seven furlongs of the Jumps course with the hurdles removed. 11 riders, including model Rosie Tapner and Samantha Hills, the daughter of former jockey Michael Hills, will be competing this year. The full line up is in your racecard.
The Tindle Newspapers Novices’ Chase is the first race under rules and a competitive field of seven will go to post. Several of the runners will be making their first start over fences including Moon Racer, the 2015 Champion Bumper winner, as well as smart hurdlers Kildisart and Onefortheroadtom. They could all have Wenyerreadyfeddie to beat though as Nicky Henderson’s challenger returns to Ascot after an easy win here earlier this month.
The third race on the card, the David Brownlow Charitable Foundation "Introductory" Hurdle, includes some potentially smart novice hurdlers. Didtheyleaveuoutto was an impressive winner of the Listed bumper at Ascot last year and made a successful hurdling debut last month while Thomas Darby overcame inexperience to win a hot maiden at Cheltenham on his first start over hurdles. Highest Sun is also a fascinating runner for Colin Tizzard having won his only hurdles start by 16 lengths in France.
The feature race is the Waitrose & Partners Handicap Chase where Royal Regatta heads the weights and will be looking to get back to the form that saw him win the G2 1965 Chase at this meeting in 2016. Flying Angel was a Grade One winner as a novice and could be well handicapped while Cobra De Mai and Value At Risk shouldn’t be discounted for the seemingly always in-form Dan Skelton. TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will present the trophy for the race before unveiling a Nic Fiddian Green statue in the Pre-Parade Ring to celebrate his 70th birthday.
Saturday features two Grade Two races over two and a half miles which have featured some of the stars of jump racing over the years. The £100,000 Coral Hurdle has a striking roll of honour, featuring several Champion Hurdlers including Annie Power and Faugheen in recent years as well as Hardy Eustace, Dawn Run and Gaye Brief while dual winner Baracouda went on to win the Stayers' Hurdle twice at the Cheltenham Festival.
This year’s field will be confirmed on Friday morning but it is likely to feature Cheltenham Festival winner Laurina from the Willie Mullins yard as she begins a campaign that connections hope will include the Champion Hurdle in March. She will have to be near her best though to see off possible challenges from the race fit If The Cap Fits and We Have A Dream while last year’s winner Lil Rockerfeller and the popular Old Guard could also run.
The Christy 1965 Steeple Chase worth £70,000 was only upgraded to a conditions event in 2009 but it already has an impressive list of past winners with household names Albertas Run, Master Minded, Al Ferof and Vautour all successful in that time.
The race has long been the target for Paul Nicholls’ Politologue who finished last season in style by winning the Melling Chase at the Grand National meeting. We could see a rematch from that day with Min from the Willie Mullins yard who also have Bellshill as a possible runner. Benatar, a winner at Ascot last winter, and Charbel look likely to run while Cheltenham Festival winner Shattered Love would be a fascinating contender if she travelled over for Gordon Elliott.
The Gérard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase is the most valuable two mile handicap chase in the calendar, worth £125,000. The naming of the race is a tribute to the nearby Hurst Park Racecourse which closed in 1962 and from which Ascot purchased 20 acres worth of turf for use on the new Jumps course. Ozzie The Oscar looks set to carry top weight while San Benedeto, Modus and Theinval are also entered.
This Saturday also sees the first Grade One of the 2018/19 Jumps season with the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Just five will go to post but they include the Gold Cup winner and runner up in Native River and Might Bite while last year’s winner Bristol De Mai and 2016 King George winner Thistlecrack are also declared.