Thistle Ready To Prick Saphir

Long Walk Hurdle

Outright Betting

Saturday provides a final chance for punters looking to win some cash ahead of Christmas courtesy of a cracking card at Ascot, where the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle over 3m (2.25pm) attracts a tasty line-up.

Saphir The Improver
One of the most likely winners according to the odds is Paul Nicholls’ Saphir Du Rheu (2/1), who climbed the ranks last season and nearly won Cheltenham’s World Hurdle when beaten over 3l into second. Compensation was gained in a Grade 1 chase at Aintree, and he has stuck to fences in two outings this term, including a fifth in the Hennessy.

Saturday’s return to hurdles will be fine, as will the ground and trip, so backers may well look to him as providing some Christmas cheer. The fact Nicholls won this three times since 2005 is another plus, as is his outing at Newbury last time, based on past trends…

Long Walk Hurdle Trends
Of the last 10 winners…
9 made the top three last time
9 ran once or less during the previous 90 days
9 raced in a Grade 1 previously
9 were officially rated 149 or higher
8 returned 8/1 or shorter
8 arrived via Newbury or Ascot
P Nicholls and N Williams won it three times apiece

Thistle To Crack Rivals?
Runners that made the top three last time out hold a good record in this, hence why Colin Tizzard’s Thistlecrack (7/4) has come in for plenty of support. That confidence came courtesy of a 6l defeat of Deputy Dan (10/1) in a Grade 2 at Newbury last month (3m, soft), which supplemented his Grade 1 win at Aintree last April (3m).

This progressive 7yo has a likeable profile and it’s hard to see him not being involved in the finish.

Sivola Goes For Win No.4
However, both the first two in the betting will need to be at their best if wanting to beat the three-time winner of this race, Reve De Sivola (9/2). Nick Williams’ 10yo scrapped home by a head 12 months ago, and warmed up for this with a staying on sixth in French Grade 1 last month (3m, soft). This is his time of year and offers each-way value.

Elsewhere, Deputy Dan has been thereabouts in numerous staying events down the years, but will need to step up on his 6l defeat by Thistlecrack last time.
Also on 12/1 is David Pipe’s Dynaste who reverts to hurdles having won a couple of Grade 1s over fences. Consistency is his forte, and he looks well priced to make the frame over conditions he enjoys.

Let’s not forget Gordon Elliott’s 6yo, Tagliatelle (16/1), who won a Grade 3 over this trip at Aintree, and his place prospects would increase if the ground dries out.

Recommended Bets
An intriguing renewal, which sees two young pretenders up against the proven three-time winner. Preference goes to the former group, from which Thistlecrack looks a serious staying hurdler on the up and will love Saturday’s conditions.

*Prices correct at time of publication