A great Saturday card with highlights at Haydock and Ascot. The Sprint Cup at Haydock could go to veteran Brando, but the ground there could go either way and it is a meeting we would rather swerve.
At Ascot, the 7f handicap on the straight course (1445 BST) once again offers the opportunity to back specialist Jamie Spencer, it helps that he is on the best horse.
Birchwood mixed it in top class company until making a handicap debut here in the 6f Wokingham. That was all too quick, but a second handicap run saw him arguably unlucky not to win the big mile handicap at Goodwood under Spencer. He may not have quite lasted home on the soft ground that day, and it may well be that Spencer would have suggested a step back for this target. He can deliver him late with his usual waiting style.
The 6f handicap (1705) looks competitive although none of those near the head of the market really stand out. We like the value in Dougan. This horse was long considered an all-weather specialist but he has shown some glimpses of what he can do on turf.
The best glimpse was when doing best of those running on the near side in a hugely valuable 5f race here in July. That was an excellent effort for a horse whose best form is all at today’s longer trip.
The return to this course may offer Dougan a chance to show that July effort was no mirage, a handy 4lb drop in the weights since then can only add to his chances.
Birchwood, (1445 Ascot), 2pts win, 7/1 William Hill
Dougan, (1705 Ascot), 0.5pts each way, 16/1 Skybet
Birchwood & Dougan, 0.5pts each way double, approx 125/1
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