This week we preview the Ladbroke Hurdle, a handicap run over two miles at Ascot. This Grade 3 contest is always a competitive Christmas feast and this year looks like being no different. Let’s take a look at some of the main challengers…

Jolly’s Cracked It (Rating 141)

Harry Fry’s market leader is a two time course and distance winner and is an obvious starting point at the head of the betting. His comeback run here in October was solid if unspectacular and will have put him nicely on course for this. He is a half brother to Crack Away Jack, who excelled at this distance, and I think there is room for improvement off his current mark. What I wouldn’t be doing is rushing to back him at prices as short as 4-1 in a race this competitive. No thank you.

Winner Massagot (Rating 135)

He really could be anything for Alan King. The manner of his C&D win a few weeks ago was very taking, especially if you go back and watch how he raced throughout the contest and hauled his way around on the soft ground. He’s been hammered up 12lbs for that display and the big question is whether or not that’s a light assessment. Only time will tell but he is definitely a dark horse to some degree and there is any amount of improvement potentially lurking.

Renneti (Rating 147)

Must be hard living in the shadows of Vautour, Faugheen and co but Renneti is hardly a slouch in the Sussanah Ricci colours. He’s been a very smart dual purpose performer in his own right but my problem with him here is only one horse carries more weight. That’s not to say he won’t be in the frame, but he’s only had one hurdles win in the last two years and that’s enough to keep me cool on his chances.

Sort It Out (Rating 144)

Very interesting runner for JP McManus and Edward Harty. The main question mark for me is can he perform when fresh. Because when he returned off a similar break at Naas last year, he trailed in last. On the bare form of last season, you have to say he rates worthy of more than a second glance. His runner-up spot in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham entitles him to be bang there in this company for sure. But the lengthy absence makes me wary.

Zarib (Rating 133)

My eye is immediately drawn to this runner for so many reasons. Representing the all powerful Dan Skelton team, who at this minute can do no wrong, Zarib posted a notable third place in a higher grade than this at Wincanton last month. You’d have to think a reproduction of that run (or with the expected improvement to come) would put him in with a fine chance of upsetting the odds. I really like his chances of at least making the money off a low weight.

Devilment (Rating 150)

Has been kept so busy for the John Ferguson yard and will be lumping top weight here. He’s a good performer, don’t get me wrong, but on a mark of 150 is weighted to the absolute hilt and it’s not like he’s been going to the well and pulling out stunning performances thus far. Will he be on the scene at the business end? Possibly. But I’m more than happy to leave him alone.

Verdict: The usual open affair but as ever in these types of handicap I like to head to towards the bottom of the weights and look for an improver. For me, ZARIB fits that bill for Dan Skelton and is my idea of a worthy each way play. At 14-1 with Paddy Power, it seems a good value price to me. All the best with whatever you choose.

Good luck,

The Tower

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