Saturday 18th December 2021
Author: Jordan Yates (EvRacing_)
A warm welcome to this week’s Saturday preview where I’ll be taking a look at the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, which is the feature event of the day.
The big race is set to take place at 2:25 at the famous Berkshire track and I’ll be going through some of the runners as well as giving my verdict and who I’ll be punting on in this year’s renewal.
The Long Walk Hurdle is a Grade 1 event that’s ridden over a distance of just over three miles and was won last year by previous Stayers Hurdle winner Paisley Park, who’s back again this year to try and retain his title. He’s not been at his best since his run here last year, having finished third in a couple of Grade 2 contests so far this season which followed some underwhelming performances at the Spring festivals last season. As a result, he can be found trading at around the 13/2 mark in the betting, which is the biggest price he’s been for any race for some time.
The horse that was narrowly denied by Paisley Park by a neck in last year’s race is the current favourite for this year’s renewal and that’s the Phillip Hobbs trained Thyme Hill, who heads the betting at a general price of 7/4. Hobbs’ seven-year-old made his return to the track in France last month where he was well beaten by 41 lengths in fifth, and was pretty underwhelming to say the least. It’s likely he needed that race to blow the cobwebs away though, and if returning to the same form we saw him in at Aintree in April where he took the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle he’s obviously got to be considered as a huge player.
Moving onto the rest of the field and some other notable contenders, Nicky Henderson sends Champ back over the smaller obstacles here and he’s currently a 5/1 chance under Jonjo O’Neil Jr. He won the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2020 and has only been seen twice since, most recently at last year’s Cheltenham Festival where he was pulled up in the Gold Cup. This revert back to hurdles made not seem the most conventional of ideas, however, he is a Grade 1 winning hurdler and you’d right him off at your own peril. Thomas Darby won the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle last month at Newbury and is set to take his place here for Olly Murphy, he’s currently a 7/1 chance and despite being an eight-year-old still seemingly could have more progressing to do within this division. We also have an Irish raider in the field and that’s Ronald Pump for Matthew Smith. He’s a fascinating contender and was last seen finishing second to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace last month at Fairyhouse and has often ran his race in races of this nature at the top-level.
The most likely winner here is Thyme Hill for Phillip Hobbs, which his price reflects. He’s the form horse in the race and if that race in France last time has sharpened him up he’ll be tough to beat. I’ve tried to take him on though, and I’ve done that with Ronald Pump who’s currently a 10/3 chance for Matthew Smith and Keith Donoghue. His last four races have come within Grade 1 company and he’s placed in three of three of them, twice behind Honeysuckle and the other occasion behind Klassical Dream, and that’s as solid as form comes. I think this is a good renewal of the race, but like many staying contests they aren’t massively strong Grade 1s and I think if this horse runs to the level he’s been running at against some of the best Irish horses he’s got to have a chance of having his day in the sun at the top-level here.
1. Ronald Pump
2. Thyme Hill
3. Thomas Darby