HAWK TO SWOOP; CHALLENGE CUP ASCOT 3.40 TRADING POST.
Potential market fluctuations
The booking of Johnny Murtagh for the John Quinn-trained Mastership could be significant and the strong-travelling four-year-old looks a solid option to start favourite for this competitive handicap, athough his draw could easily put some off his chances.
Giganticus ran well to finish third in a valuable course and distance handicap last time, and the fact he has been off for 63 days since is not necessarily a negative. If I had to name one horse to usurp Mastership as favourite, Barry Hills's gelding would top the list.
John Best loves a winner at Ascot and his course and distance winner Relative Order looks primed to run a big race. It will be interesting to see if he is backed from a high draw in 25.
Of those priced up at generous double-figure odds, Flipando and Cape Hawk could both come in for their share of pre-race support.
How will the race be run?
No great surprise to see the field split into three groups and it's up in the air which will be racing on the fastest part of the track. Candidato Roy went solo under the stands' side rail to win this last year, and I can see there being more of a low-draw battle this time. The pace should be strong throughout and something better known for its exploits over a mile could come out on top.
Richard Hannon is enjoying a terrific season and Cape Hawk is fancied to register another valuable win for the veteran trainer. The four-year-old was seen as more of an all-weather type earlier in the season, but a win over a mile on Ascot's round course, put paid to that theory and when he is in the mood, he is proving to be a talented turf performer.
Granted, he is more of a miler, but I've already stated that to be a major positive, and if Richard Hughes (doesn't want to go gung-ho for the lead, and in-running punters want to see him sat just off the early gallop) has him on the scene at the furlong marker, I can't see anything staying on better than Cape Hawk in the closing stages and rate him solid win and place material at an attractive price.
With Cape Hawk drawn in six it could be worth taking out some insurance by also siding with a horse drawn high. Dhaular Dhar, drawn in stall 28, fits the bill. He was fifth in the race 12 months ago, and has finished second in two hot handicaps over the course and distance this season. He led home the far side when second to Ayr Gold Cup winner Regal Parade in the Buckingham Palace, while he may have won the Totesport International in July, when runner-up to Laa Rayb, had he not met trouble in running.
Back win and place Cape Hawk (nap)
Back win and place Dhaular Dhar
Betfair guide prices (taken at 6pm last night): 12 (12.5 to lay) Mastership, 12.5 (13.5) Giganticus, 13 (13.5 ) Zaahid, 16.5 (17) Relative Order, 18 (18.5) Military Cross, 19 (20) Cape Hawk, 20 (21) We'll Come, Signor Peltro, 22 bar