Horse Racing: Top staying hurdler can’t be ignored at Ascot

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RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) takes a look at some of the key races on Saturday.

14:00 Lingfield

The Betway Quebec Listed Stakes over 10 furlongs is a good race for the track at this time of year seeing last season’s top all-weather performer Grendisar take on some high-class rivals. So who wins?

Educate (9/2 Bet365) beat Grendisar last time out and on his turf form places him amongst the best of these.

He’s not the most reliable of horses but despite his inconsistencies he’s a big threat here. He may struggle to uphold his form with the favourite but he’s a threat to all.

Battalion (9/2 Ladbrokes) switched to Jamie Osborne and seems to have improved for the move. He missed the break that day but travelled like a dream and was much too good for his rivals.

The race opened up for him that day rounding the final bend and he’d need to take another step forward to win this.

Grendisar (11/10 Ladbrokes) is a horse I like a lot and despite running below form first time out he remains the one to beat on the all-weather this season. He’s bound to be fitter on Saturday and even at the prices he still looks value to me.

If he doesn’t win here then questions will be asked but I’m taking the chance he’s better than he showed last time out.

14:25 Ascot

The JLT Long Walk Hurdle is one of the big staying hurdles of the season and can be quite gruelling when run on heavy ground. This year’s renewal is on good National Hunt ground and I don’t expect any surprises.

Alex De Larredeya (6/1 BetVictor) represents France and is a Group 1 winner on heavy ground. He’s still unexposed and something of an unknown so it’s hard to weigh up exactly how good he is.

My gut instinct is he’s maybe going to be too slow to compete with his rivals on quicker ground against proven British stayers.

Lil Rockerfeller (8/1 BetVictor) is a little star and has run some great races down the years. However he seems to be out of depths when he steps up to the top level and I expect that to happen again.

He’ll run his heart out and may even place, but I can’t see him winning.

UknowwhatImeanharry (6/4 Betfair) had the most incredible season last year and is now arguably the top staying hurdler around now Thistlecrack has switched his attentions to chasing. He won the Lingfield Distance Hurdle last time out in great style and is the one to beat.

The fact Yanworth is now being dropped in distance to avoid UknowwhatImeanharry tells us how highly rated he is.

I make him a confident selection here.

Best Bets

14:00 Lingfield – Grendisar to win (11/10 Ladbrokes)

14:25 Ascot – UknowwhatImeanharry to win (6/4 Betfair)

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I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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