Jolly's Cracked It, winner in 2015, suddenly found himself at the head of Saturday's Ascot Handicap Hurdle betting when ante-post favourite Hunters Call was injured.
His trainer Harry Fry deserves all the plaudits he can get after he managed to get the very fragile nine-year-old back to winning ways last time out, after an astonishing absence of 706 days.
It had been almost four years since he dead-heated with Sternrubin in The Ladbroke, as the Ascot Handicap Hurdle was known then. He has now won four times at Ascot, which is going to make him a formidable opponent for any horse on Saturday.
Ascot Handicap Hurdle Trends
The Ascot Handicap Hurdle, this year sponsored by betting exchange Betfair, is a Grade 3 run over just shy of 2m and worth £150,000. It is the traditional pre-Christmas money-earner for punters, with a large field providing rich pickings for the intrepid each-way punter looking for some extra Christmas spending money.
- Five-year-olds hold the upper hand in the Ascot Handicap Hurdle trends having won 8 of the last 16 renewals.
- Nine of the last 10 winners have had a BHA rating of 146 or less. Brain Power (149) in 2016, was the only recent blip to this trend.
- Horses running off lower handicap marks have generally outperformed those running off higher ones.
- Last time out winners have performed remarkably well in recent years with 5.5* winners (*accounting for the 2015 dead-heat) coming in the last 10 years.
Ascot Handicap Hurdle Favourites
It comes as no surprise that the three horses heading the current Ascot Handicap Hurdle betting are all last-time-out winners.
The Alan King-trained Fidux (NAP) got his season off to a cracking little start, taking a competitive handicap hurdle at Southwell, before landing a Listed hurdle at Ascot in impressive style.
Running in the colours of the Axom Syndicate, the five-year-old appears to be a youngster going places and his BHA rating of 145 fits in just nicely with the aforementioned trends for this race.
The Brian Ellison-trained Nietzsche will probably prove to be popular with punters, but I wouldn’t be too confident in him following that run up and his Greatwood victory will probably be the highlight of his season.
Best Outside Bet:
Those punters looking for something a little bit more adventurous will be hard pressed not to ignore a Paul Nicholls-trained runner at 20/1 (Betfair).
Grand Sancy (NB) showed plenty of resolution to win last time out at Haydock Park and has been given two possible entries at the Ascot Christmas Meeting. Should he turn up in this race then he should acquit himself well in his first handicap hurdle.