Fabulous contests in prospect at Ascot's Christmas Racing Weekend
Ascot stages its most valuable day of jump racing on Saturday, December 23rd, day two of the Christmas Racing Weekend, which offers £420,000 in prize money.
There are 36 entries for the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle, headed by Elgin (Alan King). The five-year-old is seeking a hat-trick of wins in big-race handicap hurdles, having landed the Listed William Hill Handicap Hurdle over the course and distance on November 4th followed by the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on November 19th.
Ireland has landed the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle twice since it was first run at Ascot in 2001, with both of those winners trainer by Gordon Elliott - Cause Of Causes (2012) and Bayan (2014).
There are eight Irish-trained entries with Elliott responsible for Mick Jazz and Veinard. Ireland's champion jump trainer Willie Mullins has made entries for three - Grade 1 winner Bapaume, Bleu Et Rouge, Cilaos Emery and Meri Devie. Completing the Irish-trained entries are Tigris River (Joseph O'Brien) and Top Othe Ra (Tom Mullins).
Nicky Henderson’s quartet of entries are Charli Parcs, runner-up in a listed contest at Newbury on Saturday, Verdana Blue, who scored over the course and distance on November 24th, plus Lough Derg Spirit and Jenkins.
The 13 entries for this year's JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle include last year's hero Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry) and Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King), runner-up in 2016 and successful last time out in the Grade 2 Coral Ascot Hurdle on November 25.
The two Irish-trained entries are formidable - last season's Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle hero Nichols Canyon (Willie Mullins) and the mare Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott), who got the better of that rival by nine lengths when recording her sixth G1 success in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 3rd.
Sam Spinner (Jedd O'Keeffe) sauntered to a very impressive 17-length success in the valuable Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle over two miles and seven furlongs at Haydock Park.
Other interesting contenders include the Nicky Henderson-trained duo of Thomas Campbell, an impressive winner at Cheltenham last month, and L'Ami Serge, a G1 winner in France in June and runner-up to Lil Rockerfeller in the Coral Ascot Hurdle.