I admit I seemed to have no idea about the handicap hurdle at Ascot. Malaya ran poorly and couldn't keep up with the pace set by Shannon Bridge who was an impressive winner for the Skeltons. Arrivederci ran third. I'm sorry to say that L'Ami Serge, winner of the 2018 Aintree Hurdle, was fatally injured.
3m1f (Inner) MansionBet Live Casino Cashback Handicap Hurdle (Northern Lights Stayers Hurdle Series Qualifier) (Class 5) (4yo+ 0-105)
Bitasweetsymphony is the favourite. There's been moderate support. He ran well again at Doncaster last time but he has to improve on recent runs in handicap hurdles. He's not finished his races well.
Sergeant Brody has come in for support going back up in trip after recent runs at 2 miles for Samuel Drinkwater. The bookmakers seem anxious and have him best-priced at 4/1. 0 wins from 16 races under rules make him opposable at this price.
Fame And Hope is getting closer with each run. Brian Hughes rides. May find one too good again here but the Catterick run is solid form and he's a definite contender. First time blinkers.
Lugg River is a little intriguing. The Kayf Tara mare's bumper form was very promising and she's been disappointing in three hurdle runs since. Richard Johnson booked again for a trainer currently in very good form she looks a potential bet at 8/1 but also looks on a tough mark (105).
Cairnshill has been competitive the last two outings back over hurdles but has made jumping errors. The Johnson team doesn't have a great record but the horse's form from Carlisle back in early 2019 was very good. His mark has slipped down to something very workable (92).
The Black Squirrel put in two very decent efforts when last seen winning a class 5 at Newcastle in November. He returns from wind surgery now. Thoroughly good form in the book. Trainer had a 25/1 winner yesterday. Jockey Jamie Hamilton has a good record here. 2 from 18 wins over hurdles. Ticks a few boxes.
Stolen Money is unexposed on handicap debut but needs to improve. Just Georgie is another to consider returning to hurdles for Sue Smith.
(To Win) THE BLACK SQUIRREL (13/1 Betfair, 11/1 BetVictor)
20 Feb: 3.00 Ascot Malaya 8th/15 @ 11/1
19 Feb: 6.30 Dundalk (AW) Poetic Choice 6th/14 @ 25/1
18 Feb: 4.15 Sandown Jepeck REF/10 @ 18/1
17 Feb: 3.35 Hereford Oakley Hall 6th/12 @ 12/1
16 Feb: 6.40 Newcastle (AW) Chosen World 5th/10 @ 6/1
15 Feb: 3.55 Warwick Smarty Wild 5th/12 @ 7/2
14 Feb: 4.20 Punchestown Dounikos (E/W) 5th/18 @ 40/1
Account (Level Stakes Profit)
Feb 2021 LSP: +13.8
All 2021 LSP: +13.8