The JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle takes centre stage at Ascot on Saturday – the final day’s racing before Christmas – and the much-improved Thomas Campbell can take another step forward as he goes into Grade 1 company.
The Long Walk is renamed this year in honour of Reve De Sivola, Nick Williams’ mud-loving three-time winner of the race, famed for his steadfast refusal to throw in the towel in the face of sustained challenges during his races.
Whether there is anything with his dogged constitution in the assembled field of nine remains to be seen, but there is an improving stayer for the in-form Seven Barrows team of champion trainer Nicky Henderson in the form of 11/2 chance Thomas Campbell, and he is fancied to run a big race.
Henderson’s horses are in top form right now, with a 36% strike rate from 42 runners over the previous fortnight. Thomas Campbell has looked a much improved performer in winning a pair of handicaps at Cheltenham this season.
He is now stepping out in much more exalted company, of course, but he has earned his shot at this prize and is open to further improvement.
The second of those Cheltenham wins came in a Listed contest and it was impressive the manner in which he imposed his authority quickly over the final flight, having travelled powerfully into contention.
Harry Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry won this race 12 months ago and returns as the key danger and the 7/4 favourite. His last-time-out defeat to Beer Goggles hinted that perhaps he won’t have a stranglehold on this division again this season and, for that reason, he’s opposable now.
From champion trainer to former champ next as Paul Nicholls looks to have a solid contender in the Listed Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in 12/1 chance Frodon.
He ran an excellent race in Grade 2 company at the track recently and shaped as though going back up in trip would be a positive. This three-mile test should suit and he’s got scope for a big run, with Bryony Frost taking a more than useful 5lb off his back in what is a competitive event.
Earlier on the Ascot card, it will be a surprise if Irish raider Coney Island doesn’t justify likely odds of around 8/11 by seeing off two rivals under Barry Geraghty in the Sodexo Graduation Chase.
He looked a really smart novice last term and returns with a winnable opportunity against promising Adrien Du Pont and the frustrating More Of That.
Coney Island could make for a nice double, with Evan Williams’ Clyne getting his chasing career underway in the second race on the card at Haydock.
He faces only two rivals although both have already won over fences. On that basis, they’ll be conceding him 6lb each and given that Clyne was a better horse than either Born Survivor or Testify jumping hurdles, it may be worth taking the 6/4 that he can confirm that over fences.
He loves Haydock and will run well on testing ground while he’s race-fit, having twice run over hurdles already this term.
For all new customers, ComeOn! are currently offering a £10 free bet – make sure you sign up!