Ante-post favourite Sign Of A Victory will miss The Ladbroke at Ascot on Saturday because of the rain- softened ground.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has reluctantly decided it is best to keep the exciting five-year-old at home following an ease in conditions at the Berkshire track. The Seven Barrows trainer said: “Ascot had 12 millimetres of rain last night and into today and the ground has gone against us. It’s the last race on the card and, with more forecast, I’ve decided to take him out. He’s a far better horse on good ground.”
Sign Of A Victory has been a major fancy for the valuable handicap since his impressive course and distance success at the beginning of November.
In contrast, Dan Skelton has welcomed the recent precipitation in the Ascot area for Shelford, who defeated Aubusson to take the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in late October.
The hat-trick seeker has got into the £150,000 feature close to the base of the handicap, and received steady support in the last 24 hours. He will attempt to follow in the hoof prints of Skelton’s Willow’s Saviour in the same race 12 months ago. Skelton said: “He worked well this morning and schooled beautifully yesterday.”
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Willie Mullins has confirmed David Casey rides Clondaw Warrior. The combination filled third place in last month’s Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham behind the Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire, who has top-weight in Saturday’s contest.
The final declaration stage for The Ladbroke is this morning.
Skelton justifiably had a spring in his step when leaving Newbury yesterday following the magnificent performance of Value At Risk in the EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old, completing a double on the afternoon for the Alcester trainer, was a dual bumper winner in Ireland for Philip Fenton last season and signed off his campaign by finishing third behind Shaneshill at the Punchestown Festival.
He has switched yards this summer following the steroid controversy that resulted in Fenton’s licence being withdrawn and the Irishman’s loss has clearly been Skelton’s gain judged by the way the 11-8 favourite destroyed what looked an above-average field in Berkshire. After taking up the running at the third flight, Value At Risk galloped on relentlessly and came home 22 lengths clear in the hands of the trainer’s brother, Harry.
“To see him do that was just amazing. As you can see he’s a chaser and the one thing he’ll never do is run on going that hasn’t got some soft in it. How he came to me has been well documented, and I’m just so lucky to have him,” said [Dan] Skelton. “That was very good and I’m privileged to have the horse. Hurdles are just an intermediate step for him. What Paul Nicholls taught me about these big chasing types is something I’ll never forget, and something I’ll always strive to replicate. Sometimes I have to pinch myself – that’s how good it’s been.”
Value At Risk is a 10-1 shot with Betfred for the Albert Barlett Novices’ Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival and 14-1 for the shorter Neptune. He disappointed in last season’s Champion Bumper at Prestbury Park, but is likely to return to the track on Festival Trials day at the end of January.
The afternoon got off to a flying start for the Skeltons as 7-1 shot Zarib bolted up in the Blackmore Building Juvenile Hurdle. The former Aga Khan-owned gelding readily outstayed Jalingo to score by four lengths.
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