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Long Walk Hurdle - Ascot 2.25pm Saturday 23rd December ITV

National Spirit Hurdle in Sunday’s highlight

Fontwell’s Sunday card features the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at 2.50. Last year’s first and second, Old Guard and Lil Rockerfeller, who won it in 2017, meet again. However, they face some serious rivals.

Old Guard has not won since landing this race 12 months ago. He finished third last time out in Cheltenham’s Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day. Meanwhile, Lil Rockerfeller has been novice chasing with mixed results. Back over hurdles on his most recent start, he put in a good effort to finish fifth behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of January.

Their main rival in the National Spirit Hurdle is If The Cap Fits, trained by Harry Fry and the mount of Noel Fehily. He beat Old Guard, albeit receiving 6lb, in a Grade 2 hurdle at Ascot in November. They meet at level weights here. If The Cap Fits finished third behind Verdana Blue and Buveur D’Air in Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle last time.

Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos got within two lengths of dual champion hurdler Beveur D’Air at Sandown earlier this month. However, that flattered him as Buveur D’Air won eased down. He could finish only third in the Kingwell Hurdle last Saturday.

Ballymoy is an improving handicapper. He faded on the Sandown run-in over 2m 7f last time, so the drop to Sunday’s shorter trip of 2m 3f should be in his favour.

A National Spirit Hurdle longshot

Vive Le Roi, a 25-1 shot, has little chance on the form book. However, a case can be made if you throw out his most recent start. When he won a 3m handicap hurdle at Newbury in November, he beat Rockpoint, who went on to win a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham next time. Rockpoint has been beaten twice since, but Aux Ptits Soins finished fifth in that Newbury race and De Name Escapes me came third. That pair finished one-two in a decent handicap at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

This year’s National Spirit Hurdle is a tricky contest but If The Cap Fits gets the narrow vote.




About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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