Ascending will be difficult to beat if he stays seven furlongs of ‘soft’ Leicester ground today, having shaped well at the Midlands venue on a contrasting ‘good to firm’ surface ten weeks ago; Clive Cox is not a guesser and the Lambourn trainer, along with stable jockey, Adam Kirby, will be confident this Awtaad colt is certainly good enough in what promises to be an intriguing opener on a seven-race programme.
Amazing how quality of two-year-old racing at the right-handed Oadby course has long been maintained; in the ‘golden olden’ days an exceptional groundsman, the late Albert Butler, continually produced pristine surfaces and high-profile trainers Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute, supported by a clutch of other Newmarket ‘legends’, frequently took advantage with some real special first-up ‘beauts!’ which included Zilzal, a fantastic group one miler.
Stoute, still around and represented by Shadwell-owned Al Baahy on this occasion, was particularly partial to sending his best 90 miles down the road and Cecil relished the challenges he set; they were incredible times, in more ways than one; I was in the thick of it being an exclusive ‘clocker’ with my stop-watch and gasped on several occasions when computing subsequently.
Just watching their high-class performers ease their way to the start under Lester Piggott, Walter Swinburn, Joe Mercer and other ‘greats’ was a joy in itself and often I sleep contentedly off those memories.
An 18/1 shot and obviously in need of his first un, Ascending took a while for the penny to drop but stormed home in the closing stages to finish only five lengths behind unlucky ‘Coventry’ sixth Dhabab, Sweeping,,Triple Time and, significantly, Cox has allowed plenty of recovery time.
On the time-handicap Ascending comes out ‘best-in’ given he has a maiden allowance and two second time out winners Like a Lion and Charlie Appleby-trained Modern Games are penalised 6lbs which equates to about three lengths.
I’ve a strong feeling about Ascending and would love to run the rule over him in the paddock, as used to be part of my ritual; you can’t live in the past but we did!
None of five handicaps and a seller make any appeal whatsoever but recent Kempton debut winner Scot’s Grace grabbed my attention in a twelve-runner Fillies’ Novice Stakes over six furlongs of ‘good to firm’ Windsor; despite a penalty, this Mehmas two-year-old is way superior on the TH, judged on an unchallenged polytrack success, and half an hour later useful but hitherto disappointing Richard Hannon-trained Gaius, rated 78, is worth chancing in a Novice Stakes over a mile. They certainly meet criteria requirements.
Gaius is a deal better than form figures suggest, a grand type which I’d love to own..
Selections, Windsor, 1.00 Scot’s Grace; 1.30 Gaius (e.w); Leicester, 2.00 Ascending (e.w).
Jeffrey Ross, horse-racing correspondent for WMN since 1983 when winning the most prestigious racing journalist award, Sporting Life Naps Table, before winning it a record number of six times collectively in the Racing Post, the current ‘trade’ paper, including 2019