Weekly Handicap Blog – Royal Ascot contender?

I aim to write a blog each Tuesday highlighting horses that I feel have been dropped in the handicap down to a mark where I think they can be very competitive. This week, I think there is a horse who is being laid out for a return to Royal Ascot!

Nelson River dropped 4lb to 126

Surely next season Tony Carroll will be stepping this horse up in trip again as he has won on the AW over 2m! His only effort over further came in the Coral Cup where he was held up out the back and never really got involved but over the Cheltenham week being up with the pace was the place to be. He dropped 3lb for his run in the Coral Cup before returning to Cheltenham last week back over 2m. He was never in the race and was badly outpaced and looked like he was going to finish a long last after being hampered 2 out by a faller. He has however ran on quite strongly and wasn’t beaten that far by the 3rd placed Elham Valley. He has Cheltenham form including when 4th in a Triumph so does have that bit of class but things haven’t gone right for him since. He’s had 7 runs this season with his best effort coming when a staying on 4th at Ascot over 2m in a handicap won by Buzz. That could well be his first run back next season (off a 12lb lower mark than this year) before stepping up to 2 1/2 mile. He’s no world beater but he’s definitely nicely handicapped off 127 when stepped up in trip. There’s normally a 2m5f handicap at Kempton on boxing day that could be a target.

Oakley dropped 4lb to 132

Oakley ran in the same race as Nelson River last time out and after travelling quite well for a long way got very tired late on. This was his first run for 116 days and that may have cost him late on. The handicapper dropped him 4lb for that effort back to 132. He’s run well off this mark a couple of times before including when 3rd at Cheltenham in a conditional jockeys race as well when 3rd to Not So Sleepy at Ascot in November 2019. He finished 7th in a Betfair Hurdle off 139 in 2019 only beaten 6 lengths and that could well be a target next season as could the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. He arguably wants a bit of cut in the ground and that is likely at Cheltenham in November. It was a disappointing run last week but the ground and the lay off may have contributed to this. If he is aimed at the Greatwood Hurdle next season, I hope he’s given a pipe opener before.

Coeur De Lion dropped 2lb to 92

Coeur De Lion is very likely to return to Royal Ascot now after he was dropped 2lb for his effort at Newbury over 2m. Dropped out early he was outpaced turning into the straight with 5 furlongs left to run but did run on enough for me to be very interested when back up in trip. The handicapper dropping him 2lb means he is just 1lb higher than when winning at Royal Ascot last year when the visor was put on. After 2 disappointing runs at Goodwood and Newmarket when never able to get involved the visor was replaced with cheekpieces but haven’t really worked. I expect to see a visor back on for Royal Ascot. Last year he came into Royal Ascot off the back of an 8th place at Kempton in March so going straight to Royal Ascot from Newbury won’t be an issue. Something about Royal Ascot or maybe just the track seems to suit his style of running and his form at Ascot reads 6th (off 91 when it turned into a sprint), 5th (off 93 when ridden too close to pace) and 1st (off 91).