One trainer, one horse, one jockey and one race to watch on Saturday
It is often said that when the ground is testing, runners from the Venetia Williams stable should be noted and the trainer is represented in the feature contests at Ascot and Haydock.
Fanion D'Estruval seems to have plenty on his plate in a strong-looking Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase (3.35) at Ascot, but is talented, open to improvement and has testing-ground form from his time in France.
Weather doubts in Merseyside might mean stable jockey Charlie Deutsch rides him rather than head to Haydock for stablemate Royale Pagaille, who runs in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase (2.40).
A heavy-ground course winner last month, Royale Pagaille then impressed at Kempton over Christmas and may emerge as a leading chaser if successful in a race Williams landed with General Wolfe (1999) and The Outlier (2007).
Connections of Magic Of Light have overcome Brexit and Covid-19 complications to travel her over from Ireland for Ascot's Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares' Hurdle (1.15), which the Randox Grand National contender has won for the last two years.
Deemed better than ever after romping home at Newbury five weeks ago, Magic Of Light finished second to Tiger Roll in the Aintree spectacular in 2019 and her campaign has been geared around another National tilt.
Jessica Harrington's raider faces a tough task with the high-class Roksana in opposition, but has proved what a capable and versatile mare she has been in this race for the last two years and it would be no surprise if she gave a her big rival a scare, for all that Aintree in the spring is the main aim.
Nico de Boinville would not be the most frequent visitor to Haydock, especially when Ascot stages a meeting, but Nicky Henderson's stable jockey is set for the joys of the M5 and M6, although he will surely not mind the journey if Buveur D'Air motors home in the Unibet Hurdle (3.15) that remembers four-time winner The New One.
With Aidan Coleman on stablemate and Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante, De Boinville has come in for the ride on Buveur D'Air, who landed hurdling's most prestigious prize in 2017 and 2018.
He has been off since a horror hoof injury incurred in the 2019 Fighting Fifth, but Henderson has been thrilled with his recovery and he could be a enjoyable spin for De Boinville, who – in Allart, Llandinabo Lad, Hijack and Lamanver Pippin – has a fine book of rides on Haydock's card.
January is a time to warm up and the Clarence House (3.35 Ascot) looks a hot affair with Champion Chase hero Politologue out to cement his reputation as Britain's leading two-mile chaser.
He won the Tingle Creek in commanding fashion when last seen, but this assignment is not easy with the classy Waiting Patiently dropping a mile in trip after his honourable second in the King George VI Chase four weeks ago.
Defi Du Seuil sparkled when winning the Clarence House last year, but his star has dimmed since, although he has bounced back from setbacks before. Prolific mud-lover First Flow adds extra spice to a race that is traditionally tasty and appears as mouthwatering as ever.
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