Bayan the answer to big betting race at Ascot
Bayan has some top class form in big field handicap hurdle contests and looks decent each-way value in the Ladbroke at Ascot today (3.30).
Trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott, the five-year-old has won four of his 10 starts over hurdles and shown improved form on each occasion.
The gelding put in a terrific effort when third of 28 to Whisper in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, and also ran a cracker when second of 20 to Thomas Edison the Galway Hurdle off a mark of 141.
Although now 5lb higher in the weights, Bayan may still be open to further improvement and those runs show that he is well-suited by the hurly burly of big fields and a strongly run race.
That is a big plus in this line-up and Bayan has a high cruising speed and potent turn of foot when things drop right.
With the stable in terrific form, and Davy Condon in the saddle, everything looks in place for a huge run.
There are plenty of dangers in a wide open affair, and two that made my shortlist were Balgarry and Shelford.
The former landed a juvenile hurdle in France back in 2010 before joining trainer David Pipe and bolting up on handicap debut in the mud at Newbury over 2m 1f off a mark of 129 after 557 days on the sidelines.
The seven-year-old then ran very well to finish seventh of 28 in the Coral Cup at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival over 2m 5f, leading until being headed approaching the last.
Balgarry will appreciate the drop back to 2m judged on that run, and off the same mark of 134 could be potentially well-treated if ready to rock after an absence of 1011 days.
Shelford has a progressive profile and represents trainer Dan Skelton who saddled Willow’s Saviour to win the valuable prize 12 months ago.
The five-year-old opened his account over hurdles when beating the highly regarded Emerging Talent at Chepstow and followed up with a game success over Aubusson on handicap debut at the same venue.
The runner-up has franked the form by going on to land a hot handicap at Haydock, and that makes Shelford looks a massive player off just 7lb higher given his upwardly mobile profile.