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Houblon Des Obeaux handicapped to win Ascot Silver Cup

When Triolo D’Alene won the Hennessy Gold Cup last month, Trainer Nicky Henderson suggested that they had probably ruined his handicap for the 2014 Grand National. The handicapper has raised the French import by 11lbs and he races off a career-high mark of 158 on Saturday.

That gives Houblon Des Obeaux a hefty 13lb pull in the weights from Newbury where he was beaten 18 lengths. Perhaps more significantly, it means that Triolo D’Alene is now 3lbs worse off than when beaten 9 lengths over course and distance by Venetia Williams’s gelding in November.

Henderson’s horse may have needed the run that day but is more likely to be inconvenienced by the soft ground here than his rival. Houblon Des Obeaux also ran well at Ascot when second to Rocky Creek as a novice and is just preferred at the revised weights.

The Ladbroke Hurdle takes centre stage and the gamble on Totalize shows no sign of abating. Wayne Hutchinson has been booked to ride Brian Ellison’s gelding who may even challenge for favouritism.

The form of Cheltenham’s Greatwood Hurdle is usually worth following and Dell Arca (1st) and Flaxen Flare (4th) have to be respected. The latter has an 8lbs pull with David Pipe’s gelding and could give Gordon Elliott a second consecutive win in the race.

Nicky Henderson saddles the well-fancied Rolling Star and Chatterbox whilst Paul Nicholls relies on Ptit Zig and Irish Saint. Willie Mullins has sent over hat-trick seeking City Slicker and he is another with claims in a wide open race.

The Long Walk Hurdle should go the way of At Fishers Cross after Celestial Halo had to be withdrawn with a foot infection. Last year’s winner Reve De Sivola and the consistent Salubrious should still make this a decent contest but At Fishers Cross may have too much speed in the closing stages.

Tony McCoy has another leading chance in the JP McManus colours when he partners the promising chaser Pendra for Charlie Longsdon in the 1.50. The five-year-old looks to have plenty of weight with 11st 11lb but handles soft ground well and is the least exposed in the field.

Selections: 12.45 Brave Buck, 1.15 Easter Day, 1.50 Pendra, 2.25 At Fishers Cross, 3.00 Houblon Des Obeaux, 3.35 Flaxen Flare