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Ascot trends analysis best bet: Paul Nicholls targets another major prize with Irish Hill

Before the chasers take centre stage at Ascot on Saturday, this big-field handicap has our trends analyst Andrew of Fiosrach purring over a Paul Nicholls hurdler that ticks all the right boxes.

14.25 Ascot: Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle (2 miles 3¼ furlongs)

We’re hoping to bounce back after a disappointing day at the races last weekend, when our trends selections finished out of the places in very demanding conditions.

This week we are looking at a tough 16-runner handicap hurdle with the ground forecast at good to soft at the time of writing. A dry day on Friday and if the forecast proves correct then Saturday might see the going move more towards good.

With that in mind and using the trends below, we can hopefully narrow the big field down to three or four horses to analyse more deeply:

  • 16/18 – Ran within the last 5 weeks 
  • 15/18 – Had won between 1-3 times over hurdles 
  • 12/18 – Carried 10st-13lb or less 
  • 12/18 - Finished in the top 4 last time out 
  • 11/18 – Winning distance – 2 or less lengths 
  • 11/18 – Aged either 5 or 6 years old 
  • 11/18 – Placed favourites 
  • 10/18 – Had won over 2m 4f or further 
  •   9/18 – Went onto race at that season’s Cheltenham Festival (no winners) 
  •   8/18 – Priced 8/1 or bigger 
  •   8/18 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting 
  •   6/18 – Irish bred 
  •   6/18 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting 
  •   6/18 – Had run at Ascot over hurdles 
  •   5/18 – Winning favourite (1 joint) 
  •   3/18 – Raced at Sandown last time out 
  •   3/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of the last 5) 
  •   2/18 – Trained by Dr Richard Newland

The recent-run statistic managed to reduce the field by about 50% on its own, while the remaining trends have left us with a shortlist of three.

Irish Hill won this race last year and then struggled off his higher mark and as a result is now three pounds below that winning mark. The excellent Freddie Gingell takes off a further five pounds, which I think gives Irish Hill a massive chance here as Irish Hill runs with eight pounds less than last years’ win. 

Paul Nicholls is the expert at placing his horses in appropriate races and it will be no surprise to see Irish Hill win this again or go close.

Suggested best bet: Irish Hill each-way in the 14:25 at Ascot


Issam was second at Sandown last time out on soft ground when weakening in the latter stages, so can be expected to be suited by better ground and although he needs to improve to win that is not beyond the realms of possibility. Tom Symonds’ stable has been  in decent form in the last two weeks with a strike rate of 17%.

Mothill has had most of his wins at a much lower level, including a Class 4 event on his penultimate run at Nottingham on Boxing Day, and would need to improve massively to win this. 

He has first time cheekpieces and gets in on an incredibly low weight with his claiming jockey taking off five pounds, so he might be one to outrun his odds here.

Normally in these big field races I would put up a couple of selections, but in this case, Irish Hill stands out among our shortlisted candidates and has a strong chance here.

I recommend one point each-way, with the usual advice to shop around for additional places and the best each-way terms.

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