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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle – 3.00 Ascot, Saturday, February 20

The Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle, run over 2 miles 3½ furlongs at Ascot, is one of the most competitive races of the day on Saturday, numerically, and in terms of the average starting price of recent winners.

The bookmakers have, once again, excelled themselves, offering eight of the 21-strong field at single-figure prices, yet just one at 33/1. As ever, under the circumstances, a cursory glance at Betfair Exchange prices, and possibly a bet at Betfair Starting Price, might be a shrewd move for value seekers.

The complete outsider of the party, Dubawi Island (33/1), lost touch going down the back straight when only tenth of 17, beaten 25 lengths, behind Rock The Kasbah over course and distance last month. However, Venetia Williams’ 6-year-old is only 2lb higher in the weights than when second of ten, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind If In Doubt over 2 miles 5½ furlongs at Wincanton on Boxing Day and would have a decent chance on that form. The Dubawi gelding does seem to be an ‘all-or-nothing’ type, but could go well at generous odds if in the right mood.

Croco Bay (28/1) hasn’t raced over hurdles for the best part of three years and his best performance in that sphere came when making all to win a 0-125 novices’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 2 furlongs, at Kelso off a handicap mark of 117. Of course, plenty of water has flown under the bridge in the meantime, but his best performance over fences came when third of twenty, beaten 5 lengths, behind Next Sensation in the Grand Annual Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, off a handicap mark of 149. He’s been highly tried on three subsequent starts over fences and, while his ability over the smaller obstacles nowadays is a complete unknown, he’s arguably well handicapped, off a mark of 140, on the pick of his chasing form.

Selections: Ascot 3.00 Dubawi Island (33/1 with Bet365), Croco Bay (28/1 with Bet365)

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