Ante-post racing preview: Ascot set for bumper card after equine flu shutdown

Martin Green

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 8:39 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 8:39 PM UTC

Horse racing fans can look forward to several big races at Ascot on Saturday after the equine flu shutdown was brought to a halt.

<p>Horse racing fans can look forward to a bumper nine-race card at Ascot on Saturday as several races were rescheduled after the equine flu outbreak. Racing resumes on Wednesday after a six-day shutdown that followed six cases of equine flu at Donald McCain’s Cheshire stables. Big races like the Denman Chase and the Betfair Hurdle were cancelled as 174 yards were placed in lockdown to prevent the disease from spreading. The British Horseracing Authority has decided that racing can now resume and punters have some serious catching up to do.</p><p>The serious action will take place at Ascot on Saturday after a big meeting at Newbury was cancelled on February 9. The Denman Chase, which was set to pit Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Native River against King George VI victor Clan Des Obeaux, is now moving to Ascot on Saturday. The Betfair Hurdle, a Grade 3 handicap run over two miles at Newbury, is also slated to be crammed into the card at Ascot.</p><p>It is already one of the biggest race days of the year, as it features the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase, one of the season’s most prestigious contests. This 2 mile and 5 furlong race has seen some famous winners in recent years, including Cue Card and Waiting Patiently. The Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase and the Weatherbys Chase are also big draws on the day. Throw in heavyweight contests like the Betfair Hurdle and the Denman Chase and this becomes one of the most important days in the 2018-19 National Hunt calendar.</p><p>Native River has won the Denman Chase for the last two years for Colin Tizzard, and the Gold Cup champion was the odds-on favourite at 4/5 with <a href=";a=bf7f64f4-cd67-4904-9b00-6ded1d41fd18" target="_blank">Bet365</a>, <a href=";a=a710bfac-73c1-4a57-b441-2caf1b9f397b" target="_blank">William Hill</a> and <a href=";a=df66db4b-b019-4343-9fc7-6c4f20e2a356" target="_blank">Paddy Power</a> to make it a hat-trick of victories. Clan Des Obeaux was out at 13/8 before the race was scrapped, with the talented Anibale Fly at 8/1 and The Last Samurai an interesting outsider at 20/1. It remains to be seen if they will all head to Ascot for the big race, but it should prove to be a competitive field.</p><p>Waiting Patiently heads the beating at 13/8 with Paddy Power and Betfair for the Ascot Chase and he is attracted the lion’s share on the ante-post bets. He unseated his rider at the King George VI Chase, which Clan Des Obeaux seized, but before that he was on a seven-race winning streak and he beat Cue Card to win this race last year. Politologue, a Group 1 winner who was fourth in the King George VI Chase, also looks interesting at 11/4, and he could make a great each-way bet if he drifts out to 4/1, as he is always there or thereabouts.</p><p>There is also exciting racing to look forward to over the Irish Sea on Saturday. The big race is the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. Presenting Percy, the current ante-post favourite to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup ahead of Native River and Clan Des Obeaux, is the 5/6 favourite with Betfair and Paddy Power to win this race and that looks like a really tempting bet. He has previously won at Gowran and he showed his class when clinching victory in the Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last year, so he should be too strong for the field in this one.</p><p><strong>What is equine flu?</strong></p><p>Equine influenza is an acute, highly contagious, virus disease that affects the respiratory tracts of horses. Humans cannot catch it, but they can carry it on their skin, hair and clothing. Symptoms include a very high temperature lasting for a few days, a hard, dry cough, watery nasal discharge, enlarged glands, red eyes, depression, a loss of appetite and filling of lower limbs. All in all, exactly what you do not want to see in a prize racehorse. Horses with respiratory infections should be given complete rest and they are not advised to take vigorous exercise until two weeks after the symptoms have gone. Equine flu is hard to contain, which is why stables have been shut down.</p>
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