French star among strong overseas entry for Ascot's Christmas Weekend

Entries are unveiled today for the three richest contests at Ascot's exciting Christmas Weekend, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17.

French star among strong overseas entry for Ascot's Christmas Weekend

Entries are unveiled today for the three richest contests at Ascot's exciting Christmas Weekend, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17.

Yanworth Picture:Pat Healy Photography

There are 26 entries for the Grade One highlight, the extended three-mile £100,000 JLT Long Walk Hurdle (2.25pm), staged on Saturday, December 17.

Yanworth Horseform (Alan King) is already a dual winner at Ascot, having taken the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle (2m) at this meeting last year and the G2 Coral Hurdle (nearly two and a half miles) on his reappearance this season on November 19, when he saw off the persistent challenge of Lil Rockerfeller Horseform (Neil King) by three-quarters of a length. The six-year-old would be stepping up to three miles for the first time in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle.

Unowhatimeanharry Horseform (Harry Fry) extended his unbeaten sequence over hurdles to six when taking the G2 Long Distance Hurdle over a similar trip at Newbury on November 25, when he had Ballyoptic (Nigel Twiston-Davies) six lengths back in second.

A strong overseas flavour to the JLT Long Walk Hurdle entries is provided by eight Irish-trained hopefuls and one raider from France.

The French-trained contender is Alex De Larredya Horseform (Francois Nicolle). The six-year-old was last seen out when the very impressive seven-length winner of the G1 Grand Prix D'Automne over three miles at Auteuil on November 5, when he had Ptit Zig (Paul Nicholls) back in third.

He reversed form with Ptit Zig, having been the two-length runner-up to that rival in the G1 Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil back in June.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owner Simon Munir, commented: "The plan is for Alex De Larredya to go over to Ascot for the JLT Long Walk Hurdle.

"The long-term aim is to go for the Grand Course De Haies D'Auteuil again. He has run in September, October and November, so the Long Walk would fit into his programme as the final race before he goes off for a winter break.

"With the Long Walk being a Grade One, the conditions of the race suit him as a Grade One winner and so we thought we could keep him ticking him over for it.

"Daryl (Jacob) will be going over to France to sit on him and school him over some English-style hurdles.

"Obviously, we have had to make the entry now just under a month away, but in principle if all goes well we will be coming over.

"He is an interesting horse in that he was second to Ptit Zig in the Grande Course De Haies D'Auteuil in June and then turned the tables on his rival last time out. It is going to be a tough-looking Long Walk."

Among the Irish-trained contingent are recent narrow G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle runner-up Apple's Jade (Gordon Elliott), who won G1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown in the spring but has yet to start over a distance further than two miles and a furlong.

The ever-powerful Willie Mullins team could be represented by last season's G1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle victor Vroum Vroum Mag and Shaneshill, who reverted to hurdles after finishing runner-up in the 2016 RSA Chase.

The now veteran Reve De Sivola (Nick Williams) loves Ascot and the JLT Long Walk Hurdle. The 11-year-olds finished runner-up to the great Thistlecrack in 2015 and won the G1 race in 2014, 2013 and 2012. West Approach (Colin Tizzard), a half-brother to Thistlecrack, is another contender.

The £150,000 Grade Three Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle (3.35pm), staged over two miles on Saturday, December 17, is always one of the most competitive and high-profile races of the entire season and has attracted 37 entries, including 11 from Ireland.

This year's renewal could see a rematch between Jolly's Cracked It (Harry Fry) and Sternrubin (Philip Hobbs), who famously dead-heated for first place in the 2015 renewal.

The strong Irish-trained contingent includes Golden Spear (Tony Martin) who has been in great form on the Flat with victories in a valuable contest at the Galway Festival in July and last time out in the Irish November Handicap.

The Irish challenge also includes recent G3 scorer Labaik (Gordon Elliott), 2015 Galway Hurdle victor Quick Jack (Tony Martin) and Campeador (Gordon Elliott), who was last seen when falling at the last when mounting a strong challenge in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Very valuable handicap chase action on December 17 is provided by the £100,000 Listed Silver Cup (3pm) over three miles, for which there are 45 entries.

A high-class entry includes G1 scorer Menorah (Philip Hobbs) and Irish Cavalier (Rebecca Curtis), who got the better of Menorah when taking the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October.

Smart second-season chasers Otago Trail (Venetia Williams), successful in the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on November 26, and recent Aintree scorer Thomas Brown (Harry Fry) also feature among the entries along with More Of That (Jonjo O'Neill), winner of the World Hurdle in 2014 who disappointed when favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 12

Ascot is offering a bonus of £10,000 to any horse placed in the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel on September 14 that goes on to win the Silver Cup (a bonus of £2,000 is offered if any such horse is placed in the Silver Cup).

Rightville Boy (Patrick Neville) was runner-up in the Guinness Kerry National on September 14 before going on to take fourth in the Munster National at Limerick on October 9.

County Limerick-based Neville is planning a trip to Ascot for the eight-year-old, who is a four-time winner in Ireland.

Neville said: "I am hoping to run Rightville Boy in the Silver Cup at Ascot next month, all being well.

"There is nice bonus on offer and it is a nice race to go for. He hasn't run for the last month and half, to help freshen him up for Ascot.

"I think the three miles should be fine for him as he has been second in a Kerry National and fourth in the Munster National.

"He is a very good jumper. He wants soft ground and has won on heavy ground, while when he won at Killarney it was yielding.

"He jumps and stays. If you are in, you have to take your chance."

Racing commences at 12.40 pm on Saturday, December 17. Weights for the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle and the Silver Cup will be revealed on Wednesday, December 7.

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