Ascot is the focal point of the racing weekend as their crucial two-day meeting reaches a crescendo when the Grade 1 Marsh Hurdle, known to most as the Long Walk Hurdle, is run at 2.25 on Saturday.

Paisley Park, the current Stayers’ Hurdle champion, is the forecast 1/4 favourite and, while he’s no betting proposition at those odds, all eyes will be on him to see if he can keep his run going as well as his place firmly at the top of the Stayers’ Hurdle market for the Cheltenham Festival.

In behind it’s arguably too close to call between The Worlds End, Tobefair and the returning L’Ami Serge who should all be fighting for just one-way place, but none of this takes anything way from the prestige of the event.

Hobbs Could Land Silver Cup

The market for the Silver Cup Handicap Chase (3.00) is a very tight one, but look out for a potential gamble developing on Philip Hobbs’ Jerrysback. While owner JP McManus has two horses in the race, this one is the choice of jockey Barry Geraghty and although he started off with a poor run first time back this season, that has been the pattern before and on a line through Vinndication who he has very close form with, Jerrysback could have around 10lbs in hand on the handicap making him a great value betting proposition.

Elsewhere on the card Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side, only 8/1 for the Ladbrokes Trophy a matter of weeks ago, may be allowed to go off at a thoroughly backable price in the Graduation Chase at 1.15 and he is of strong interest to many. Had he run into the first three or four last time which he was expected to do, he’d be coming here probably top-rated and yet gets up to 7lbs in weight from the rest of the field, something his trainer very much hopes he can take advantage of despite the heavy ground.

Up at Haydock Park where underfoot conditions are the same, the feature race is the Listed Abram Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle which again could give major pointers towards the Cheltenham Festival in March. While Anthony Honeyball’s Deja Vue is likely to go off favourite, she was beaten in November by Jamie Snowden’s Early Morning Rain who re-opposes and could just be the best bet of the day at the Merseyside Track.

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Quality All-Weather Action

 At this time of year, it’s easy to forget the flat runners but while everything we see over the jumps pretty much leads us to Cheltenham in March, likewise every decent horse we watch on the all-weather could end up running on Lingfield’s extremely rich All-Weather Championships day at Easter and so should be noted.

There’s a decent mares’ conditions race over seven furlongs at 1.30, but the feature is a mile-and-a-quarter Listed event at 2.00 which has captured the imagination; the Quebec Stakes. John Gosden runs Court House here, a solid type known for chasing home the same trainer’s Wissahickon a couple of times over this course and distance a year or so ago, but he is once again the stable second-string behind the exciting Dubai Warrior in this contest.

Back in spring this one was thought of as a Derby horse no less, and since coming back from injury in August he has gone from strength to strength on synthetic surfaces and so a sparkling performance is expected of him on Saturday under Rab Havlin.

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