Johnson opts for Ballyoptic

ASCOT promises to serve up another great day of racing tomorrow (Saturday) from an outstanding card at the Berkshire track.

The feature race is the JLT Long Walk but the Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase (3.00pm) looks to be almost as competitive as the big handicap hurdle.

In-demand Richard Johnson has chosen to partner Ballyoptic after being offered the mount on Lil Rockerfeller in the JLT (2.25pm).

The champion jockey, who is bidding to win the race for a fifth time, will take up the spare ride on the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyoptic which came up for grabs due to the serious injuries suffered by Ryan Hatch at Cheltenham last Friday.

Ballyoptic was beaten six lengths by ante-post favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month, but Johnson feels his mount will be better suited to Ascot.

Johnson said: “From there I think he has got to improve to beat Harry Fry’s horse (Unowhatimeanharry). Harry’s horses are in good form, but so are Nigel Twiston-Davies’.

“At Ascot it’s a stayers’ track and he won the three-mile race at Aintree last year, so I would like to think a stiff track at Ascot would suit.”

Johnson’s change of heart has left Wiltshire handler Neil King looking for a replacement jockey for the in-form Lil Rockerfeller, as Trevor Whelan is serving a 16-day suspension. Lil Rockerfeller is the general 13-2 second favourite for the Long Walk, with the market dominated by Unowhatimeanharry at a best price of 11-8.

Daryl Jacob will ride French raider Alex De Larredya, who is something of an unknown quantity. Jacob has been over to school him over English hurdles, and is worth a second look. He appears to be improving quite rapidly and a strongly-run three miles looks likely to suit him down to the ground.

Colin Tizzard’s domination in the staying chasers division has been nothing short of sensational this campaign.

The stable has the first and second in the market for the King George and Gold Cup, the Welsh National favourite and the second favourite for the Champion Chase, so don’t be surprised if one of Tizzard’s lesser lights in Fourth Act goes well at a big price in the Silver Cup.

But shrewd punters have been eagerly awaiting the re-appearance of Amore Alato following his win in an Intermediate Chase in the first week of November at Sandown.

Very much the apple of canny trainer Johnny Farrelly’s eye, he disappointed a little when fancied for a competitive Novice Handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival and the Silver Cup, on a right-handed track, looks a great opportunity for the six-year-old gelding to make amends.

Consul De Thaix in the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle – better known as the Ladbroke – looks another worthy each way punt.

Master handler Nicky Henderson gave him a pipe cleaner at Sandown a couple of weeks ago and he may have a few pounds in hand off his mark of 135.

Saturday’s action on sand comes from Lingfield and includes the Listed Quebec Stakes (2.35), when Marco Botti’s Grendisar can make amends for a rusty re-appearance over course and distance last month when he raced for the first time in 232 days.

• CARRIGILL'S nap this weekend goes in Ascot’s Silver Cup (see below), and if outside the top four punters will receive their money back as a free bet.

AUGUR’S BEST BETS: Grendisar, Saturday Lingfield 2.35pm.

CARRIGILL’S NAP: Amore Alato, Saturday Ascot 3.00pm.

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