By Andrew Atkinson
Graeme McPherson saddles Ask Ben(3.00) in the BetWay Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 (C1) over 2 miles 7 furlongs at Sandown Park on Saturday.
Ask Ben, a beaten favourite last time out, is tipped each-way in the 17 runners field with jockey Kieran Woods up. Going is heavy, soft in places (Hurdle); soft, heavy in places (Chase).
Ask Ben was a shock 50-1 winner at Newcastle in 2018, a race McPherson revealed he hadn’t bet a £1 on his charge.
Ask Ben, second in the Albert Bartlett at Haydock Park in February 2019, over 3m in a Grade 2, Class 1 field, finished second at Cheltenham in December, over 2m 7f.
McPherson, deemed to have a smart prospect in Ask Ben a year ago, said: “He hadn’t shown enough at home – to think he was a ‘very nice’ horse.
“We knew he was a nice horse – but the win at Newcastle was a pleasant surprise.”
McPherson said: “Ask Ben is a relentless galloper. I don’t think he needs cut in the ground – but he’s better with it. On soft, a lot will struggle to go with him.”
Bold Plan (3.00) trained by Evan Williams and ridden by Adam Wedge, is also tipped each-way, amongst the plethora of runners eyeing the £52,000 winning purse.
A faller at the third fence in a Class 1 race at Ascot on January 1, Bold Plan previously won at Haydock Park in November, over 2m 2f (C2).
Bold Plan, finished 10th of 16 at Chepstow in October, in a field that saw noted opposition in the calibre of Cheltenham Festival bound Ballyandy; Greaneteen, Champagne Court and Imperial Aura.