Racing: Springaleak can burst into Ascot limelight

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NEVER mind shopping, there are just eight punting days before the annual three-day fast which precedes the feast on Boxing Day.

Ascot's card on Saturday should be enough to keep even the most manic gamblers happy for a few days, as it features both the SGB Chase and Long Walk Hurdle.

Rowlandsons Jewels was an impressive winner from out of the handicap at Doncaster yesterday, and is likely to make a quick reappearance under a penalty in the SGB, but he has proved difficult to win with in the past and may have to settle for a place behind Springaleak.

One of the most progressive chasers of last season, Springaleak won her first five starts before finishing sixth in the Sun Alliance at the Cheltenham Festival. A promising reappearance at Newbury last month will have sharpened her up and she can resume her progression through the ranks.

The Long Walk Hurdle promises to be equally competitive, with Muse, Trapper John, Tyrone Bridge, Burgoyne and Nomadic Way among the 17 entries.

Muse stayed on well to beat Morley Street at the Berkshire course last month, but is far from certain to stay the extra five furlongs here, while Trapper John has not been out this season and may be ring-rusty. Tyrone Bridge was beaten a neck by Burgoyne at Newbury recently, but was awarded the race in the stewards' room having been carried across the track on the run-in. He can prove that decision right by winning again in spite of a 4lb swing in the weights.

Ludlow on a Monday is rarely the setting for a top-class novice chase, but tomorrow Billy Bathgate and Derab have been attracted by the best purse of the day. Nicky Henderson will be keen to restore Billy Bathgate's confidence as his charge has failed to complete the course on his last two starts, but Derab (1.30) put in a flawless display when winning here recently and will not be troubled by today's shorter trip.

Major's Law, a useful performer on the Flat when trained by Clive Brittain, is certain to improve considerably on his hurdling debut when third at Catterick, and looks a banker at Folkestone (12.45) on Tuesday.

Mary Reveley's Candy Tuff (3.00) makes his chasing bow at Bangor on Wednesday and cannot be opposed, while those who prefer to see the fate of their money settled at speed can back Appledorn (2.00) and Arc Lamp (2.30) in their respective sprints on the all-weather at Southwell on Tuesday.