The afternoon cards at Ascot, Wetherby, Down Royal and HQ provide a smart appetiser to the main event tonight at Santa Anita. Crockford considers the National Hunt hopefuls on show and the curtain closer at HQ and for Michael Hills career.

Old favourites and rising stars dominate the races over the sticks today. Punters will be disappointed not to see Sizing Europe line up in the Champion Chase at Down Royal, but Crockford considers this to be a wise choice by the trainer of the champion as the going and distance would have been against him especially with the tough rivals he would have faced.

The Charlie Hall (3.25 Wetherby) is an excellent renewal seeing the likes of Planet of Sound, Time for Rupert, Midnight Chase taken on by the young pretender  and favourite Silviniaco Di Conti. Crockford believes that the shrewd Hobbs has well placed his horse and that Planet of Sound should claim Wetherby’s biggest prize. The United House Gold Cup at Ascot is a cracking contest with Henderson’s newly acquired ex-Irish Roberto Goldback looking an interesting runner. In Ireland he was good and always contested the top prizes just falling short of that top level. In the same race the old favourite Poquelin for Paul Nicholls and Harry Derham looks massive each way value at 16/1 plus. Crockford believes exactly the same view could be held about the classy top weight Starluck in the race before on the card at Ascot.

HQ hold its last fixture of the year this afternoon, which will also be the last day of the illustrious career of Michael Hills. The brilliant horseman stands an excellent chance of signing off with a couple of winners. Especially strong is his chance in the two year listed race for fillies The Montrose Stakes where he rides the impressive Desert Image for Charles Hills. His last ride Bunraku looks to have strong claims too.

Crockford’s Dead Cert – Une Artiste (2.15 Wetherby)

Sometimes a tricky customer this filly for Henderson has bags of quality. Having won at the Cheltenham Festival last year at a big price she looks to be a Dead Cert in this listed contest. The only concern will be which filly turns up, but it is certainly worth taking the risk.

Crockford’s Whisper – Bancnuanaheireann (2.30 Newmarket e/w)

With the booking of Tom Queally this fourth placed in the Cambridgeshire horse should enjoy another good run up the Rowley Mile. He has won on testing ground before and should be forgiven his last run. Crockford is certain that double priced odds will look big later this afternoon.

Archer selects Desert Image

Archer’s Selection – Desert Image (1.55 Newmarket)

Winning by four lengths last time at HQ on the Rowley Mile this horse would certainly have Archer’s attention. Archer would be certain that the Hills family would prepare some excellent chances for Michael on his last day in the saddle – this is one of them.

Crockford’s gambles around the courses:

Ascot – Ivor’s King (12.50), Hadrian’s Approach (1.25), Chiberta King (2.00), Ile De Re and Starluck e/w (2.35), Roberto Goldback and Poquelin e/w (3.10) and Michael Flips (3.45)

Wetherby – Heez a Cracker (12.35), Our Island (1.40), Une Artiste (2.15), Smad Place (2.50), Planet of Sound (3.25) and Dusky Bob (4.00)

Down Royal – Moon Dice (1.45), Quito de la Roque (2.25), Bog Warrior (3.00), Tarquinius (3.35) and Silver Tassie (4.05)

Newmarket – Sillabub (12.15), Desert Image (1.55), Bancuanaheireann e/w (2.30), Mull of Killough (3.05), Trade Commissioner (3.40) and Bunraku (4.10)

Ayr – The Holinwell (2.45), Kudu Country (3.20) and Tap Night (3.50)

(Featured Photograph – Michael Hills at Goodwood by Stuart Rice)