A combination of the weather and restrictions on movement mean that huge numbers of people will spend the coming weekend largely indoors. Fortunately, there is some excellent sporting action to enjoy over the weekend including Saturday’s ITV Racing offering.
There are Gold Cup trials, ultra competitive handicaps and important novice races spread across Wetherby, Ascot and Down Royal on Saturday. To help add to the excitement we’ve gone through all eight ITV races and made our best Saturday racing tips below.
1:20 Ascot Underwriting Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m3f
There are several potentially smart horses in this handicap chase for novices which opens up the Saturday racing action on ITV. Falco Blitz has winning form at Ascot from last season when he had a good time of it over hurdles. Smarty Wild is another hurdle winner who is also hardy and consistent so should be right in the mix. Then there’s Trincomalee who made an impression on his chasing debut at the start of the month.
However, all of those contenders will need their best run to date if they are to get the better of the bookies’ favourite, Dr Sanderson. Confidence is high around Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old as he arrives hot on the heels of a win at Plumpton just 12 days ago. A second-season novice, Dr Sanderson could have a good time of it this campaign and should pick up a second win at what we fancy are cracking odds of 11/2.
1:35 bet365 Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m3½f
Many of the horses appearing across the high quality meetings this weekend are making their first appearances of the season. That’s not the case with Guy who already has a win under his belt thanks to a strong performance at Huntingdon earlier in the month. Nigel Twiston-Davies was happy with the run of his five-year-old and will expect it to lay the foundation for more success. There is every chance that he’ll enjoy more success as early as Saturday as Guy is the worthy favourite for the bet365 Handicap Chase at what looks likely to be a wet Wetherby.
The most impressive element of Guy’s recent success was that it was his first over fences. Indeed, he looked a horse transformed tackling the bigger obstacles as he was a rather unremarkable hurdler to say the least. Of all those in with a chance of challenging the 3/1 favourite, She’sasupermack represents the best value at decent each way odds of 12/1. Unlike Guy, she actually had some success over hurdles and built upon that last season over fences, so she must rate as a danger at a tempting each way price.
1:55 tote.co.uk Handicap Chase
Bryony Frost and Paul Nicholls are starting to move into dream team territory given some of the success they have had together over the last few years. Those two have already earned some big wins this season and there is plenty of support for them earning another win in the tote.co.uk Handicap Chase with Capeland the narrow favourite at 3/1.
The problem for Capeland is that he’ll have to do it under the burden of top weight which could be just beyond him. Connections of Ibleo know all about how tough it can be to win from the top of the weights. The seven-year-old went into his final race of last season chasing a hat-trick and although he ran well he just tired for the burden of the 12st 4lb he had to carry. It is a different story this time around for Venetia Williams’ talented gelding who is relatively well treated and can resume winning ways at 5/2.
2:10 bet365 Mares’ Hurdle
Verdana Blue featured prominently in the betting for the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle as soon as the market was priced up. The popular eight-year-old has seen her price crash in though since Paul Nicholls confirmed that Stormy Ireland would not be heading to Wetherby.
It is a shame that racing fans won’t get to see those two face off against one another and that there are now only seven confirmed runners out of a possible 20. Interest in the race is maintained by the fact that Verdana Blue lost when an odds-on favourite just a fortnight ago at Kempton. She can be forgiven for that disappointing run as it was her first over hurdles having run very well on the flat over the summer. Verdana Blue should return to form at Wetherby and we cannot oppose the big favourite here.
2:25 Ladbrokes Champion Chase
Grade 1, 3m
The build-up for the Cheltenham Festival always begins months before the racing starts at Prestbury Park. Indeed, punters will be taking a close look at the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in the hope that it gives some helpful pointers ahead of March’s Gold Cup.
Delta Work is the current bookies’ favourite for this highly prestigious Grade 1 contest. He has already had a run in the Gold Cup and the feeling is that he will learn and improve from the credible fifth place that he secured last March. However, it is another Gordon Elliott-trained horse who gets the nod for us, with Presenting Percy looming large at the decent price of 3/1.
Presenting Percy is another with previous Gold Cup experience although he has never seriously challenged for the win. He does have winning form at the Cheltenham Festival though, with the 2018 RSA Chase, and connections are hopeful that the best is yet to come now that he has been added to Elliott’s yard. This should be a cracking battle, with that little bit extra that Elliott is able to coax out of Presenting Percy potentially the difference maker.
2:45 bet365 Hurdle
Grade 2, 3m
As strong a Saturday of racing as this is, some big races have been hit by top quality withdrawals. That is very much the case for the bet365 Hurdle as Thyme Hill will no long be heading to West Yorkshire to take on Lisnagar Oscar, Roksana and company. It won’t be too long before we see Thyme Hill in action but in his absence this does look a very good chance for Copperhead to bag a Grade 2 win.
Lisnagar Oscar provided one of the shocks of the Cheltenham Festival when he won the Stayers’ Hurdle at the crazy price of 50/1. A repeat of that performance would be too much for his competition on Saturday but when you look through his form there isn’t much to back that run up with. He also carries a 6lb penalty which is a real challenge over 3m, especially with the ground on the soft side.
Copperhead has no such penalty and has lots of good form over this sort of trip. Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old spent last season among the novice chasing division, earning some good wins before falling in the RSA Chase. It will be interesting to see which route connections take with him this year but for now he can remind everybody of his class with a win at a very generous price of 16/1.
3:05 Sodexo Handicap Hurdle
It has been very wet around Britain over the last week but the going is holding up as good to soft at Ascot. Connections of Kid Commando will hope that it eases out a little bit in the lead up to the Sodexo Handicap Hurdle as their talented six-year-old has done his best work on soft ground. The worry is that a lack of cut in the ground will be especially challenging for him as he is bred to be better over longer distances than this 1m7½f trip but the market expects his class to get him through and that looks the right reading of this race.
The pace was just a little bit too quick for him over 2m in the Dovecote Hurdle back in February but he was a very good winner at Plumpton on his hurdle debut and he is the class horse in the field. Anthony Honeypot’s gelding has also been given a generous mark of 136 for his handicap debut so should take this before stepping up in trip and class as the season progresses.
3:20 Charlie Hall Chase
Class 2, 3m1f
Next we have one of Wetherby’s biggest races and what a tremendous renewal of the Grade 2 Charlier Hall Chase we have ahead of us on Saturday. Most of the talk ahead of the contest is about the market leader, Cyrname. Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old had an up and down time of it last time. He started his campaign by lowering the colours of Altior at Ascot but was unable to follow that win up in the King George and then put in a laboured performance in the Ascot Chase where he fell at the last.
Nicholls has had plenty of time to put Cyrname right but there are enough questions about him to believe that 2/1 is a little short for a race of this calibre. That is especially true as Cyrname doesn’t have a great record going left-handed.
Those concerns should open the door for Vinndication who can score at 9/4. Kim Bailey is bullish about the chances of his seven-year-old getting the better of Britain’s highest rated chaser. Bailey has reported that Vinndication is stronger than ever which could be ominous given the quality of his run when last seen at Cheltenham after the handicapper rather sternly raised him 8lb for his win in a tough handicap at Ascot.
3:40 Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap
Group 3, 3m
On a Saturday full of highlights, there are few more appealing betting races than the Sodexo Gold Cup. The decision to send Cyrname to Wetherby has given a chance to a few horses who have been able to sneak in at the bottom of the weights. Seven of the last 10 winners of this race were carrying 11st or less so this does look a very tough ask for the top weighted Black Corton even though he will carry the support of racing fans around the country with Bryony Frost on board.
Former Gold Cup contender, Might Bite, is another who would prove to be a popular winner but this does look a race where punters would be advised to have a couple of each way options on board. The first horse to consider in this regard is Valtor at 10/1 who should have ideal conditions for a big run. Preference narrowly goes to Flying Angel though at a bigger price of 20/1. He has run well in big field races at Ascot before and tends to go well fresh so has every chance of earning a place for a nice return.