The second day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival is the main horse racing attraction this weekend and provides us yet more cracking National Hunt action to put off those winter blues. There are some very good races on the Saturday card with ITV Racing providing full coverage of the main four, including the biggest race of the weekend, the Ladbrokes Trophy.
Punters will also have a very close eye on the action from Newcastle, particularly the Fighting Fifth Hurdle which sees Epatante make her return. The ITV cameras will also be in attendance at Gosforth Park so racing fans have six races to enjoy in total. We have gone through each of those contests and picked out our best Saturday racing tips to make the most of the action.
1:50 Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4½f
Saturday’s first ITV Racing offering comes in the shape of a handicap hurdle which has only been run four times previously. The young race already has an impressive roll of honour including 2018 winner Champ who went on to win last year’s RSA Chase. Whether there is anything of Champ’s quality in this year’s field remains to be seen but we should be in for a cracking contest.
In terms of the winner, there are two horses at different stages of their development who stand out. First is the experienced Amour De Nuit who already has eight chase wins to his name but made a winning return over hurdles at Plumpton earlier in the month and is sure to come on for the run. Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old is an 8/1 shot and must rate as the main danger to the favourite, Tea Clipper.
The five-year-old jolly will have to burden the second top weight but he has progressed with every start so far so should be able to cope with an extra 7lb after his own winning return. His new mark means he’ll carry just 1lb more than Amour De Nuit. That suggests it will be close between the two with preference narrowly going to the younger horse and 11/4 a solid looking price.
2:05 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle has been the scene of the return of many top class hurdlers over the years and it is Epatante who fills the role of the returning superstar this year. Nicky Henderson’s mare is making her first appearance since winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Although she didn’t have to face the likes of Buveur D’Air, Saldier or Honeysuckle, the way she quickened away after a huge leap at the last marked her down as something very special indeed.
J P McManus has had several top class horses who have only been seen to best effect after swapping hurdles for fences. That is not the plan for Epatante. She is only a relatively slight horse so will be kept to the smaller obstacles and connections will hope she can really go on to be something special. There are lots of big prizes for her to win in this sphere and although she’ll have to be very good to beat the likes of Sceau Royal and Silver Streak at Newcastle on Saturday, Epatante is very much the right favourite at Evens. That looks solid value to us and we expect it to shorten a little come the off.
2:25 Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Intermediate Hurdle
After a good season on the flat, Gary Moore has already had a fair amount of success to celebrate in the new jumps season. He still has the looming issue of getting Goshen fit to solve at some point in the coming weeks and months but his superstar is far from the only exciting horse under his care. Botox Has is one example of a Moore horse who has done a lot of good work which has been obscured by the shadow cast by Goshen but the four-year-old has a chance to grab the limelight in the Ladbrokes Intermediate Hurdle.
Botox Has looked especially impressive when winning at Cheltenham last month in what was his first outing since December 2019. That return to action should bring more out of this talented young horse who can pick up another win at odds of 11/2 which must be considered a decent price.
3:00 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
Grade 3, 3m2f
The Ladbrokes Trophy is the feature race of the weekend. Over the years this Grade 2 handicap has been used by trainers to test out their best staying chasers ahead of a crack at the Grand National or the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Several of the 18 strong field will go on to contest even bigger races but recent renewals have shown that punters should consider who is best suited to win this showdown at Newbury rather than who has the most untapped potential.
That was certainly the case last year when De Rasher Counter fit the bill perfectly as a Ladbrokes Trophy horse, even though he was unable to win any more races during the season. So, horses such as Vinndication, Aye Right and Copperhead who will feature prominently in the betting for many big races as the season goes on are avoided in favour of Cloth Cap at 10/1.
Conditions look to be perfect for Jonjo O’Neill’s eight-year-old. He is seen to best effect when there are sound underfoot conditions and he gets a well-run race. Given the competitiveness of the field he is likely to get a decent gallop to aim at so expect him to tank along nicely before kicking for home. From there it will be about whether he can hold on but 10/1 (similar odds to the last two Ladbrokes Trophy winners) is a good enough price to back him and find out.
3:15 Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase
Aidan Coleman is an experienced jockey who has won some big races on some excellent horses but he could be forgiven for feeling a little extra nervous energy when he woke up on Friday morning. He had the big booking of riding Paisley Park at Newbury on Friday before partnering up with Epatante on Saturday.
There will be less pressure on Coleman’s shoulders in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase and less much less money staked on The Butcher Said’s chances but those who take the 4/1 currently available could well be celebrating along with Coleman on Saturday afternoon.
Olly Murphy’s seven-year-old is making a quick return to action having run with credit at Cheltenham just a fortnight ago. Indeed, the seven-year-old had got himself into a great position to launch a challenge to The Big Breakaway before stumbling after landing at the penultimate fence. That mistake was a contrast to the rest of his jumping which had been sound and whilst it cost him momentum it’s unlikely to have dented his confidence. The Butcher Said remains open to a lot of improvement and can make up for that error with a big run at Newcastle.
3:35 Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m½f
Saturday’s action ends with a strong looking renewal of the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase. Although this is a handicap, it is a race in which class has told often in recent years and therefore it makes sense to concentrate on those towards the top of the betting. Indeed, it looks a very good chance for either Ibleo or Moonlighter to make amends for near misses last time out.
There are some interesting parallels between the two horses. Both are aged seven, both began their campaigns in Class 1 handicaps races in which they were both beaten by a very small margin. The main difference between the two is that 10lb extra that Moonlighter will have to carry.
On first viewing, that may suggest that of the joint favourites it’s Ibleo who is the best option. However, the quality of Moonlighter’s run against the excellent Greaneteen last time out suggests that he is of slightly higher calibre than his market rival. We reckon that the handicapper is still some way from getting the better of him and so he is the marginal preference for us here.