We have an absolute feast of racing to look forward to this weekend, a feast made all the more exciting by the presence of fans inside the courses. Best of the lot, it is the card at Aintree that takes top billing on Saturday afternoon. With high profile chases such as the Becher Chase and the Grand Sefton Chase to enjoy, Aintree provides enough entertainment on its own for racing fans. The ITV Racing cameras will also be covering the action from Sandown on Saturday at which the main attraction is the return of Altior in the Tingle Creek Chase. Not a bad supporting cast we wouldn’t say!
Both Aintree and Sandown will allow small numbers of fans back through the gates which is a major plus for horse racing. Much as it would be amazing to be there, those watching on from home won’t miss a step, will be a great deal warmer than those on course and can take advantage of our selection of the best ITV Racing tips for every live race.
1:30 William Hill Becher Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 3m2f
There is no messing around with the ITV Racing action this weekend. The coverage kicks off with an exciting renewal of the Becher Chase, one of the few races to be run over the Grand National fences. The trends show that previous experience of these unique fences is a prerequisite for winning the Becher Chase but Paul Nicholls is hopeful that Yala Enki’s general experience will see him through his course debut. The top weight will certainly have to do it the hard way but he has solid each way claims at 9/1.
Ramses De Teillee doesn’t only have experience of the Grand National fences, he has experienced the Grand National itself. David Pipe’s eight-year-old was unable to complete the marathon in 2019 but he has since won some very good races and he could provide jockey Tom Scudamore with another big win after his success in the Ladbrokes Trophy last weekend.
Others to consider are Kimberlite Candy who finished second last year and Walk In The Mill who is going for a hat-trick of wins in this race. It is Le Breuil who just about gets the nod though at a price of 6/1. Ben Pauling’s eight-year-old will be fitter for his seasonal reappearance in October. He has much more still to give and is surely underestimated by his current rating of 141, so expect a successful season to really get started at Aintree on Saturday.
1:50 Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
Horse racing fans have already been treated to some excellent front-running performances this season. Some big races have gone the way of prominent racers who set out to take the wind out of their opponents’ sails and we may see another fine example of a horse making all in the Henry VII Novices’ Chase, with Ga Law our tip to do it the hard way here.
Gavin Sheehan and Daryl Jacob have both employed forward tactics on Ga Law this season with both jockeys securing some impressive wins on board. It is Jacob who gets the ride on Saturday and he will be relieved to have a simple game plan to work with. Ga Law made a mockery of the four-year-old allowance when romping to a 22-length win in a three-runner Grade 2 at Wincanton last month. Against better, more experienced rivals, that allowance is going to be more useful at Sandown where Ga Law may well go off at shorter than the 13/2 currently available about his chances.
2:05 williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle
Sandwiched between two taxing handicap chases we find this exciting hurdle race for three-year-old fillies. At this stage of their careers, each of the 12 runners in the field have a lot to learn and their best days are very much likely to be ahead of them but that hasn’t quite put a lid on the excitement levels about some of these.
Connections of Megan are particularly excited about her chances of becoming a high class performer in the months and years to come. She wasted no time getting off the mark over hurdles with a strong run in her debut in this sphere last time out at Leicester. Her pace at the end was impressive and the bookies have taken note of the way she was able to add solid jumping to the engine that was evident from her time running on the flat in Germany. Even so, Megan still looks a fair price to win this at 6/4.
2:25 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
The Tingle Creek Chase’s roll of honour is every bit as impressive as you’d hope for such a prestigious Grade 1. Some of the stars of years gone by such as Desert Orchid and Kauto Star went on to have success in the big staying chases but others including Flagship Uberalles, Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre were kept to the shorter distances. There is always a clamour for a horse to be stepped up in trip after success in big minimum distance races but, as connections of Altior found out last season, it is often worth resisting that temptation.
Altior was beaten by Cyrname in the 1965 Chase last season. In hindsight it is obvious that 2m5f was never going to suit like 2m does. His attempts to then reclaim his crown as the best minimum distance chaser around were ended by injury (after returning to winning ways in the Game Spirit Chase). Were it not for that injury Nicky Henderson’s 10-year-old would be much shorter in the betting for the Tingle Creek Chase than 5/6. It is hard to get too excited about that sort of price generally but for a horse of Altior’s incredible ability it does look a fair reading of the race and a price you very rarely see for a horse with such class.
Punters who are looking to take the favourite on have some very good options to go to war with. Paul Nicholls has a particularly strong challenge with Politologue and rising star Greaneteen both surely having chances. The race is all about Altior though and with Henderson confident that he is fit and raring to go, this should be a reminder of just how good he is at a price we might not see again anytime soon.
2:40 William Hill Many Clouds Chase
Grade 2, 3m1f
Only five runners have been confirmed for this year’s renewal of the Many Clouds Chase. According to the bookies’ odds two of them can be discounted – Lake View Lad at 16/1 and Keeper Hill at 66/1 – but it is possible to make very strong claims about the chances of Santini, Native River and popular battler, Frodon.
Santini is the favourite with the bookies at odds of 11/8 as he makes his first appearance of the season. For the last few seasons the eight-year-old has been billed as the coming thing and he really proved that promise when missing out on winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup by just a neck to Al Boum Photo.
Native River is another who has competed right at the very top level and everybody at Colin Tizzard’s yard is hopeful that they can coax the best out of the 10-year-old so he gets another crack at the Gold Cup come March. It does look as though Native River’s best days may be behind him though, which is not the case with Frodon who has been consistently running to a rating of just under 170 for two years now.
Therefore, it’s the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old who provides the biggest challenge to Santini. However, on balance we feel that this is a great chance for the favourite to get his season off to a winning start and start building the momentum for the even bigger challenges to come.
3:00 Betfair Exchange Back And Lay London National Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m5f
Cloudy Glen is the favourite for the London National after returning to form a few weeks ago. The seven-year-old endured a pretty torrid time of things last season and so the quality of his performance to win at Fontwell was a very impressive feat of training by Venetia Williams. The question, however, is whether he can be trusted to maintain that level in an altogether more difficult race in which he is the top weighted runner.
Crosspark heads into the London National having answered similar questions to those being posed of Cloudy Glen. He too did not have a good time of it last season but back to back second placed finishes have done wonders for his confidence and that of his trainer, Caroline Bailey. Bailey and his owners chose this race ahead of the Becher Chase and Crosspark can show that they were right to make that call by winning at fair odds of 9/2.
3:15 William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m5f
The Grand Sefton Chase is another chance to see some of the famous Grand National fences in action. The race itself is run over the considerably shorter distance of 2m5f compared to the Grand National but there are some similarities. This is a highly competitive affair with several potential winners and victory will demand both a very strong engine and high class jumping ability, especially given the ground seems likely to be soft at best.
Didero Vallis is one of those in the Grand Sefton field who has the required attributes to deliver the goods. What he doesn’t have is much consistency which is why he is some way down the betting at 9/1. The Venetia Williams yard is in very good form at the moment so there is every chance that we could see the best of this talented seven-year-old. Will that be enough to finish ahead of all of Huntsman Son, Modus and Lord Du Mesnil? Maybe not but Didero Vallis can finish ahead of enough of them to return nicely on an each way bet.
3:35 Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle
Mister Coffey is a fairly warm favourite for the December Handicap. He has formed a good partnership with Nico de Boinville and Nicky Henderson made sure he ran at Sandown rather than Aintree so that partnership can continue. De Boinville was mightily impressed by Mister Coffey’s performance when dismantling the field on his handicap debut but can he repeat the trick having been raised 10lb for that win?
The favourite is better off than top weighted Solo who has it all to prove after a couple of very disappointing runs either side of his post-season break. Paul Nicholls’ four-year-old would surely win if giving his best but he cannot be trusted to give that at the moment.
Rosie And Millie is a far more reliable performer. For all that she may not have the class of some of these, Michael Scudamore’s mare is well placed to be a serious contender. With just 10st 9lb on her back she can keep the yard’s good form going by winning the December Handicap at 8/1.