It is always a good Saturday when the ITV Racing coverage comes from Cheltenham. That is the case this weekend with the Cotswold track providing some excellent racing including the return of Goshen in the International Hurdle and some informative races for March. The countdown to the Festival is well and truly on and here is hoping that it can go ahead in front of at least some fans.
Back to the present and Doncaster also hosts some quality racing with small but select fields, so there is plenty of live televised action for punters to get stuck into. That’s exactly what we have done by going through each of the key races and finding the best value in our regular Saturday Racing Tips feature.
1:50 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 2m4½f
The first ITV Racing contest of the day comes courtesy of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, an historic and prestigious handicap which is best known by racing fans as the December Gold Cup. Despite prize money taking a knock in racing generally there is still a very handy £60,000 first prize up for grabs and this has attracted a full field of 17 runners.
There are potential winners spread throughout the betting market starting with the bookies’ favourite, Master Tommytucker. Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old had wind surgery in the summer and it looks to have been just the ticket to getting him to realise his potential. He has already made three starts this season, winning his last two. The 15-length romp at Haydock last time out was particularly impressive and there is a real chance that the top weight will be able to outshine his rivals at a nice enough price of 6/1.
Of all the options with whom to take the favourite on, the most appealing is Annie Mc at 22/1. A mistake in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival cost her momentum in that race and in her career in general. Jonjo O’Neill still believes that he has a talented mare on his hands and after a good blow in her seasonal reappearance the six-year-old has every chance of reminding everybody just how good she is by earning at least a place. 22/1 looks a nice each way price but overall it is the favourite for us.
2:05 bet365 December Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 3
Doncaster is very much playing a supporting role to Cheltenham on Saturday with a number of horses initially entered in races at both tracks before final declarations. That has left contests such as the December Novices’ Chase with small fields which is a shame for the race as a spectacle but not so much for connections of Ofalltheginjoints. The Colin Tizzard-trained six-year-old has gone from having a decent chance of winning this Grade 2 to being the clear favourite and he should oblige at odds of 11/8.
Ofalltheginjoints did some good work as a hurdler but in just two starts over fences he has already shown that he is best suited to life as a chaser. The early promise from his chasing debut at Aintree was confirmed by winning as the favourite against seven rivals at Exeter last month. He will only improve for those two performances, which is surely very bad news for the rest of the field at Doncaster.
2:25 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 2, 3m
The complexion of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle changed somewhat when Gordon Elliott’s Fakiera was removed from the race. He was expected to utilise his strong finishing effort to land this Grade 2 prize and in his absence it’s Ashtown Lad who is getting most support in the betting.
The six-year-old has made steady and impressive progress over hurdles since coming over from Ireland where he was a point-to-point winner before his career under rules began. He certainly looked to be far too good for a mark of 123 when winning readily at Uttoxeter a few weeks ago. With more still in hand he is the right favourite for this and should get the job done. 5/2 looks a more than fair price but if you do want to take him on then Ask A Honey Bee looks the best of the rest to us at the bigger price of 11/2.
2:40 bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m½f
We have another small field contest next up at Doncaster. Only five runners are set to compete in the Summit Juvenile Hurdle but that is enough for the prospect of an upset in this Triumph Hurdle trial.
Of the five confirmed for the race it’s Monmiral who has the best chance of Triumph Hurdle glory. His win on debut at Auteuil was enough to catch the attention of his new owners (who include Sir Alex Ferguson) who bought him last month and promptly sent him to Paul Nicholls’ yard. He won on debut for his new connections and is as short as 8/13 in places to follow up with a third straight success. The best price right now is 4/6 but even that looks too short to our eyes, despite him being the right favourite.
However, this is Monmiral’s toughest assignment to date and he may just find that Glorious Zoff is too good on the day. He too made a very good impression on his hurdling debut but then found the pace far too slow for his liking at Sedgefield last time out. That blip can most certainly be forgiven and the market has surely overreacted to it so snap up the 5/2 available about Glorious Zoff’s chances.
3:00 Unibet International Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m1f
The return of the hugely exciting Goshen to hurdling is one of the big stories of the weekend ahead. Gary Moore’s four-year-old ran a couple of times on the flat without pulling up any trees in recent months but the market is bullish about his chances of making a winning return to the jumps scene as he is the 11/4 favourite for the International Hurdle.
Make no mistake, this is a very big race for Goshen to make his return. It is a bold move by connections and if he wins he will undoubtedly be cut from the 10/1 in the ante post betting for the Champion Hurdle. Will he be able to see off so many battle hardened rivals on ground which could be quite tacky though? That is the big question and for now it could be wiser to avoid supporting Goshen at what are relatively short odds and instead go for one of the tempting each way options in the betting.
Sceau Royal, Call Me Lord and Ballyandy are all good enough to be in the mix but at the prices it’s hard to ignore Verdana Blue who is available at 12/1. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old is another who has most recently been seen on the flat where she emerged from some tough races with credit. She is at her best over hurdles though so can take advantage of the mares’ allowance to land a place and perhaps even do what Goshen is aiming for and score on her hurdling return.
3:15 bet365 Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
Those who watch the ante post betting markets closely will have noticed a bit of a move on Boldmere for the bet365 Handicap Chase. Given the number of expected withdrawals in other races on the Doncaster card, it looked as though this would be one of the few stable markets but Caroline Bailey’s seven-year-old has been cut into 7/2 from 6/1 in the days leading up to the race. That move is enough to make him the favourite even with Jersey Bean (4/1) and Manofthemountain (5/1) also getting support.
On first viewing there isn’t that much to get excited about from Boldmere’s first two runs of the season. He was never involved when it mattered at Chepstow and then could finish only fourth when sent off as favourite at Bangor last time out. The market seems unconcerned though, whilst connections are hopeful that a return to Doncaster will coax out the sort of performance that saw him win by 10 lengths here last December. Boldmere is capable of competing at a higher level than this and should provide favourite backers with a win.
3:35 Close Brothers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4½f
Saturday’s card at Cheltenham ends with a decent looking handicap hurdle run over 2m4½f. The event organisers may well hope that the race doesn’t end up being as competitive as it looks on paper because they don’t want any more controversy with photo finishes in low light.
Unfortunately for the organisers but fortunately for racing fans, this promises to be a proper battle right to the line. There are a number of horses to take seriously in this but preference goes to Aggy With It on her handicap debut for the Skeltons.
Harry Skelton was the picture of confidence as Aggy With It travelled confidently in her most recent outing at Taunton. The jockey’s confidence was proven right as she picked up very quickly after being shaken up and pulled clear of her rivals. It will be interesting to see how far up the ratings Aggy With It can go but there is little doubt she is well treated off a mark of 127 and she should be raised considerably from there after winning the Close Brothers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at 9/2.