At this time of the year it is often difficult to know what day it is. The usual flow of the week with the best sport on the weekend is disrupted so some may forget that there are some very good meetings on Saturday after the racing on New Year’s Day. ITV Racing have not missed a beat though and their cameras will be present to take in four races from Sandown and a further three from Ayr. Likewise, we are all over the seven live races and have picked out our best Saturday racing tips below.
1:50 Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Handicap Chase
Class 2, 1m7½f
The first Saturday racing of the New Year features a two-way battle for favouritism between Ibleo and Moonlighter in this minimum distance chase. Both eight year olds are available at 5/2, both were beaten favourites last time out, and – in terms of out and out class – there isn’t much between them. What does separate them is the weights, with Ibleo carrying five pounds less than Moonlighter. Could that be enough to hand the advantage of Venetia Williams’ charge?
It was a fall at the fifth that stopped Moonlighter’s chances of winning in his most recent outing; whereas Ibleo was just unable to do enough to get the better of Sky Pirate despite rallying well on ground that was firmer than he would have liked. Ibleo has now run well in defeat twice this season which bodes well for a run on heavy ground at Sandown.
2:05 Ayrshire Cancer Support Patient Transport Journeys Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m4½f
Clan Legend has done a lot of his racing at Ayr over the years and he has lots of fans as he returns to that familiar stomping ground on Saturday. The 11 year old needed his first run of the season as it was his first since wind surgery. He kicked on as well as connections could have hoped next time out at Aintree where he travelled strongly and found plenty to win a 2m4f handicap at Aintree.
Impressive young jockey, Danny McMenamin, was on board at Aintree and he is back for the ride on Saturday. That McMenamin claims three pounds will help somewhat with the rise to an official rating of 135 but Clan Legend’s form and the new lease of life apparently given to him by wind surgery is the real reason to get excited about his chances at odds of 6/1.
2:25 Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
Dan Skelton has had a better festive period than most trainers. His runners have been in tremendous form lately and everybody at Lodge Hill will hope that Third Time Lucki can keep their form going in the Tolworth Hurdle. The six year old is fresh off a win on Boxing Day at Kempton and looks the class act in the race. Backing the classiest horse is not always the best option in the Tolworth Hurdle, however, as the race is usually run on heavy ground, just as it will be on Saturday.
Third Time Lucki’s best days have come on ground described as good to soft at worse so this would be a big ask. In his place, consider backing Galice Macalo for first Graded win at 7/2. The five year old has already shown a liking for heavy ground when finishing second in a handicap last time out at Sandown. It is that ability to handle difficult conditions as well as some impressive form this season that marks her out as the most likely winner ahead of Third Time Lucki and market leader, Metier.
2:40 Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 3m½f
Just eight runners are set to compete in this long distance handicap hurdle but that is a big enough field to include the prospect of an upset in the betting. One of Big Penny (3/1) or Illegal Model (10/3) may well justify the support that they are getting at the head of the market as they both have strong claims but those who like an each way bet at a bigger price should be attracted by the 6/1 odds available on Justatenner.
Tristan Davidson has been frustrated with the inconsistency of his 10 year old so far this season. Part of the reason for his patchy form is that he won a decent race at Ayr and was then entered into a Grade 3 race which proved to be too much for him (as his starting price of 80/1 suggested it would). This is an altogether much more suitable race and one that Justatenner could win, let alone claim a place in.
3:00 Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
The Tolworth Hurdle may be the feature race of the day at Sandown but the winner of that Grade 1 race will pick up a cheque of under £20,000 for connections whereas there is £43,000 up for grabs in the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase. That handsome prize meant this race for horses aged 10 or older was oversubscribed before final declarations and it is shaping to be a very competitive contest.
The five previous editions of this race have yielded two winning favourites and just two winners priced over 7/1. However, each way punters have landed some decent prizes from places and the competitive nature of this year’s renewal suggests that’s the way to go. In that vein, the two horses who really stand out are Two Taffs (10/1) and Sametegal (10/1). The former is interesting despite not quite proving himself over this trip but it’s the latter who gets the nod. Paul Nicholls knows his 12 year old struggles for pace nowadays so entering him in what should be a real battle looks a wise move. Sametegal remains a consistent performer and has the heart to hang on for a place or perhaps even for the win.
3:15 Retraining Of Racehorses (ROR) Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
This is the time of year when trainers and race planners can really earn their corn. When the ground is as heavy as it will be at Ayr on Saturday the usual rules don’t quite apply. Take top weight for the Retraining Of Racehorses (ROR) Handicap Chase, Takingrisks, as an example. Nicky Richards’ 12 year old is a very good stayer and had his best day at a racecourse when winning the 2018 Scottish Grand National at Ayr over four miles. Subsequently, he’s sometimes found three miles too short to utilise his stamina reserves but on bottomless ground that could be just the trip to get the best out of him once again.
Connections are clearly hopeful that Takingrisks has more left to give. He underwent wind surgery in November and Nicky Richards made a decision to run him at Ayr on Saturday when it initially looked as though he was running at Wetherby last weekend. This is an eminently winnable race for Takingrisks and though he’s hardly been missed by the bookies, his price of 2/1 still seems fair.
3:35 Unibet Casino Deposit £10 Get £40 Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m
Friend Or Foe (9/2) and Guard Your Dreams (5/1) are both coming in for a lot of support for Sandown’s final race of the day. Of those two, it is Guard Your Dreams who looks the most likely winner. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ five year old has only made three starts over hurdles but has won two of them and with more improvement to come, he should be a major player at Sandown.
The value option, however, may prove to be The Pink’n at 5/1. Seamus Mullins seems convinced that the way to get the best out of his five year old is to hold him up before utilising his finishing pace late on. That hasn’t produced too many victories for The Pink’n but he has landed three consecutive second place finishes this season at odds of 33/1, 14/1 and 25/1 so expect him to be right in the mix again and to claim at least a place.