Freezing temperatures across Britain has seen a number of meetings cancelled over the course of the last week. Thankfully, racing fans have been compensated with a bumper collection of 10 contests to enjoy on ITV Racing this weekend.
As well as the originally scheduled meetings at Kempton and Wincanton we have the rearranged Welsh Grand National at Chepstow to enjoy (subject to a late inspection there). So, let’s get stuck straight into the racing as we preview all 10 live races in our ITV Racing tips.
1:10 Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m4½f
The first ITV Racing action of the day comes in the shape of a competitive handicap chase with a mere 13lb covering the entire field of 14 runners in the official ratings. The bookies believe that top weight, Mind’s Eye, has a very difficult task, as Clair Dyson’s nine-year-old is as big as 33/1 in places. However, it is the number two horse, Espoir De Romay, who is the bookies’ favourite at 4/1 so there is much more than simply weight to consider here.
Ideally, punters would want to back an improving horse who is both well treated and in a good run of form. Smarty Wild ticks those boxes with Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old showing recently that he is ready to break his duck over fences. He caught the eye with a strong finish last time out at Ascot and this step up to 2m4½f should suit Smarty Wild down to the ground so take the very nice odds of 6/1 available about his chances.
1:25 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
Some very good horses have come through the Coral Finales Juvenile Hurdle. Bristol De Mai, Defi Du Seuil, Quel Destin and Allmankind have all won this since 2014 and connections of Nassalam are hopeful that their four-year-old will be the latest star to graduate through this Grade 1.
Gary Moore’s charge has only made two appearances in Britain so far, both of which came in relatively modest events at Fontwell. At the very earliest stages of his career it’s much more about the quality of his runs rather than the opposition he faced though. And it must be said that the nature of his wins, which came by a whopping 59 and 49 lengths respectively, was mightily impressive. It is now time for Nassalam to step up and take on some other horses who are tipped for big things in the future. He should be able to claim the biggest win of his career at a fair looking price of evens.
1:45 Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
Racing fans have been treated to some excellent veterans races over the past few weeks and in this 3m handicap we have an older horse who may well be able to recapture past glories. Double Shuffle is now 11 and isn’t quite the same horse as he used to be but Tom George clearly believes that he is in good shape and has more left to give.
This will be Double Shuffle’s second outing in a fortnight which suggests that his good run for third at Kempton on 27 December has not left a mark. He has actually had his handicap mark cut for that run which leaves him at 140. That could well be low enough for Double Shuffle to earn his first win since 2016 and the 7/1 available about his chances are certainly tempting enough for a bet and big enough to go each way too.
2:05 Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m4f
The Dipper Novices’ Chase is a prestigious contest which has been won by the likes of Lostintranslation, Yanworth and Whisper in the last five years but the fact that it is almost always contested by small fields does detract from it in terms of sheer spectacle. Even by the standards of the Dipper Novices’ Chase, this year’s field is disappointing with only three horses making it past final declarations.
With even a slightly bigger field you wouldn’t see Protektorat at anything like the 1/2 that he is available at to extend his perfect start to life over fences. Yes, he has improved since going over the larger obstacles but he still has a fair amount to prove and could just be vulnerable in this with Messire Des Obeaux capable of gubbing the favourite at 9/4.
Alan King’s nine-year-old made only his second appearance since April 2017 when winning at Wincanton last month. He remains unexposed and open to much improvement so appears overpriced in what could be a strange race in running.
2:20 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m5f
The Rekeel Hurdle was originally due to be run at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and like the original, the rescheduled contest has attracted some quality entrants, even if the field is a little small with just seven from a maximum of 20.
McFabulous is a fairly clear favourite at a general price of 13/8 after putting in a good run for third in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury. Paul Nicholls will hope that the seven-year-old can lay down a marker ahead of the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham but he may end up being upset with Call Me Lord well priced for a big challenge at 9/1.
Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old loves running on soft ground and should be well suited for his Kempton debut. He’s also just 3lb lower than McFabulous in the official ratings so this should at least be closer than the market suggests.
2:35 MansionBet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4f
Evander came into the new jumps season with a reputation as a good performer over hurdles. Oliver Greenall’s six-year-old won twice over the smaller obstacles last season and although it took him a couple of runs to warm to his task over fences, Evander has now surpassed his hurdle form thanks to a commanding win in a small field event at Doncaster last month.
The quality of his performance at Doncaster was not missed by the handicapper who has raised him 9lb for that success. That has not put off punters who are very much supporting Evander at 2/1 and for good reason. He was always good over hurdles and has taken that jumping ability to a new level over the more testing obstacles. To our eyes there is still room for improvement so Evander looks a favourite to have onside this weekend.
2:55 Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase
Grade 2, 2m4½f
Saturday’s meeting at Kempton will include some big field races. Unfortunately, the Silviniaco Conti Chase is not one of them. A large number of horses were pulled out of the running at the final declaration stage leaving just four to go to post for this Grade 2.
Thankfully, racing fans should still be treated to a decent contest even with the presence of odds-on favourite Imperial Aura. Kim Bailey’s eight-year-old has gone from strength to strength since swapping hurdles for fences and he is the ante post favourite for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. David Bass will have to ensure that the favourite is kept up to his task with only three competitors to fire him up as Master Tommytucker and Riders Onthe Storm are good enough to capitalise on any mistakes or signs of weakness. However, Imperial Aura is the classiest horse in the race, remains on the up and should head to Cheltenham on the back of a third straight win of the season.
3:10 Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 3m6½f
There is cautious optimism that the rescheduled Welsh National will be able to go ahead despite some very cold and wet weather of late. If it does, the second attempt to run the Welsh Grand National could be well worth the wait as this is shaping up to be a cracking renewal. Two of the last four editions of this 3m6½f chase have gone the way of the favourite and Secret Reprieve is getting a lot of support at odds of 4/1 as he bids to improve the record of the jolly.
Secret Reprieve was last seen earning a very tidy 12-length victory at Chepstow but it’s the horse who finished second to him, The Two Amigos, who may represent the best value in the betting at the much bigger price of 12/1. Nicky Martin has long thought that his nine-year-old has the stamina and heart for this sort of test. Indeed, The Two Amigos proved that was true when finishing fifth in the most recent renewal of the Welsh Grand National so an each way bet is in order.
Something similar is true about Christmas In April who is available at 9/1. Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old has bags of stamina and is another who will fight all the way to the line, so he may be the one to take this race from the favourite.
3:30 Ladbrokes Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle
The Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle is one of the big betting races of this time of year. Recent history has shown that winners of this long distance handicap hurdle can come from almost any part of the market and this year’s edition certainly has an open feel about it.
Those looking for a straight win bet will justifiably consider horses towards the top of the market such as Everglow (6/1), One True King (8/1) and Shang Tang (10/1) but there are plenty of options among the 20 strong field who offer interest for each way bets at bigger prices. Specifically it’s a couple of consistent types who warrant support in our opinion with Castle Robin (11/1) just getting the nod over Amour De Nuit (14/1) thanks to his ability to handle the sort of challenging ground he’ll encounter at Kempton.
3:45 MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Chase
Class 3, 1m7½f
For all that we are suffering through a cold snap at the moment, the fact that the final race of the day at Wincanton can take place at 3:45 shows that the days are starting to get a little longer and that spring is not too far away. Let’s be optimistic here!
Molineaux doesn’t mind what time of year it is so long as he can run at Wincanton. The 10-year-old has turned in good performances for Colin Tizzard at the Somerset track at different stages of the season but each of his three Wincanton wins came in either January or February. Conditions should be right up his street on Saturday and Molineaux, who is a best price of around 9/4 with the bookies, can bag his fourth course win to end the day nicely.