Saturday was supposed to be Trials Day at Cheltenham but the weather had other ideas. More rain fell than was forecast on Thursday night which meant the ground was declared unfit for racing on Friday afternoon, which is a big disappointment for racing fans.
Fortunately, the all-weather card at Lingfield has stepped up to play a support role to the jumps card at Doncaster. That ensures there is a great variety of racing to enjoy and we’ve picked out the best of the betting opportunities in this week’s Saturday Racing tips.
1:30 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Lightning Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m½f
Shishkin could hardly be a stronger favourite for the ITV Racing opener. Last year’s winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was always thought to have the makings of a better chaser than hurdler but the calibre of his first two runs over the big obstacles have taken some by surprise. By some judges, Shishkin is the highest-rated novice chaser in the history of jumps racing and he is priced at odds of just 1/4 to head into the Cheltenham Festival on the back of yet another win.
Although Shiskin is only facing four opponents at Doncaster, you can still get each way prices on the first two home which makes this more appealing from a betting perspective. That’s especially true given that Eldorado Allen is available at 10/1. That price has been inflated courtesy of a poor run at Sandown last time out but that came in a very strong renewal of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and if he runs more akin to his first two starts over fences, Eldorado Allen can be the one to push Shishkin hardest.
2:05 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m½f
The Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle looks a very good chance for Marie’s Rock to get back to the sort of form that saw her go three hurdles unbeaten last season. Although she was forced to miss the Cheltenham Festival through injury and had wind surgery in October, hopes were very high that Marie’s Rock would show just why she is in so many notebooks with another win in a Listed intermediate hurdle at Newbury. However, she had a nightmare race and finished seventh of the nine runners.
Nicky Henderson is not one to panic about one bad run and nor are punters as Marie’s Rock is available at 5/2 for her run at Doncaster, making her joint-favourite with Floressa. That seems a fair reading of the race as she has any number of excuses for that Newbury disappointment including being wound up before the race, failing to settle in a race that was run at too steady a gallop and being hampered when two flights from home. Marie’s Rock should be able to put that run firmly behind her with a return to winning ways on Saturday.
2:20 Play 4 To Win At Betway Handicap
Class 5, 6f
All-weather racing means that the Flat season can continue all year round. Winter racing is a potentially lucrative time for horses who enjoy running at courses like Lingfield and connections of the top two in the betting, Power Over Me and Swiss Pride, who have both won at Lingfield within the last two weeks.
Vandad is another who is getting some support in the betting at 5/1 but it is Swiss Pride who looks the best-placed to win. Roger Teal’s five year old has to carry five pounds less than the favourite, Power Over Me, and is sure to run well again so 4/1 is a very good price.
2:40 Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 2, 3m½f
The River Don Novices’ Hurdle is a fairly young race but it has already developed a reputation as one to firmly keep your eye on. This long distance hurdle contest has been particularly fruitful for horses who subsequently go on to have a good time of it over fences which could be good news for Castle Robin, an 11/1 shot in his first attempt at this level.
The six year old is still a novice but he has already earned a lot of experience with some big runs this season. His excellent run for second in a handicap on Boxing Day gave connections the confidence that he was worth a try in the Lanzarote Handicap at Kempton. Although his challenge faded away a bit he is perhaps approaching his ceiling in the ratings over hurdles so racing on level weights, albeit against a higher calibre of opponent, could be a big help at Doncaster. A win would be a surprise but Castle Robin looks a tempting each way bet at odds of 11/1.
2:55 Betway Handicap
Class 5, 1m4f
Just five runners will contest the Betway Handicap but what the field lacks in numbers it makes up for in terms of competition. As the bookies’ odds suggest, this is a race that could quite easily go the way of four of the five with Just The Man the only real outsider at 20/1.
It is Hydroplane who holds the most appeal narrowly from Pirate King and Midnights Legacy. Ian Williams’ five year old makes his return both to the Flat and the all-weather after failing to quite see out the 2m3½f trip under a penalty in a handicap hurdle at Doncaster in December. The drop in trip should suit this hardy competitor who is the pick at odds of 3/1.
3:15 Sky Bet Handicap Chase
Of all the pre-Cheltenham performances, that of Royale Pagaille was arguably the most impressive. Jack Tudor got a close look at just how good the seven year old was when following him home on board Cap Du Nord at Kempton just after Christmas. He was the only real danger to Royale Pagaille and although he couldn’t land a glove on him, Cap Du Nord finished 19 lengths clear of third-placed Double Shuffle so it’s no surprise that he is a warm favourite for the Sky Bet Handicap Chase.
It will take a very good run to get the better of the 5/2 favourite as he is a reliable sort who jumps and travels well. There are some hardy performers amongst his 12 rivals though so this looks the perfect race to have an each way bet. The classy Give Me A Copper (10/1) must in the discussion for those considering an each way bet but it is The Butcher Said who offers the most appeal at a chunky price of 18/1. His jumping has been a little suspect at times but if Adrian Heskin gets him into a prominent position early on then he could use his stamina to be involved in the business end of this contest.
3:30 Bombardier British-Hopped Amber Beer Handicap
Class 3, 1m
We have another competitive race at Lingfield to close out the day’s racing on ITV. However, this could be as simple for punters as backing the favourite with the bookies: Catch My Breath, who is available at a best price of 7/4.
The concern for his backers is that he has to carry a penalty but some of that will be offset by the five pounds that Laura Pearson is able to claim. She partnered Catch My Breath to victory at Lingfield and the two can work just as well together once again to see off the most likely challengers, Golden Force (7/2) and Masked Identity (11/2).