There is a feast of racing to enjoy this weekend with potential future stars of Cheltenham and the Grand National on show at several different tracks. What’s more, for the first time in what seems like a long time, it looks we should even have a full day of racing unaffected by the weather … unless we just jinxed it!
On Saturday, the best of the action takes place at Ascot and Haydock while Wincanton also hosts what should be an informative Kingwell Hurdle. As ever, the best races are being covered live by ITV Racing and we’ve gone through each of them to pick out the best Saturday racing tips below.
1:50 Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 3m
The Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase is a race that has long played an important role in the pre-Cheltenham build up. Its star has been on the wane a little bit in recent years and this year’s renewal has cut up with only six runners out of a possible 16 heading to Ascot for a crack at the 3m contest.
The withdrawal of some well fancied runners such as The Big Breakaway presents a good chance for Sevarano to return to winning ways. The eight-year-old’s start to life as a chaser could hardly have gone any better with a pair of wins but he made an early error when looking to bag a hat-trick last time out at Newbury. His jumping did slowly improve as he made his way around in that 2m6½ contest and connections are clearly hopeful that stepping up to 3m will bring out even more from him. Remastered is a tempting option at 5/1 but Sevarano could well prove to be the best of these and is a solid pick at decent odds of 3/1.
2:05 William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle
Grade 2, 3m½f
It has been a frustrating season so far for connections of Itchy Feet. After finishing third when sent off as the favourite on his reappearance at Aintree, he has found one too good in consecutive small field races at Ascot. There is no shame in losing to Imperial Aura and Dashel Drasher as he did though, and Olly Murphy’s seven-year-old has been backed into favouritism as he makes a return to the hurdling sphere.
The problem for Itchy Feet is that he always looked to be a better chaser than a hurdler. The same may not be true of Emitom who has failed to justify favouritism on both his starts over the bigger obstacles to date but is taken to follow up on his good fourth place in the Stayers’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festivals with a winning run at Haydock where Warren Greatrex’s seven-year-old can be backed at 9/2.
2:25 ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Chase
Ascot is a tricky course. Many horses find it difficult to jump as they go down the hill and then the climb from Swinley Bottom up towards the finishing straight is very tough, so a number of horses who have otherwise jumped very well often make mistakes right at the end out of sheer exhaustion.
There will be some very tired horses come the end of the Swinley Chase but top weight Regal Encore can be trusted to get home despite his heavy load. Anthony Honeyball’s 13-year-old is a reliable sort who really comes alive at Ascot so his chances of at least hitting the frame must be respected at 10/1.
2:40 William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 3m4½f
The weights for the Grand National were announced this week raising the anticipation levels for the big race at Aintree in April. A number of those in the field for this Grand National Trial have genuine chances of making an impact in the spring including Notachance, who became just the fourth seven-year-old winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick last month.
Notachance is a worthy favourite for this contest and absolutely does have a chance but it certainly look a very competitive affair with any of the nine runners in with a shot of winning. Therefore, it could well pay to try and take the favourite on with Lord Du Mesnil who is a 15/2 shot for Richard Hobson and Paul O’Brien. The best of his form is up there with any of his competitors but what really makes him stand out is his Haydock record. He won on both of his first two appearances here and can raise hopes of another big run on Merseyside with a win in this one.
3:00 Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m3½f
Arrivederci made an excellent return in October when beating 17 rivals on soft ground at Wetherby. He travelled very well that day and then had enough in the tank to kick on when asked for his effort in the closing stages. That ability to finish strongly nearly saw him land Grade 3 success last time out at Ascot but he just ran into a horse who was too well treated on the day.
It has not been all plain sailing for Jonjo O’Neill’s six-year-old but there is no doubt that he is a horse on the up. The market certainly thinks so as he is the 6/1 favourite for this 16-runner handicap. There are a couple who make good each way appeal such as Albert’s Back (12/1) and Keppage (14/1) but we have a worthy favourite who should get the job done.
3:18 Betway Kingwell Hurdle
Grade 2, 1m7½f
The Kingwell Hurdle is more than big enough a contest to warrant ITV Racing turning their attentions to Wincanton on Saturday if only briefly. Much of that attention will be specifically targeted towards Goshen, the very highly rated five-year-old who has run incredibly poorly this season after unseating his rider when he had the Triumph Hurdle all but sewn up at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Gary Moore gave Goshen two starts on the flat in the autumn to see if that would spark him to life. It didn’t work with a couple of performances that were a long way from the best of his hurdle form from last season. His return to jumps racing was just as disappointing as his challenge tailed off worrying quickly in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
However, we are prepared to forgive him for all those poor runs. He was reported to have a fibrillating heart that day, a problem which has reportedly subsequently healed. If Goshen is fit and in the right frame of mind, he should prove too good for the competition and get his career back on track at 11/4.
3:35 Betfair Ascot Chase
Grade 1, 2m5f
It is very much a case of saving the best for last when it comes to this Saturday’s racing. The Ascot Chase is the sold Grade 1 of the day. It is a highly prestigious race and always involves some well fancied horses for the Cheltenham Festival but rather sadly only five are set to compete in this year’s edition.
That two of the horses are trained by Paul Nicholls is being seen as a big advantage for the number one runner from Ditcheat, Cyrname. Despite his disappointing run in the King George, there is no higher rated chaser currently in training than Cyrname and he is being backed as though defeat is almost out of the question, with 4/5 the best price available. For all Cyrname’s class, that is surely too short about a horse who has reliability concerns.
The tactics of the race are another concern for Cyrname backers. Nicholls said that he will return to the front-running approach that saw him win the Charlie Hall Chase but he is just one of three in the race who like to make the pace. His stablemate, Master Tommytucker is one of those front runners. Daryl Jacob knows he is on the second string Nicholls runner but Master Tommytucker won’t know the script and could just run the legs out of the rest of the field to score a big win at the far more attractive odds of 3/1.