ITV Racing moves to the main channel for Saturday’s action which is great news for Kelso which is home to four of the nine live races. Although one of Scotland’s finest it remains a rather less heralded racecourse than Newbury and Doncaster, who also share hosting duties for the afternoon’s racing. The action from self-proclaimed “Britain’s Friendliest Racecourse” includes some very interesting races and will see all three of the jockeys in the running to be named Champion Jockey – Brian Hughes, Harry Skelton and Harry Cobden – competing.
Nine races gives us ample opportunity to land some blows on the bookies. There are some tough puzzles to crack this weekend but we’ve got a couple of races at least where we’re full of confidence. Bashing the bookies is the aim and that’s what we have sought to do so check out our previews of each contest in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:15 BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m2f
Horseracing has had to defend itself recently due to the fallout from the damaging picture of Gordon Elliott. Several people in the sport have spoken eloquently about their love for horses and about what special animals they are. One of the things often highlighted is the varying personalities of racehorses and if you need any evidence of that you only have to look at the BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
The field of 10 includes some proper elder statesmen of the chasing division who can always be relied on to give a professional showing. And then there’s West Approach. Colin Tizzard’s 11-year-old is as good as any of his competitors here on his day but predicting when that day will come is no easy task.
As fun as he is, West Approach has been frustrating to follow but he may just be able to reward his backers on Saturday. His head looked to be somewhere close to right last time out at Doncaster and he can build on that performance as his handicap mark continues to fall by claiming a place at more than fair odds of 7/1.
1:30 bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m2f
Kelso is not used to having such a lot of attention. The presence of all three of the jockeys in the running for to be British Champion Jockey ensures all eyes will be on the Scottish track and Harry Skelton will be hoping to eat into Brian Hughes’ lead with the first televised race, the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle.
Skelton saddles his brother’s horse My Drogo for the fourth time and the bookies make them 6/4 to win as in both of their starts over hurdles. My Drogo looked a decent prospect when second on his debut in a bumper but has really caught the eye since with the way he handles a hurdle. The favourite faces some promising opponents but should maintain his unbeaten start to life as a hurdler. 6/4 looks very reasonable and this is one of the day’s safer bets in our eyes.
1:50 BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 2m4f
The Greatwood Gold Cup is Newbury’s feature race of the day and arguably the biggest race covered by ITV Racing in what is a relatively quiet weekend of pre-Cheltenham action. It’s certainly the big race of the day for Paul Nicholls who has a tremendous record with five winners from the last nine renewals. Nicholls’ record may be one reason why Grand Sancy is such warm order at the head of the market but there are many other reasons to believe that the favourite will get the job done.
A quick look at the trends for the Greatwood Gold Cup confirms Grand Sancy’s suitability for the race. At seven he is in the right age bracket, with an official rating of 149 he is well above the minimum mark of 130 shared by nine of the last 10 winners and he has already won a Class 1 chase. The one area of concern is that this is Grand Sancy’s first run since November but Nicholls knows exactly how to prepare a horse for this race so take the 5/1 available about the favourite’s chances.
2:05 bet365 Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m5f
Happily for those involved at Kelso there are all sorts of intriguing races for punters to get their teeth stuck into on Saturday. The bet365 Handicap Hurdle is one such race with a number of horses in with a genuine chance of winning.
The top of the market sees Flash Collonges (7/2), Torn And Frayed (5/1) and Mega Yeats (13/2) all coming in for support but such is the competitiveness of this contest that it could pay to side with a couple of longer odds shots.
The first of these is Mayo Star (8/1) who is reportedly now fit and well having suffered some injury setbacks earlier in the season. He made a good fist of it on his chasing debut over 3m in November so will have no problem with the trip as he reverts to hurdles. The other to consider is War Lord (9/1) who can return to the sort of form seen earlier in the season as he gets the sort of good ground he craves. It is this latter option who we ultimately feel offers the best value and advise a small each way stake.
2:20 Virgin Bet Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
This is always a very interesting time of the year as the ground starts to improve and horses who have swerved the worst of the winter ground start finding chances to run and win again. Airgead Suas is one of the horses running at Doncaster on Saturday who will appreciate the good ground at a track that is well suited to galloping types.
Airgead Suas comes alive when given a good pace to run at and has been able to utilise her ability to travel smoothly and kick for home strongly, even over long trips, to her advantage already this season. The eight-year-old will likely be sent chasing next term but for now connections are right to keep her going over hurdles.
She won two fair handicaps on good and good to soft ground back in November before finding her penalties for those wins and soft ground at Catterick too much when last seen in December. She’s back down to what should be a workable mark of 120 for the Virgin Bet Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and is a very good price for an each way bet.
2:40 bet365 Premier Chase
Punters with ante post positions for the Grand National will have a keen eye on how well or otherwise Cloth Cap goes in the bet365 Premier Chase. Jonjo O’Neill’s nine-year-old put in a career best performance when last seen winning the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. He is the favourite for the Grand National right now but may just find the trip is a little on the short side while Tom Scudamore knows that it is important to save something for the more important visit to Aintree.
That opens the door for Aso for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch. He was beaten only by a neck by Two For Gold last month but is 9lb better off with that rival as they renew hostilities. He can take advantage of what looks a very workable mark to score at the very nice price of 11/4.
2:55 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m½f
Getaway Trump is a very interesting runner in the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase as he makes his handicap debut. Paul Nicholls thinks highly of the eight-year-old but it has been a hit and miss season for him so far, so it was no surprise that he has dropped into the handicap ranks. Although he carries second top weight for this, he has run in excess of his mark of 140 consistently despite his performances being some way below his best.
Rikoboy is the 11/4 favourite and Zoffee (5/1) presents a real danger but there is no doubt who is the class angle. Lorcan Williams knows he has a big job on his hands to get the best out of Getaway Trump but he’ll have learned a lot about the horse when piloting him to second at Musselburgh last time out and can go one better at Doncaster.
3:15 bet365 Morebattle Hurdle
Class 2, 2m
The Shunter is a fairly strong favourite for the final live race of the day at Kelso, the Morebattle Hurdle. His win in the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is certainly a good enough piece of form to suggest that Emmet Mullins’ eight-year-old is a worthy favourite but at a price of 9/4 he looks one to take on with an extra 7lb to carry.
Faivoir (11/2) is another one who looks to have all the required class but has been dealt with severely by the handicapper for his win at Haydock in January. Solo (11/1) had loftier ambitions than this not too long ago but is in need of something drastic to change to get his career back on track, so consider an each way play on Orkan at the very tempting price of 12/1 instead. Connections clearly believe he has scope for improvement after back to back wins as he runs here 2lb out of the handicap, so he is one to keep a close eye on.
3:30 Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m2f
With only seven runners, this isn’t the strongest renewal of the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase but the field is varied and competitive enough to make this a tricky test for punters to work out. Indeed, you can make a decent case for the outsider of the field Special Prep, who will surely come in for each way support at 12/1. You’d ideally want better incoming form before backing him but Pauline Robson’s nine-year-old is something of a Doncaster specialist so don’t be surprised if he’s there in the closing stages.
If you are looking to back a horse for a straight win then Beware The Bear is the one at odds of 7/1. Backing a top weighted horse who hasn’t won since the 2019 Ultima Handicap may be a concern for some but he’s been dealing with a penal handicap mark since that big victory and performances have improved lately so now is the time for Beware The Bear to return to the winner’s circle and end our day of punting with a bang.