The weekend’s sporting schedule in Britain has been very quickly changed to ensure that nothing takes place during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. One of the consequences of this respectful tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh is that the Scottish Grand National card at Ayr has been moved to Sunday alongside a good card of Flat racing at Newbury.
So, for one week only, our Saturday Racing Tips cover the action taking place on Sunday. It promises to be a day of racing that is well worth waiting for, however, with plenty on offer besides the main event of the Scottish Grand National.
1:00 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes
Class 4, 1m
Sunday’s racing action kicks off with a maiden race involving a number of horses making their debut. Some of these have already had a taste of competitive racing including Snow Lantern who was second on debut behind Zabeel Queen who has run well enough subsequently to be entered for the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Irish Oaks. It was a slow start that cost Snow Lantern on her debut. She will have learned from that and should take a big enough step forward to win her maiden at Newbury.
1:15 Scotty Brand Handicap Chase
The return to better spring ground has brought about an exciting change in fortunes for many horses. Among the 15 horses in the field for the Scotty Brand Handicap, Some Reign is perhaps the happiest racing in the spring.
Rose Dobbin found opportunities tough to come by for her 10 year old and had an unwelcome reminder of just how much this horse doesn’t enjoy difficult conditions when Some Reign finished right at the back of the pack on heavy ground at Wetherby in December. He was much, much better when last seen at Carlisle earlier this month and can build on that win to go in again at odds of 9/2.
1:35 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes
Group 3, 1m4f
One of the few positives of last season’s challenges is the number of three year olds who have remained in training over the summer. Even without the pause in proceedings last year, connections of Thunderous would surely have ensured that he returned this year as he had his problems. But he showed that he is a potentially top-class middle-distance performer with his Dante Stakes win at York.
As successful as Thunderous is likely to be this season, the strengths that he’s shown so far suggest most of that success will come over 1m2f and that this trip may just be a little too much of a stretch. That opens the door for Al Aasy who had problems of his own getting to the course last season. Unlike Thunderous, Al Aasy looks perfectly matched for 1m4f on the sort of good ground that he’ll encounter at Newbury on Sunday so he makes more appeal at a price of 15/8.
1:50 CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
The racing at Ayr on Sunday includes a number of competitive races and the CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase very much fits that bill. Less than 20 pounds covers the field from top to bottom and the top of the betting features horses from both ends of the weights. Bookies’ favourite Pilbara is interesting for Emmet Mullins but this is his first race since October and he may find that a lack of race sharpness costs him.
The standout option in the betting could be The Butcher Said who is available at 14/1. Olly Murphy’s eight year old is behind only two in the ratings but he has run at a higher level than this and his mark of 135 is lower than when he last won in September. There is no doubt that The Butcher Said has been disappointing lately but he has generally travelled well before fading away in the closing stages. He has run very well at this time of year before and will love the good ground at Ayr so if he can hang on in the final half a mile he can earn a place at odds of 14/1.
2:10 Dubai Duty Free Stakes
Group 3, 7f
Oisin Murphy has made a solid start to the turf Flat season but is hoping that his quest for a hat-trick of jockey championships. He will expect Alcohol Free to add multiple wins to his tally over the course of the coming weeks. Murphy spoke glowingly about this Andrew Balding-trained horse when a two year old last year and hopes are high that she will turn into a very exciting three year old.
Alcohol Free’s sole defeat in her three starts last season came against Happy Romance, who is the second favourite behind her in the betting for this Group 3 contest. Alcohol Free was able to reverse that form next time out in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in September and is 3/1 to beat that rival again. The only real concern is that this is her first step up to seven furlongs but if she is found out by a longer trip it’s most likely to come in the 1,000 Guineas for which Alcohol Free is a general 14/1.
2:25 Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m
Milkwood tops the betting for the Scottish Champion Hurdle on the back of an almighty run in the County Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. A run of that sort of calibre would be hard to stop in what does not look the strongest edition of this Grade 2 handicap but we have seen a number of horses fail to repeat their Cheltenham form over the last couple of weeks so it would not be a surprise were Milkwood to find one or two too good for him.
Enemy Coast Ahead is an interesting option on what is his handicap debut. There is a feeling that the handicapper has underestimated him off a mark of just 129 but this is a step up in class for Olly Murphy’s seven year old so it’s Calico who gets the nod at 11/4. Dan Skelton sent his five year old to Warwick rather than Cheltenham and he obliged with a comfortable win for which he was the 1/4 favourite. While still a novice, Calico has run in big races against quality opponents and he can use that experience alongside his class to earn another win for Harry Skelton who is closing in on becoming the British champion jump jockey for the season.
2:45 Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes
Group 3, 7f
Guineas weekend is just around the corner all of a sudden and we’ll learn a lot about some of the leading contenders for the first two Classics of the season in the coming days. Chindit is the leading light in that respect from the Greenham Stakes field at Newbury. Richard Hannon’s charge is one of the very few horses in the top 10 of the betting for the 2,000 Guineas not trained by somebody with the surname O’Brien and while the market rates him as a relative outsider at 16/1 for Newmarket he is the bookies’ favourite at Newbury.
It was Chindit’s performance in his final race of the season that is putting punters off from really supporting him for the Guineas. He was some way behind the likes of St Mark’s Basilica, Wembley and Thunder Moon, each of whom is ahead of him in the ante-post markets for the 2,000 Guineas. It is never a good idea to write off a classy two year old after just one poor run though and he had excuses that day as he hung right and did not like the soft ground one bit. After a winter to grow into his frame some more and a much better surface, Chindit should start this new campaign with a win at odds of 9/4.
3:00 Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m4½f
For many of the biggest jumps trainers, the whole season is geared towards the Cheltenham Festival. Paul Nicholls has taken a different approach this year. He largely kept his powder dry at Cheltenham and instead kept many of his leading horses fresh for the spring meetings. After having a lot of success at Aintree, Nicholls is set for another big weekend and it’s his Tamaroc Du Mathan who makes the most appeal in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase.
If Nicholls is to add this race to his ever-growing tally of wins for the season he will need the bookies to have called it wrong in making Allmankind the 5/4 favourite. The Dan Skelton-trained five year old certainly has bags of ability and knows how to win but two and a half miles just doesn’t quite look the right trip for him so Tamaroc Du Mathan stands ready to take advantage.
3:20 MansionBet Spring Cup Handicap
Class 2, 1m
The Spring Cup is one of the first big handicaps of the season. This is an important race both in its own right and in the context of the season of many of the horses in the field. A number of these will be expected to go on and claim a big prize at some stage over the coming months.
Market leader Danyah (5/1) may be one to watch this season for Owen Burrows after an impressive fourth place in the Lincoln three weeks ago. Troll Penninsula (5/1) has already had a very good start to his campaign having won easily at Kempton at the end of March.
The one to be on could be Raaeq who is a course and distance winner and will be looking to continue where he left off last season. The colt finished his campaign with an impressive 5th place in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot. Brian Meehan will hope that Raaeq will be a major player in the big mile handicaps this season and he has every chance of winning at a generous price of 9/1.
3:35 Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 4m
Anybody who did not get their fill of hard to predict, stamina-sapping, big field steeplechases at Aintree last week should hang around for the final live ITV race of the day. A full complement of 30 horses will do battle for the Scottish Grand National which is the feature race of the year let alone the card at Ayr.
There is not a 4/1 favourite for the Scottish Grand National as there was with the Aintree equivalent but there are a couple of horses who have every chance of running into a place or even better from lower down in the betting. The first each way option to consider is Some Chaos who has been cannily dealt with so that he runs off a very workable mark of 142 for Michael Scudamore. The 10 year old hasn’t been seen over a fence since November but has been kept fit over hurdles and will appreciate the good ground so is tempting at a nice price of 25/1.
The other each way horse to consider is Chapel Stile who can be backed at odds of 20/1. Nick Richards’ nine year old is less experienced over fences than most of his rivals but he has shown a very likeable attitude over the bigger obstacles and has certainly loved the challenge of stepping up in trip. The good ground isn’t too big a concern as connections wouldn’t have entered him if they felt he had no chance of running just as well as he has with a bit more give in the ground so a place could well be on the cards for Chapel Stile who is well treated off a mark of 137.