After an incredibly busy weekend of racing last week, the ITV Racing team have an even busier Saturday up ahead. So much so that it bleeds into the early hours of Sunday morning with the live coverage of the Breeders’ Cup meeting in Del Mar, California. We have a tip for the big race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
The bulk of our analysis focuses on the action from Britain where there are 10 races spread including Flat races, hurdles and steeplechases. The Flat action comes from Doncaster while Aintree hosts its first meeting of the season including the Grand Sefton Chase over the famous Grand National fences. Then there’s the ever-popular Badger Beers Chase Day at Wincanton where Paul Nicholls is on the hunt for his usual success at the meeting.
1:08 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 3m½f
The first live race of the day is a qualifier for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in the spring. The last three editions of this qualifier have been won by a five year old, a 10 year old and a 12 year old and could go the way of an experienced older performer this year as well.
The Worlds End may no longer be at the height of his powers but he is by no means lacking in heart. That ability to dig deep and fight for positions is absolutely vital in National Hunt racing especially when the fields get over 10 runners deep. The Worlds End’s reliable hurdling and the way he tends to keep himself out of trouble by racing prominently are big plusses for this race and he is good each way value at odds of 12/1.
1:25 Virgin Bet Handicap
Class 2, 7f
It has been a busy season for Boardman. Tim Easterby has been keen to keep his six year old busy even though he hasn’t hit the heights of an early-season hat-trick. That run of wins took his handicap rating from 75 to 96 so his subsequent struggles are understandable. He has come back down the ratings a bit after finishing down the field in some high-class handicaps and there were signs in his run last time out at York that he could be ready to win again.
Finishing five in a 21-runner handicap is not to be sniffed at but when you take into account Boardman had to contend with a high draw that put him at an immediate disadvantage the result looks even better. Fellow high-drawn horses have gone on to give the form a strong look and Boardman can do likewise by winning the first ITV race from Doncaster at a price of 7/1.
1:50 John Romans Park Homes ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m4f
If things pan out as the market suggests, there won’t be any less competitive races at Wincanton on Saturday than this novices’ chase. Bravemansgame has been tipped by many to be Britain’s star staying novice chaser this season and he did nothing in his first run of the season at Newton Abbot to change that feeling.
His jumping was effortlessly good and although he was never put under pressure, Bravemansgame won as well as connections would have hoped. He is just 4/9 to add another win to his young chasing career at Wincanton and should do so with similar ease as he builds confidence ahead of the much tougher tests to come against the competition from over the Irish Sea in the spring festivals.
2:05 Virgin Bet Wentworth Stakes
Several horses who have enjoyed a strong season are out for one last hurrah in the Listed Wentworth Stakes. The field includes horses who have been seen running at a higher level than this and those who have graduated into Pattern company from handicaps.
The bookies’ favourite, King’s Lynn has taken the former route having run in three Group 3s before his trip to Doncaster. His best run from those three came last out when running on soft ground at Ascot and similar conditions underfoot will likely be the key to him winning for the first time since May. King’s Lynn also has good form at Doncaster so is very much the one the others have to beat at odds of 10/3.
2:15 Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m5f
Things did not go to plan for Tom Scudamore in last year’s Grand National when aboard the bookies’ favourite Cloth Cap. Scudamore may never get a better chance to win the big one but he does get the ride on another Aintree favourite on Saturday with Time To Get Up a 9/2 shot for the Grand Sefton. Scudamore’s fortune comes at Jonjo O’Neill Jr’s expense as the usual jockey misses out with a shoulder injury. Both the unfortunate jockey and his father who trains Time To Get Up are sweet on this lightly raced eight year old’s chances of securing a big win but it may be that the Grand Sefton comes too soon for him and that this is more of a scouting mission to see how he copes with the Grand National course.
At a bigger price of 8/1, Hogan’s Height could be the best bet in this competitive renewal. While he hasn’t pulled up any trees over the last 18 months or so, Jamie Snowden’s 10 year old has ample experience of the Grand National fences. Indeed, he won this race in 2019 off a mark just four pounds lower than his current rating. Hogan’s Height had the benefit of a warm-up run just a couple of weeks ago and should relish his return to the Grand National course once again.
2:25 Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m5½f
It could be a very interesting season ahead for Rose Of Arcadia. She showed signs of being of a high class during her last campaign but that there is plenty of room for improvement. While connections hope that she will be better over fences, Colin Tizzard has sent her to a handicap hurdle as he either believes she can exploit a mark of 119 or that she needs a sharpener before going chasing.
Our hope is that it’s a case of the former and that a more experienced Rose Of Arcadia can score at 5/1. She’ll need to be more relaxed than during last season and cannot afford to make any mistakes with her jumping in this competitive race but should be up to the task.
2:40 Virgin Bet November Handicap
Class 2, 1m4f
The historic November Handicap always attracts a good field as trainers go in search of one last big win for their horses who like running on late-season ground. A couple of the principles from last year’s race return and you can make a case for Rhythmic Intent and Nuits St Georges to put some less than impressive recent runs behind them on their return to Doncaster.
Backing horses around the price of Rhytmic Intent (14/1) and Nuits St Georges (18/1) is the way to go with this race but the horse to support is Cardano at 20/1. As with his most recent two outings, the danger for Cardano is that he runs into a well-handicapped three year old. The experienced five year old can also be frustratingly inconsistent but this looks like a race that will suit him and his preference to run prominently. After a disappointing first attempt over hurdles, a return to the Flat could bring about a return to winning ways for Cardano.
3:00 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase
Paul Nicholls has a tremendous record in the Badger Beer Handicap Chase, saddling three of the last four winners. His leading chance for this year’s renewal is Highland Hunter who is rated as a 7/1 shot by the bookies. While you can be sure that the master of Ditcheat will have Highland Hunter primed for the race (just as he did Frodon for the Irish Champion Chase last week), he’ll have a job getting Hurricane Harvey beaten.
Fergal O’Brien’s seven year old had a disappointing end to last season after which he underwent a wind operation. After a first run of the season to blow away the cobwebs, this previous Graded company performer should be able to win off a mark of 136. Like Cap Du Nord, Hurricane Harvey has been well backed but unlike the favourite, he has no problem going right-handed so gets the nod at odds of 13/2.
3:20 Betway Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4f
A lot has been written about the disappointing small fields seen in the early part of the jumps season so far. The Betway Hurdle provides strong evidence that you can have very exciting, highly competitive races with relatively few horses. All six to have stood their ground after final declarations have a shot at winning this with the bookies struggling to separate the top three in the market: Brewin’upastorm, Summerville Boy and Wilde About Oscar.
As it is so tough to pick one of the top three against the others, it may pay to take all three of them on with an each way bet on If The Cap Fits at 8/1. A former winner of the Grade 1 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree, If The Cap Fits has the stamina to cope with a real battle over 2m4f. The nine year old has a lot to prove to start winning at the top level again but can prove that he still has plenty to give with another big run.
3:35 Unibet Elite Hurdle
Grade 2, 1m7f
For the second year in a row, Sceau Royal heads to Wincanton for the Elite Hurdle where he takes on a highly regarded younger hurdler looking to put a disappointing run at the Cheltenham Festival behind them. Last year, Alan King’s experienced campaigner put Solo in the shade with another impressive performance and he should be able to do likewise with Goshen and the rest of this year’s field.
For all that he disappointed in the Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Goshen still has the makings of a top-class performer. His turn of pace will be a threat on Saturday and his sole win last season came at Wincanton but Sceau Royal is a tough nut to crack and can battle on to reward favourite backers.
00:40 (Sunday) Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic
Grade 1, 1m2f
The Breeders’ Cup meeting in the United States features a host of varied, high-class racing but it’s the Breeders’ Cup Classic which very much remains the main event. This is the race that all US-based trainers want to win and the big names are out in force once again. That includes the controversial Bob Baffert who is only able to enter horses under the strictest supervision due to recent doping allegations and investigations.
Baffert may not be the most popular figure amongst his fellow trainers but he will be very popular among punters should his Medina Spirit secure the win. The three year old has nothing to prove in terms of speed and likely hit the front early on. If he can maintain a high pace then he’ll take the race away from many of his rivals. Whether he can do that to all of them will come down to how grimly he can hang on in the closing stages but the 6/1 available about Medina Spirit’s chances is a tempting enough price to back him before finding out.