Haydock is the base for the ITV Racing team this weekend. The Grade 1 Betfair Chase is the big contest of the day as the much-loved Bristol De Mai looks to equal the all-time race record of four wins set by the equally loved Kauto Star. The Betfair Chase is supported by some other excellent races while there is also some quality jumps racing taking place at Ascot.
In total we have seven races to enjoy on ITV Racing and in our Saturday Racing Tips we’ve gone through runners and riders for all of them to pick out the day’s best bets.
1:50 Double Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chase
Class 2, 2m5½f
Paul Nicholls has been training top-level jumps horses for many years now. He understands the importance of having a target for his stable stars. Sometimes those targets are early in the season, such as the successful targeting of Frodon for the Irish Champion Chase last month. It’s fair to say that the Graduation Chase is not Nicholls’ main target for Bravemansgame but it should serve as another important step along the way to races such as the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Sandown and the Festival Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The first step of the journey towards the biggest novice chases came at Newton Abbot in October. Bravemansgame was very impressive jumping fences in public for the first time, to the extent that some are already looking forward to him taking on the very best novice staying chasers around. Beating the likes of Bob Olinger (who runs earlier in the day at Gowran Park) and Ahoy Senor will take some improvement but Bravemansgame should take another step forward at Haydock and prove to be too good for his three rivals in the Graduation Chase.
2:05 Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase
Grade 2, 2m5f
The jumps course at Ascot is a little bit too fiddly and a bit too much in favour of front runners for the liking of many racehorses. When trainers get a horse who runs well at Ascot, they’ll often send them back in the hope of securing more success.
Jeremy Scott is one such trainer. Dashel Drasher has won all four starts for Scott at Ascot including when last seen in February’s Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase. The eight year old beat some very good horses that day including Cyrname and Master Tommytucker. He’ll renew hostilities with the latter in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase, which takes place over the same distance as his last three wins at Ascot. Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation provide yet more high-class opposition but Dashel Drasher’s Ascot suitability for this course and distance previous wins on good ground make him the right favourite at odds of 11/4.
2:25 Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle
Grade 3, 3m½f
The ground at Haydock is infamously challenging when it rains but, like the rest of Britain’s racecourses, Haydock has had very little rainfall in recent weeks. That is a worry for National Hunt trainers who are having to wait until the ground softens up before running many horses but it is not a worry for connections of Orbys Legend who is one of 16 runners in this highly regarded staying handicap hurdle. The five year old won on his handicap debut last time out on good to soft ground at Chepstow and can do so again on similar ground at Haydock.
Although he has been raised eight pounds by the handicapper for that win, Orbys Legend will carry just one pound more on Saturday due to the weights carried by the six horses above him in the ratings. That is a plus, as is the step-up in trip. This impressive and improving hurdler has the makings of a very good stayer and he can prove that at Haydock.
2:40 Coral Hurdle (Registered As The Ascot Hurdle)
Grade 2, 2m3½f
The roll of honour for the Coral Hurdle is impressive with the likes of Yanworth, Faugheen and Annie Power winning inside the last eight years. This year’s edition only features five horses but it looks to be suitably strong. Buzz (11/10) comes into the race after a successful raid on the Flat to win the Cesarewitch at Newmarket, Goshen (7/2) disappointed last spring but remains an exciting five year old and Molly Ollys Wishes (6/1) has already won this season in the Listed bet365 Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby.
Molly Ollys Wishes may not quite have the class of the top two in the market but she does have that previous run to sharpen her up. Dan Skelton thought that her outing at Wetherby would be just a preparation for more attempts over three miles but she was so good over two miles that plans look to have changed. It is very interesting that the long-standing plan to run over three miles at Kempton on Sunday has been eschewed for a run over 2m3½f at Ascot and she can spring something of a surprise to win at 6/1.
3:00 Betfair Chase (Registered As The Lancashire Chase)
Class 3, 2m5f
If you looking for an example to help describe to somebody what the phrase ‘horses for courses’ means you could do little better than to point them to Bristol De Mai’s record at Haydock. The much-loved and hardy grey attempts to equal Kauto Star’s record of four Betfair Chase wins on Saturday. However, he has a very tough task as he won’t get the bottomless ground he loves and has to get the better of Cheltenham Gold Cup second A Plus Tard who will relish the going.
A Plus Tard is the favourite at odds of 6/4 with Bristol De Mai just behind at 7/2. While the favourite is the horse to beat, connections have sounded a slight note of caution about the number of Henry De Bromhead-trained horses who have needed their first run of the season. Waiting Patiently, Next Destination and Royale Pagaille are all good enough to mount a challenge but it could be worth leaving the market principles alone and instead backing the outsider of the field Chatham Street Lad each way at a longer price of 28/1. The winner of last year’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup probably doesn’t have enough improvement in him to win a Grade 1 but he may have enough to grab third place and secure a nice payout for his backers.
3:15 Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m1f
A trio of disappointing results at the end of 2019 saw Jonjo O’Neill and connections of Sky Pirate decide to give him a wind operation. He wasn’t seen on track until the following October and although the operation didn’t have an immediate impact, it no doubt helped as Sky Pirate climbed the ratings from 132 to 159 courtesy of some three wins and a second place in four races. The last of those wins came in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival which looks like a strong piece of form.
It is clearly going to be more difficult for Sky Pirate in handicap company this season given he starts off 159 but he looks like a horse who is still open to improvement. It was a lack of fitness rather than an overly penal handicap mark that cost Sky Pirate his chance of winning at Cheltenham in October and with that run under his belt he can return to winning ways in the Hurst Park Handicap at a price of 7/2.
3:35 My Odds Boost On Betfair Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m1½f
Jack Tudor must be feeling as though he’s missed out on the party somewhat when it comes to Strictlyadancer. The three-pound claimer has partnered Christian Williams’ seven year old six times but didn’t get the ride on either of his two recent wins. The market suggests that Tudor has a good chance of making up for those missed opportunities as Strictlyadancer is the 13/8 favourite to complete the hat-trick in this staying chase.
Unlike some of his nearest rivals in the betting – notably Ramses De Teillee and Empire Steel – Strictlyadancer does not need cut in the ground to produce his best performance. Indeed, the way the conditions are the most dangerous opponent to the favourite could be the horse right at the opposite end of the market, Joke Dancer at odds of 14/1. Strictlyadancer gets in right at the bottom of the weights and has that extra allowance from Tudor so is very much the one to beat.