Cheltenham’s International meeting got off to a cracking start on Friday and the ITV cameras will return for day two on Saturday. The International Hurdle itself is the headline race on a strong card with another good card at Doncaster running alongside it. This is a very good day of National Hunt racing with some excellent punting opportunities so we’ve picked through the cards at Cheltenham and Doncaster with our Saturday Racing Tips including all the live ITV races.
1:50 Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 2m4½f
The Racing Post Gold Cup (formerly the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup) is a race that has long had strong form links with the Paddy Power Gold Cup run a month previously. Once again some of the leading contenders from the earlier race return for another run at Cheltenham including the winner, Midnight Shadow. While his owners and trainer are confident of another big race, Midnight Shadow has an extra seven pounds to carry and after Dashel Drasher was scratched he’ll have to carry the second top weight.
Punters have turned from Midnight Shadow to Lalor. He looked as though he was back to his old self when third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in what was his first run since joining Paul Nicholls’ yard. For all that Lalor is a real danger, he looks a bit short at odds of 9/2. The 6/1 available about the chances of Silver Hallmark is much more tempting. A mark of 145 is by no means the limit of the seven year old’s potential. Indeed, he has the look of a highly progressive sort. This will be just Silver Hallmark’s seventh start over rules and after a tune-up run at Carlisle in late October he can kick on to earn a third career win.
2:05 bet365 Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m½f
When Tommy’s Oscar won a handicap hurdle at Haydock last month owner Ian Hamilton said, “he’s a chaser” which was an interesting remark about a horse who has never run in a steeplechase. Hamilton went on to explain that Tommy’s Oscar will campaign over fences in the near future but that he was sure he could take advantage of his hurdles mark to win… and right he was too.
The time has nearly come for Tommy’s Oscar to make his debut over the bigger obstacles but connections are going for one more hurdling prize first. He has been raised a pretty steep nine pounds for that recent success but Tommy’s Oscar has hit a real groove with his running and jumping just now so can secure what may be a final win over hurdles at a price of 7/2.
2:25 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Bristol Novices’ Hurdle)
Grade 2, 3m
A typically competitive field will do battle over three miles in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Many of these will be aimed at the race of the same name at the Cheltenham Festival in March and while there is some good form to go on we have much more to learn as they tackle this trip over hurdles for the first time.
Blazing Khal’s position at the top of the market is understandable as he has won both of his starts over hurdles to date. His issue may be that he doesn’t look as though he enjoys it when the pressure is ramped up. Among those who can apply that pressure, Barony Legends could be most likely to make the favourite crack. Olly Murphy’s five year old is an out and out galloper who finished second in a Point-to-Point over three miles before making his debut under rules. The step-up in trip to 2m3½f helped him win his hurdle debut and he should be even better over further so 11/2 looks a generous price for the mount of Aidan Coleman.
2:40 bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m½f
The Summit Juvenile Hurdle is a race that has gone to some good horses in years gone by. There is some good prize money on offer for this year’s renewal and the field of seven who have made the trip to Doncaster should ensure a thoroughly engrossing contest.
Porticello, who won his only race in France before successfully maintaining his unbeaten record for new connections at Wetherby, is the 2/1 favourite with the bookies. He may well turn into a top-level performance but that Wetherby form isn’t exactly strong and he looked green enough to suggest he can be taken on.
At the odds, Impulsive One is a temping each way option. He is more battle-hardened than the favourite having had a career on the Flat before being sent hurdling. He was unable to beat Knight Salute (another potential winner of this race) under a penalty last time out at Kempton but the terms are much more favourable this time around so Impulsive One can grind out a place if not better at 8/1.
3:00 Unibet International Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m1f
The International Hurdle is the feature race of Cheltenham’s two-day meeting. Last year’s winner, Song For Someone is back in the field and has promptly been installed as the bookies’ favourite. Unlike last year, Tom Symonds’ charge does not arrive on the back of a win in the Ascot Hurdle but there was a lot to like about his run in second behind Buzz last month. Most notably, it appeared as though the wind operation he underwent in the summer has helped him out.
There is a pearl of received wisdom that the impact of a wind operation isn’t fully felt until the second race after the procedure. If that is the case with Song For Someone then he should be able to justify his favouritism and win this one at odds of 2/1. The biggest danger to the favourite could be Ballyadam for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. He still looks a little tentative over fences having suffered a big fall on his chasing debut so the reversion to hurdles could be a wise move. Ballyadam gets three pounds from Song For Someone but the official ratings suggest he’ll also have to improve to bridge the gap so the favourite gets the nod.
3:15 bet365 Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
Carrying top weight in a staying handicap chase is always a tough ask and we will learn a great deal about Two For Gold in the bet365 Handicap Chase. The recent history of this race is full of horses at the top of the weights running very well and often winning so Kim Bailey will be expecting a big run from his eight year old.
Last seen when unseating his rider in the Topham Chase at Aintree in April, connections have hopes of a big season ahead for Two For Gold. That race was always going to be a stretch for him though as he wants at least three miles and he has some improving to do before he is a real threat in Graded company. This looks a very good place for Two For Gold to begin his season and given he tends to run well when fresh he should be able to make his class tell against his competition to win at odds of 7/4.
3:35 Close Brothers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4½f
Alan King is taking no chances with the Cheltenham finale. He has three horses in the field and although none of them is inside the top three of the betting they each have a chance of running a big race. King will prepare all three to the best of his ability but listening to him talk over recent weeks it’s pretty clear that his favoured horse in the race is Wynn House.
Before Wynn House made her seasonal reappearance at Wincanton last month King was saying how highly he rates her. He also said that the six year old had a good summer and therefore returned a strong horse this season compared to last. Wynn House proved her trainer was right to suggest she is better than a mark of 122 when winning her first start of the season and she can do something similar in another handicap hurdle. A three-pound rise in the weights is nothing to be worried about and the cut in the ground should negate the slight drop in trip.