The ITV Racing team have been gearing up for some time for one of the busiest days in their history. An incredible 11 races will be shown live on ITV on Saturday across four different racecourses and three countries. That means this Saturday is set to be the perfect day (especially given the rain and wind hitting much of the nation) to just flop in front of the TV and try and find some winners!
We have Grade 1 races from Sandown and the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, a Grade 2 race at Wetherby and some excellent handicaps at Musselburgh. The action will be coming thick and fast on Saturday so get ahead of the game ow. With so much to cover there is no time to waste so let’s go through our Saturday Racing tips right away.
1:15 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase
Class 2, 1m7½f
The marathon day of racing begins at Sandown with the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase. This minimum distance chase is always run at quite a pace and that will be enhanced this year as it has been so dry in Esher that the ground staff have had to water the track to maintain the good going.
A lack of mud is bad news for some of those in the field for the opener but it’s very much good news for Tamaroc Du Mathan. The Paul Nicholls inmate was tipped for a higher calibre of race than this when making such a good start to life over fences but two poor outings – straddling the end of last season and the start of this – have forced connections to lower their sights for the time being. There is lots of time for Tamaroc Du Mathan to kick on and become a serious player among Graded company and he can prove his ability by carrying a big weight to win at Sandown at 4/1.
1:35 Racing TV ’12 euro Per Month This Weekend Only’ Spring Juvenile Hurdle
Grade 1, 2m
For obvious reasons Gordon Elliott has kept a relatively low profile over the course of the season after returning from his training ban. He’s been a little more vocal of late though, giving interviews to talk about just how happy he is with his string of top-quality horses ahead of the Dublin Racing Festival and beyond that, the big one, the Cheltenham Festival. Fil Dor is one of the leading lights from Cullentra House and is the 11/8 favourite in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle as he looks to stretch his unbeaten run over hurdles to four.
Elliott believes that Fil Dor is “getting better all the time” and was delighted with a recent piece of work because he usually saves his best for the racecourse. As you would expect, Willie Mullins has some highly promising hurdlers of his own and both Vauban and Icare Allen will take some beating at Leopardstown but Fil Dor should be able to account for both of them.
1:50 Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle
Guard Your Dreams and Song For Someone were involved in a cracking finish when they met at Cheltenham in December. Guard Your Dreams contested the lead the whole way round and just about managed to hang on to keep Song For Someone at bay but the result could have quite easily been reversed had Song For Someone not taken so long to really get into the race. The bookies are finding it impossible to separate the two as they lock horns once more in the Virgin Bet Contenders Hurdle but should Goshen be involved in a three-way tussle for favouritism?
It’s been a very tough year for Goshen since he beat Song For Someone in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last February. Very little has gone right for Gary Moore’s charge but it is easy to forget that he is only six and so has a lot of time still to get everything to fall into place. There can be no doubt that Goshen retains a lot of ability based on the quality of his run at Lingfield last time out and the return to a right-handed track might just make the difference and see him return to the winner’s circle at 11/4.
2:05 bet365 Auld Yin Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m6f
We’ve been treated to some wonderful veterans races this season and this looks like it could produce another thrilling finish. As well as the presence of some very good horses, this race features some highly promising jockeys. There are all sorts of claims among the eight jockeys in the field but it’s one who no longer gets to claim any weight, Lorcan Williams, who could be first past the post.
Glen Forsa may not be the force he once was but he’s only just turned 10 and there is surely a race or two left in him to win. He’s had to fall down the ratings to get to a point where he is genuinely competitive again and a mark of 129 appears a fair one for him here at Musselburgh. Partnered by the excellent Williams, Glen Forsa can give his connections another day to remember by winning at the very decent price of 4/1.
2:20 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase
Grade 1, 2m4f
It has been an excellent season so far for Venetia Williams. She is already at nearly 40 wins for the campaign and arguably her best chance of adding to that tally comes in the Scilly Isles Chase. L’Homme Presse heads to Sandown with three wins to his name so far this season and the bookies make him an odds-on shot to maintain his unbeaten record over fences.
While there is room for improvement with his jumping, L’Homme Presse is still learning the game over fences and Williams has been very happy with his progression. The run at Cheltenham last time out was particularly impressive, with the way he quickened up the hill after the last fence boding well for his return in March. The good ground at Sandown is a concern for Williams as L’Homme Presse had a tendon injury earlier in his career but the course will be watering to keep things safe and Charlie Deutsch has said that he believes his mount is capable of winning on any ground.
2:30 William Hill Towtown Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 3m
After making such a good impression of late, Ahoy Senor was disappointing last time out at Kempton. While there is no shame at all in losing to Bravemansgame, Lucinda Russell’s stable star lacked fluency over fences and was unable to dig in and repel the eventual winner when the race really got going late on.
One subpar performance is nothing to worry about but it does mean that this is a big race for Ahoy Senor. Described as a “superstar” by Russell, Ahoy Senor has to bounce back to ensure his career remains on an upward trajectory. Fortunately for Ahoy Senor (if disappointing for racing fans) the clear favourite here faces just three rivals at Wetherby and he should have little trouble winning this Grade 2 staying chase.
2:40 bet365 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 1m7½f
The Scottish County Handicap Hurdle is not a race that often goes to outsiders. The biggest priced winner in the last decade was Dear Sire who won at 15/2 in 2018. The race looks set for another shorter priced winner but such is the competitiveness of this year’s renewal there are five horses priced at 5/1 or shorter.
Socialist Agenda rates as the fourth favourite with most bookmakers. At a general price of 11/2, Laura Morgan’s six-year-old must rate as good value. This is a considerable step up in class for him but he had the look of a horse with much more to give when winning an uncompetitive race at Catterick last time out. This is a big race for the small yard and could end in a considerable triumph.
2:55 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle
Grade 3, 2m7½f
Racing punters know that it pays to be careful when assessing the value of one piece of form. That is particularly true when looking at Green Book’s run at Kempton last time out. Venetia Williams’ charge looked strong throughout and crossed the line first. The only problem is that he unseated his rider, Ned Fox, at the second flight of hurdles.
It is impossible to judge whether Green Book would have won the race were it not for that misfortune early on. That, however, has not stopped punters from readily supporting him as Green Book is the 11/2 favourite for this Grade 3 handicap. No doubt, Green Book appears well treated by the handicapper but the same is true of Sandown specialist Beauport. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old has improved considerably this season, probably more than the handicapper’s mark suggests, so back Beauport to beat the favourite at the very nice odds of 13/2.
3:15 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup
Grade 1, 3m½f
Betting markets often reflect the way a horse race ends but it’s rare that they reflect the way a race will be run. That’s the case for this year’s Irish Gold Cup with prominent runners Kemboy and Frodon at the head of the betting. Some have suggested that Frodon’s preference for running at the head of affairs will prove a hinderance to Kemboy but Paul Townend thinks not. He believes that some company at the front will keep his charge switched on and perhaps give him the added impetus he needs to win.
Kemboy doesn’t need much of a boost to win at Leopardstown. He absolutely loves running at this famous track and won this race 12 months ago. Whether partnered by Danny Mullins or Paul Townend, Kemboy is allowed to get on with the job out in front and with the same tactics set to be employed on Saturday, the 10-year-old can successfully defend his Irish Gold Cup crown at 11/4.
3:30 Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
After a very dry January there is still no sign of the rain that many trainers have been hoping for to soften up the ground at racecourses around the country. The good going at Sandown is a concern for connections of Five Star Getaway as he does his best work with a bit of ease in the ground. However, he is far from the only horses in the Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase who would prefer a little more give underfoot.
The only horse with any real proven form on good ground is Real Steel who sits at the top of the official ratings but the bottom of the betting markets. That is not a good combination and anybody taking the 14/1 available on his chances will be doing so more in hope than expectation. The winner should come from the opposite end of the market to our eyes, with Five Star Getaway supported to build on his win at Kempton last time out.
3:45 bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m7½f
The final race of the day is another where good ground is making things tricky for those in the field and for punters. The Edinburgh National is a marathon at just a shade under 4m which has only been run on good ground once before. That was in 2017 when Dancing Shadow won a very competitive race off a pretty fast pace. There are three horses who like to race prominently among the seven entries for this year’s edition so we may see a similar race to 2017 but who will be able to cope with the pace and come on strong at the end?
Last year’s winner of the Edinburgh National, Mighty Thunder, appears to be best placed to go in again. That win propelled him to a different level and he has subsequently won the Scottish Grand National on good ground. While he is not always the most reliable horse in the world, Mighty Thunder is superb over these marathon trips on his day and he is the one to support at Musselburgh at a fair price of 4/1.