Ever since the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival we’ve heard continual suggestions that Britain needs something similar. Others, however, point out that there are plenty of high-class meetings in the weeks and months leading up to the Cheltenham Festival. There’s certainly a big weekend of racing ahead with the pick of Saturday’s action coming from Newbury and Warwick.
The ITV Racing cameras are set to broadcast five races from Newbury and three from Warwick. That gives us eight chances to try to beat the bookies with this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:15 Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m7½f
The strength of the Irish challenge for this year’s Cheltenham Festival is frightening for British-based trainers. Things look especially difficult for Paul Nicholls who is going through a worrying lean spell at the moment. The Ditcheat-based trainer has said that although he isn’t sure why the form of his horses has taken a nose dive he is not going to start pulling them from races.
Nicholls can’t snap a poor run without entering his horses and there was never any doubt that Bravemansgame would take up his place in the Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase. However, there is some doubt as to whether backing an odds-on favourite at the top of the weights for an out of form yard makes sense. Instead, take the 5/1 still available on Pats Fancy. Rebecca Curtis’s seven year old has already climbed the ratings by 15 pounds this season but has more still to give and can complete his hat-trick after a couple of very good wins.
1:35 Virgin Bet Warwick Mares’ Hurdle
With just four runners, this is a good chance for one of the runners in the Virgin Bet Warwick Mares’ Hurdle to pick up a Listed win. That has so far eluded Whitehotchillifili but the way she tackled the step up to 2m7½f last time out suggests that she might be getting towards the peak of her powers.
Harry Fry is still trying to work out the best approach for Whitehotchillifili. The way she saw out the trip at Ascot last time out suggested that the staying trips will bring out the best in her but dropping her back to 2m5f could be an attempt to give her more scope to use her pace in the closing stages. One thing you can be sure of is that Whitehotchillifili will keep battling right to the line and that she’ll give you a run for your money at odds of 5/1.
1:50 Daily Rewards With Betfair Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 3m
The Big Breakaway is set to face a very different challenge at Newbury than he has faced thus far this season. Colin Tizzard’s seven year old faced off against just four rivals when falling at Newton Abbot in October and was then involved in a two-horse race against Chantry House at Sandown. Neither race went to plan but there is still much hope that the seven year old can put a positive spin on things this season.
No doubt the Tizzards have been frustrated with The Big Breakaway over the last year. At times he hasn’t jumped well enough and at others he’s been unable to see his races out strongly enough. This is a horse with a great deal of ability and he is still entered for the Coral Trophy later in the month. A big first run after wind surgery on Saturday could set The Big Breakaway on the path for a crack at that nice pot at Kempton in a couple of weeks. He can make his class tell to claim at least a place from the top of the weights so back The Big Breakaway each way at odds of 8/1.
2:05 Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m
The Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase could live up to its billing on Saturday as Edwardstone and Third Time Lucki compete to be the top British hope for the Arkle at Cheltenham. Edwardstone is the favourite on Saturday and is available at half the odds of Third Time Lucki in the Arkle betting. That’s because he got the better of Third Time Lucki when they met in December and because his nascent chasing career has included far fewer mistakes.
Edwardstone has been perfect over fences since being brought down on his chase debut. It’s been a little less convincing from Third Time Lucki but could Dan Skelton’s charge turn out to be the better of the two? For all that he wasn’t pressed hard at Doncaster last time out, he couldn’t have been much more impressive as he returned to winning ways. Harry Skelton has ridden Third Time Lucki on all but one of his starts under rules and has always spoken highly of him. It’s the pace with which he travels through his races that really catches the eye and it could be that pace that catches Edwardstone out at Warwick so take the favourite on with Third Time Lucki at a price of 7/4.
2:25 Betfair Denman Chase
Grade 2, 2m7½f
The Betfair Denman Chase is another big test for the Paul Nicholls yard. Denman is just one of the 10 winners that Nicholls has had in this race but he has never trained a horse to win this Grade 2 race more than once. That’s the piece of history on the line on Saturday as 2019 winner Clan Des Obeaux looks to double up.
The bookies make Clan Des Obeaux the even-money favourite but once again it could pay to take on the Nicholls runner. The form of Venetia Williams could hardly be more different to Nicholls. She is enjoying a cracking season which can get even better at Newbury as Royale Pagaille has every chance of winning. For all that Royale Pagaille would enjoy softer ground, he is up against some very good opponents so this could well turn into the sort of battle that he relishes which makes him the one to plump for at the prices with best odds of 2/1 available in places.
3:00 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase
Grade 2, 2m½f
Alan King was rightly proud of the fact that Sceau Royal passed the £500,000 mark in earnings when the 10 year old won at Kempton on his first start of the season. He followed that up with victory in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle before a good run in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. A flat run last time out has prompted King to send Sceau Royal chasing again and the bookies clearly believe that was a wise decision as he is the 2/1 favourite in the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase.
Sceau Royal faces a small but select field on Saturday. Hitman, Funambule Sivola and Sky Pirate are all very good performers at this level but they have just one win between them this season. That win was provided by Funambule Sivola last time out at Doncaster where a drop-down in trip worked a treat. The Venetia Williams inmate showed a tremendous attitude to secure that win in battling style and he can fight his way to another big win at 5/2.
3:15 Virgin Bet Warwick Castle Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4f
Sam Thomas has shown a good knack for getting considerable improvement from horses who are sent to him from other yards lately. Our Power is just one of the horses that has taken big steps forward since heading to the outskirts of Cardiff. The seven year old has won two of his four starts this season and can improve on that record with another success in the Virgin Bet Warwick Castle Handicap Chase.
The way he won last time out at Huntingdon carrying top weight, just three days after falling at Doncaster, showed that Our Power is a horse full of heart. While this is a step up in class, the handicapper appears to have underestimated Our Power’s recent improvement with his mark of 136 more than workable so back him to win at odds of 6/1.
3:35 Betfair Hurdle
Grade 3, 2m½f
Saturday is a big day for Alan King who sends a number of his stable stars out for important runs. Tritonic is one of those about whom King has high hopes even though the bookies have him as a 11/1 shot in the Betfair Hurdle.
The fact that he has a burden of 11st11lb is the main thing working against Tritonic but it’s easy to forget that he is still just five years of age and thus open to considerable improvement from his current handicap mark of 146. King spoke in the week of how happy he was with Tritonic’s work recently, saying that Adrian Heskin was full of praise after a schooling session. High-quality horses have carried big weights before to win this important handicap and while victory is a big ask, Tritonic looks well worth an each way bet at a nice price of 11/1.