While many racing fans will still be sleeping off their Cheltenham Festival hangovers, many others will be setting off to Uttoxeter for the biggest day of the year at the course. The Midlands Grand National is a very important race and those at Uttoxeter and others watching on from home will be treated to a competitive-looking race.
There are other strong races on the card at Uttoxeter and some competitive racing taking place at Kempton. The best of Saturday’s jumps racing is being broadcast by ITV Racing and in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips we’ve sifted through the form for all eight live races.
1:30 Virgin Bet Free Bets For Winners Handicap Chase
Class 4, 3m
There are only six runners heading to post for the opening ITV race of the day but that is enough to produce an incredibly tight, competitive race on paper. There isn’t much between most of these in the betting or the weights but Uallrightharry carries at least 10lb less than any of his rivals and he can take advantage at odds of 5/1.
There isn’t anything in Uallrightharry’s recent form that suggests he should be so much lower in the ratings than his rivals. Although he was beaten by a combined 28 lengths in his last two starts, he finished as the runner up on both occasions. Keeping him in Class 4 company could prove to be a wise bit of placing from dual trainers John Best and Karen Jewell.
1:50 Optimum Experience Handicap Hurdle
Class 3, 2m7½f
The big race of the day at Uttoxeter, the Midlands Grand National, is a tremendous test of stamina. The horses competing in the Optimum Experience Handicap Hurdle are a long way from stepping up to competing over more than four miles but stamina could be the key to this contest as well.
Although Uttoxeter is quite a quick track, it can be very challenging when the going is soft as it is likely to be on Saturday. That could suit Pulling Stumps who looks like good value at odds of 6/1. Philip Hobbs reaped the rewards for stepping Pulling Stumps up to three miles last time out as the five year old won for the first time over hurdles. A strong galloper, he has the right profile for Uttoxeter and has shown a liking for soft ground so Pulling Stumps is the one for this race.
2:05 Virgin Bet Free Bets For Winners Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m
We have another six-runner handicap chase up next at Kempton. Unlike the earlier race, this looks like a less competitive race with Sebastopol (7/1), Caddyhill (8/1) and Storm Rising (50/1) each requiring their best performance for some time to get ahead of the top three in the betting.
Rockstar Ronnie, Golden Boy Grey and Siroco Jo are all available at around 11/4 and of the three it’s the first-named who looks to have the best chance. Dan Skelton’s seven year old has completed a double at Kempton in November but his trainer hasn’t been able to get him back out on track since. There was more than a bit of luck about that second win so the handicapper has left him off 132 which is a fair mark for a talented horse.
2:25 Trinity Create Novices’ Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
Venetia Williams’ excellent season got even better during Cheltenham. Among her successes at the festival was Chambard who won the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at 40/1 with Lucy Turner on board. That was Turner’s first Cheltenham Festival win and she can have further success on a Williams horse on Saturday when she rides Fuji Flight in the Trinity Create Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Unlike Chambard, with whom Turner has a very close relationship, the jockey has only ridden Fuji Flight once before. Fuji Flight took a little while to warm up that day at Haydock but he gradually warmed to his task. That experience will help Turner no end who can let Fuji Flight travel comfortably before getting him going for a big finish. At odds of 10/3, Fuji Flight is well fancied by the market and for very good reason as he bids to complete a hat-trick of wins after successes at Hereford and Newbury.
2:40 Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m5f
After being unable to run his race at Newbury last time out, Paul Nicholls is hoping that a return to basics will get Calva D’Auge back to winning ways. He made all for a taking victory on his last outing at Kempton and could well do so again.
The obvious challenge for Calva D’Auge is the burden of carrying top weight. The market looks to have overreacted to that fact though and 18/1 is too big a price about a horse of his abilities. He carried top weight for that Kempton win in November and the seven year old has by no means reached his ceiling left. Each way support is advised at that price but Calva D’Auge could go better than just pacing.
3:00 Optimum Pay Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4f
The Optimum Pay Handicap Hurdle is often a very competitive affair. Despite that, several horses have been able to make their class pay as they carry a big weight to win. That was the case last year when Wilde About Oscar won with 11st12lb on his back for Dan and Harry Skelton and history may just be about to repeat itself one year on.
The Skeltons have Ch’tibello as their sole entry. The highly experienced 11 year old would probably prefer for the ground to dry out a touch during the day but he can always be relied upon to give his running. He comes into this race with his official rating on the decline but he retains plenty of ability and heart and has raced at a higher level than most of his rivals here. The Skeltons are hopeful he has at least one more big race in him and after a short break, this could well be it.
3:15 Virgin Bet Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4½f
The Virgin Bet Handicap Chase is the most valuable race of the day at Kempton. The prize for the winner is less than a third of that won by L’Homme Presse at the Cheltenham Festival but £30,000 is well worth winning and the partnership of Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch will leave no stone unturned as they seek to earn another win, this time with Espoir De Guye.
Deutsch had to work hard to guide Espoir De Guye to victory last time out at Warwick. The eight year old was an odds-on favourite in a three-runner race and gave his backers a scare with a funny start and a mistake at the fourth but Deutsch stayed on board and in the end his charge’s quality told. That was his first start after a wind operation in January and there is more to come from Espoir De Guye who can reward favourite backers once again at a price of 7/2.
3:35 Boulton Group Midlands Grand National
There has never been a two-time winner of the Midlands Grand National. Given the race was first run in 1969, that’s a lot of history for Time To Get Up to overcome and yet Jonjo O’Neill’s horse is the warm 5/1 favourite to repeat his heroics from last year. That price is largely down to the fact that Time To Get Up is only four pounds higher in the official ratings this year and actually carries a pound less than he did when edging out Mighty Thunder.
While Time To Get Up is the one to beat, the price is a little too short for a race like this. Instead, back the veteran Final Nudge each way at odds of 11/1. Fergal O’Brien has targeted Final Nudge at the Midlands Grand National this year, just as he did last year when he finished third. An out and out stayer, Final Nudge will keep galloping away all the way to the finish and while those old legs might just not have the final kick needed to win, he can be relied upon to be in the mix come the closing stages and the bookmakers are all paying out to at least five places.