Last weekend was all about the start of the Flat season at Doncaster. While racing fans are getting excited for the big meetings ahead on the level there is still plenty of life left in the jumps campaign.
The ITV Racing cameras have jumps action from Ayr and Newbury on Saturday. The pick of the racing comes north of the border with the second day of the Scottish Grand National meeting headlined by the big race itself. There is also a trio of Grade 2 races from across the two tracks to enjoy so plenty of opportunities for us to seek out in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:15 Scotty Brand Handicap Chase
Jumps racing is a very difficult sport. Each year we see extremely talented horses lose their concentration just momentarily and come crashing down. It’s always a relief when a horse walks away from a fall but the effects can be long lasting. That appeared to be the case with Sebastopol who had a heavy fall at Kempton in November and was then pulled up back at the same track on Boxing Day.
Concerns that the long-lasting impact of that form would seriously impact this talented horse’s career were thankfully allayed somewhat when he won a novice chase over two miles at Kempton just two weeks ago. It’s all systems go now and the market agrees with Tom Lacey that his charge can go in again in the opener at Ayr. It’s debatable whether he’ll even need to take much of a step forward to win this and Sebastopol is the right favourite at odds of 2/1.
1:35 Play Pick 6 At BetVictor Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m3f
Carrying on from the last race, it’s not just falling that can put a dent in a horse’s progression. Rainyday Woman looked like a talented mare as she progressed through the course of the season with a hat-trick of wins for Paul Nicholls. Everything appeared to be set up nicely for her to keep her momentum going at the new Winter Million meeting at Lingfield but she was pulled up after never getting involved and the vet later reported her to have an irregular heartbeat.
Nicholls has rightly taken his time with Rainyday Woman. Having been given a clean bill of health at home, the seven year old is making what could be a triumphant return to the track. Rainyday Woman has already proven that she is versatile in terms of trip and going so the 13/2 still available about her chances is well worth snapping up.
1:50 CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m
Nicky Henderson isn’t exactly a regular at Ayr and he doesn’t have a particularly good record at the track. If you’d backed all of his 27 runners at Ayr over the last five years you’d be almost £60 in the hole but Henderson should be able to improve upon that record and rewards his supporters in the CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase.
Dusart is the 9/4 favourite for Henderson and his chances are boosted by the presence of his number one stable jockey Nico de Boinville. De Boinville has ridden Dusart in each of his five starts under rules, coming out on top three times. He was nowhere near challenging L’Homme Presse in the recent Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham but at odds of 20/1 he wasn’t expected to be. For all that there hasn’t been any time to sort out the issues he had with jumping out to his right at Cheltenham, Dusart should have the class edge on his rivals at Ayr and pick up his third win of the year.
2:10 Download The BetVictor App Conditional Jockeys’ Veterans’ Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m7½f
Veterans’ races are always popular with racing fans as they are a chance to see some much-loved horses return to a level in which they can seriously compete. Running in this sphere doesn’t disqualify horses from running in open competition though as Glen Forsa proves.
The 10 year old has had an excellent career to date and he picked up another win in a veterans’ handicap chase at Musselburgh in February. He was unable to build on that win in the Grade 3 Greatwood Gold Cup when last seen but should relish the chance to take on veterans again. If any horse in the field has the heart to cope with the burden of top weight it’s Glen Forsa who is sure to give punters are run for their money at a price of 8/1.
2:25 Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m
Subject to which sportsbook you look at, there are differing opinions on whether Onemorefortheroad or West Cork should be the favourite for the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle. It is easy to make claims for both of them but it’s the latter who narrowly gets the nod for the Dan Skelton team.
No doubt West Cork faces a quick turnaround having run at the Cheltenham Festival. He had been kept fresh for his festival appearance though and ran very well but just ran into three well-treated opponents in the County Handicap Hurdle. His fourth-place finish is enough to convince the Skeltons that he should make a quick return to action and although this is a step up in grade on paper, it should actually prove to be a less competitive race so take the 11/4 available about West Cork’s chances.
2:45 British EBF BetVictor “NH” Novices’ Mares’ Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m4½f
Alastair Ralph has been very happy with the work of Holly Hartingo this season. She won her first two starts under rules for him, showing a nice amount of pace in the latter stages. Indeed, she was so speedy that Ralph decided to drop her down to two miles last time out at Hereford. That did not go to plan and it’s back up to 2m4½f for Holly Hartingo at Newbury on Saturday which looks to be a wise decision.
At the age of six it is impossible to know just where Holly Hartingo’s ceiling will ultimately be but she looks capable of doing well in Graded races once running in open company next season. For now, this is a cracking opportunity for her in the novices’ sphere and 10/1 is an equally cracking price for each way punters.
3:00 Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m4½f
Michael Scudamore has some very good horses at the moment but are any of his runners quite as good as Do Your Job? The eight year old has spent much of the season competing against the best minimum distance chasers in the country. He’s almost always done himself and connections proud especially when finishing second to Edwardstone and Third Time Lucki in consecutive starts.
It was a step up to 2m4f last time that saw him return to winning ways though and Scudamore is sticking with the plan for his trip to Ayr. Though Do Your Job is facing just four opponents in this Grade 2 they are each of high class so this will take some winning. Do Your Job does get five pounds from bookies’ favourite Minella Drama though and that could make the difference in the final reckoning for the 5/2 shot.
3:35 Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 4m
Could the Scottish Grand National go to a Scottish trainer for the second year in a row? Lucinda Russell brought the house down last year when Mighty Thunder got home with Tom Scudamore on board but she doesn’t have an entry this time around. That leaves Ian Jardine with the best chance of successfully carrying the flag for Scottish racing.
Jardine has had some very good days at Ayr and should feel quietly confident about the chances of Cool Mix who is available at a best price of 11/1. The 10 year old did well in his first crack at the Scottish Grand National last year when finishing fifth. While he’s not attempted four miles since, he has plenty of proven stamina and won’t mind if the rain in the forecast softens the ground up. Cool Mix hasn’t finished worse than fourth this season and yet he runs off a mark of 125, six pounds less than his last trip to Ayr. That places him second bottom in the weights, a position that he can capitalise on with another big run so make sure to back Cool Mix each way.