Although it was the Lincoln at Doncaster that fired the starting pistol for the Flat racing season, it is Newmarket’s Craven Meeting that fully and properly sees racing fans and punters turn their attention to the Flat. That is reflected in this week’s ITV Racing with action on the level from both Musselburgh and Newbury being broadcast on Saturday.
We have the sort of mixture of Group level races and competitive handicaps that will be the norm for Saturday afternoons over the coming months to enjoy in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips. As ever, we’ve gone through each of the live ITV races to pick out the best of the betting value.
1:32 Betway Royal Mile Handicap
Class 3, 1m
Experienced trainer Mark Johnston has taken up the option to co-train his horses this season. Johnson’s son Charlie has stepped up to jointly hold the yard’s licence which is fortunate as there is an awful lot of work for them to get through this campaign.
When it comes to Spirit Catcher the job is fairly simple. They must get the three-year-old to relax more in the early part of his races as he has an exciting blend of speed and stamina which could see him win some nice contests over 1m. The Betway Royal Mile Handicap is the first target in that regard. Johnson senior has a reputation for bringing on considerable improvement in his three-year-olds so Spirit Catcher is worth backing at a nice price of 6/1 and is also well worth following over the course of the season.
1:50 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes
Group 3, 1m4f
A collection of very good horses are making their seasonal reappearances in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes. Ilaraab and Max Vega make their returns after the former beat the latter by one length in a Group 3 at this track in October. Thunderous, who sits between that pair in the betting, is returning after a longer break and connections hope that a gelding operation in the winter will help bring out more improvement from him.
Those three are all easy enough to back but the value in this race looks to sit with Invite who is as good a 10/1 shot as you’ll find this weekend. She came on very nicely indeed during last season after joining Andrew Balding’s yard and for all that she was a disappointment in the Italian Oaks and at Ascot, there is no doubting her ability. Invite is also a laid back sort and can make her fillies’ allowance pay.
2:04 Betway Musselburgh Silver Arrow Handicap
Class 2, 7f
At this early stage of the season punters are on the lookout for unexposed horses who are able to hit the ground running. Four-year-old horses carrying top weight in Class 2 handicaps don’t usually fit the bill but there should be a fair amount still to come from Gioia Cieca for Keith Dalgleish.
Dalgleish has some lofty targets for Gioia Cieca this season. It was a lack of strength and size that stopped Gioia Cieca appearing in more races last year but he has reportedly wintered well. It’s always exciting for trainers to have lightly raced four-year-olds who can go on to run in races with big prize pots and Gioia Cieca can take a step towards a possible Royal Ascot outing buy winning the Betway Musselburgh Silver Arrow Handicap at the very decent looking price of 5/1.
2:25 Dubai Duty Free Stakes
Group 3, 7f
On her British form alone, you’d find it a bit challenging to make a case about Wild Beauty’s chances in the 1,000 Guineas. After a couple of promising early performances – including victory at Newbury in her third start – she found at least one horse too good on the rest of her starts in Britain.
It’s her run in the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes in Canada that suggests she could be something special for Godolphin. While the 20/1 available about Wild Beauty’s chances of winning the 1,000 Guineas suggest a certain lack of confidence, the market is much more confident about her in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes. The 9/4 favourite will need her best run in Britain but there is no reason she can’t provide that on her first run as a three-year-old, which will see that price for the Guineas shorten at least a little.
2:39 Betway Holyrood Handicap
Grade 3, 4m2½f
The Betway Holyrood Handicap is the first of two big handicaps taking place at Musselburgh on Saturday. A prize of £25,000 is enough for trainers to target their horses at the race at this early stage of the season and that looks to be the case for market leader Raasel. Michael Appleby has been sure to keep his five-year-old back for his trip to Scotland as he seeks to begin the new season as he ended the last.
It is certainly not difficult to make a case for Raasel securing the win but he faces some classy sorts including Zarzyni. He had a good last season for David and Nicola after joining their yard and they have been keen to keep him going over the winter. Four second place finishes in a row have doubtless been frustrating for connections and he went agonisingly close in this race last year. However, Zarzyni’s race fitness could just give him the edge and see him earn the win he’s been threatening at 9/2.
3:00 Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes
Group 3, 7f
The heating up of the Flat season can only mean one thing: the Classics are just around the corner. This week has already seen some leading trials for the 2,000 Guineas, with Native Trail cementing his position as the ante post favourite with a win at Newmarket. Charlie Appleby chose that race ahead of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday and, with all due respect to the six horses remaining in the race, this looks a level below a top flight 2,000 Guineas trial.
That said, Angel Bleu, Perfect Power, Lusail and The Wizard Of Eye all have entries at Newmarket in May so this will be an informative race. It’s Angel Bleu who tops the market but his displays as a juvenile suggested that he is best suited to having more cut in the ground than he’ll get at Newbury. That should open things up for the aptly named Perfect Power. He showed an ability to come on strong at the tail end of races when winning the Prix Morny at Deauville under Christophe Soumillion last season and they can pair up once again for more success here.
3:14 Betway Queen’s Cup
Class 2, 1m6f
Emmet Mullins’ reputation for sneaking well prepared horses into handicaps under the radar increased several times over last weekend when Noble Yeats won the Grand National at the bumper price of 50/1. You can’t say that Zero Ten is similarly hidden in the Betway Queen’s Cup as he carries top weight and the best price available on him is 11/2. However, he might just prove to be the best horse in this race.
Zero Ten is an incredibly versatile performer who has won on the Flat, over hurdles and over fences in the last few years. The nine-year-old was kept solely on the level last season and it’s looking like a similar approach for this campaign. He’s run well off the back of a long break before so Zero Ten does look the one the others have to beat.
3:35 Highclere Thoroughbred Racing 30th Anniversary Spring Cup Handicap
Class 2, 1m
A 17-runner handicap closes out the ITV Racing action at Newbury on Saturday. Winning favourites are relatively uncommon in this race, as you might expect, with just one outright favourite getting the job done in the last 10 years. That doesn’t augur well for Rogue Bear backers who have come in large numbers. Tom Clover’s four-year-old was unlucky to finish third in the Lincoln at Doncaster and he runs off the same mark but at 7/2 he’s one to simply applaud should he win.
When it comes to staking your money, there is much more to like about the massive dose of each way value offered by the 20/1 you can get on Orbaan. The seven-year-old has a knack for running well on his second appearance after a break, while wind surgery this time last year helped him to rediscover some of his best form. Expected to come on for his first run of the new Flat turf season, Orbaan can use his experience to run into a place and possibly even land this.