The days are getting longer and warmer and this weekend is the last time that the jumps get top billing on ITV’s Saturday racing until the end of the summer. -Sandown’s Jumps Finale meeting features some very good National Hunt action before we can all turn our attentions fully to the Flat. As well as broadcasting the pick of the races from Sandown, ITV Racing have two quality races on the level at Haydock and Leicester.
A variety of racing provides some great opportunities to get the better of the bookies and we have gone through each of the live ITV races in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips. Hopefully you can bag some winners to make your mood as cheery as a fine spring day!
1:50 bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m
There are few surprises in the form of the 13 horses entered into the opening race of Sandown’s Jumps Finale meeting. We’ve seen each of these horses multiple times over the course of the season and largely know their level. What we don’t know is how far they will improve in the years to come. Just two of the 13 are older than seven and there are a few who could take a step forward even earlier than next season.
Hasty Parisian is among those who has shown there is almost certainly much more to come. It’s unlikely that Milton Harris’ four-year-old will have the most successful career of his rivals at Sandown but there is no doubt his best is yet to come. Hasty Parisian has just 10st to carry and looked better than his mark of 116 when keeping the impressive Boombawn honest at Ffos Las earlier in the month. That run showed he can handle good ground and suggests that he warrants each way support at a really generous looking price of 12/1.
2:05 Great Shevington Handicap
Class 2, 7f
ITV Racing’s sole trip to Haydock is for the Great Shevington Handicap. This has proven to be a very competitive race in recent years and it looks like more of the same this time around. Just two favourites have obliged their backers in the last 10 renewals and with no standout option in the market it once again makes sense to look for the best each way value.
That value looks to lie with Mehmento who is available at 9/1. Archie Watson has kept his four-year-old busy over the winter months but his best form has come on turf. While he is no longer contesting pattern level races, Mehmento has plenty of natural ability and his front running style looks a great fit for this race so expect him to be in the mix come the closing stages.
2:25 bet365 Oaksey Chase
Grade 2, 2m6½f
It’s another small-field graded race next up at Sandown. Rather disappointingly, only four horses will contest the bet365 Oaksey Chase with the market topped by the talented but inconsistent Mister Fisher. Nicky Henderson’s eight-year-old has been a cliff horse for many punters who believe that he will put it all together on the big stage one day and cannot leave him unbacked. Unfortunately for his fans, backing Mister Fisher blindly either to win or each way has not returned a profit in the last two seasons and he once again looks vulnerable due to the presence of Saint Calvados.
You can’t exactly call Saint Calvados a reliable horse either though. He has proved a challenging individual at times and was up to his usual tricks at Aintree where he was far too keen in the Melling Chase. Saint Calvados has actually gone longer without a win than Mister Fisher but has finished ahead of his rival in two of their last three meetings. Since having wind surgery Saint Calvados has often travelled strongly before falling away in the latter stages. Running on good ground could help him maintain his rhythm while allowing him to save something for the finish so take Saint Calvados to secure yet another win for the Paul Nicholls team.
2:45 EBF Stallions King Richard III Stakes
Small fields are common in the King Richard III Stakes but it is a shame for Leicester that their biggest race of the season has attracted just three runners. Path Of Thunder, Happy Power and Aratus should provide a competitive enough race but the fans at Leicester will quite rightly feel a little short changed by a three-horse race.
Path Of Thunder is the tentative favourite as he makes his return from the UAE where he ran with credit in three races. His British form is decent but he’s more of a 1m horse than a 7f one and that could be what makes the difference with Happy Power ready to take advantage at 9/4. Andrew Balding has his six-year-old in good shape after a couple of runs this season and he can win for owners King Power Racing who always love a win in Leicester.
3:00 bet365 Celebration Chase
Grade 1, 1m7½f
Placing horses in the right races is a real skill. While racing fans understandably get frustrated when horses are pulled out of contests, the fact is that trainers and owners must do what they feel is best for their horses and whatever gives them the best chance of winning.
Nube Negra would have been a worthy contender in the high class minimum distance chases over the last few months but Dan Skelton’s charge wasn’t at Cheltenham or Aintree. In fact, he hasn’t been seen since a disappointing run in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown. Skelton suggested his poor effort that day was because he was overworked and that he’ll be much better fresh. That bodes well for his reappearance in the bet365 Celebration Chase. It looks very much as though Nube Negra has been targeted for this race for some time and he can raise his levels enough to see off the challenge of Greaneteen, Sceau Royal, Rouge Vif and Sky Pirate.
3:32 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 3m5f
There is clearly something in the air in Christian Williams’ part of South Wales. He’s had tremendous success in staying chases this season and has some well backed horses in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. Cap Du Nord is a reliable jumper even under pressure and is attracting interest at 14/1 but he just doesn’t like going right-handed, while Win My Wings will have no problem with the trip having won the Scottish Grand National at the start of the month. It is Kitty’s Light who looks like Williams’ best chance though.
It was Kitty’s Light who pushed his stablemate hardest at Ayr and he’s better off at the weights this time around. Clearly, Kitty’s Light has to beat more than just one rival and he hasn’t managed to get his head in front thus far this season. In fact, Kitty’s Light hasn’t won since last March with the run of defeats starting in last year’s bet365 Gold Cup. He was unlucky to go down to Potterman 12 months ago and can put that right this time around at odds of 9/2 which look more than fair to us.