The Chester May meeting is a firm favourite among racing fans. It was the main attraction of the midweek racing but at the weekend thoughts start turning towards another huge Flat meeting: Royal Ascot.
Ascot hosts a strong card on Saturday with the best races being broadcast by ITV Racing. The ITV cameras will also be present at Lingfield for races like the Derby and Oaks trials and Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes which are much more than just filler. There’s also time for some jumps racing in the form of the Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock so we have a busy day ahead in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:45 Royal Ascot Local Schools Art Competition Handicap
Class 3, 1m4f
This is how you start a day’s racing on the Flat. 17 runners are set to contest this middle distance handicap and there is some good form on display. Danehill Kodiac has lots of good form in the book and the nine year old is an interesting option in the betting at 14/1 as he makes his return to the track having not been seen since December 2020.
Danehill Kodiac has a tough ask carrying top weight though so a Just Hubert is a more appealing option for punters at odds of 9/1. He started his season with a big run in May at Haydock last year and William Muir and Chris Grassick are sure to have their six year old very well prepared for his first outing of 2022. He can be a bit of a handful but Just Hubert is versatile and has shown a liking for Ascot previously with a win and a place from his two starts at the track.
2:05 SBK Handicap
Class 4, 7f
There might not be many winning favourites of the handicaps during Saturday’s racing but Verreaux Eagle is capable of going against the grain at a price of 9/4. It’s been a busy campaign already for the Ed Dunlop inmate which has seen her run some very good races without winning. She came closest last time out when going down by a nose at Brighton but she runs off 77 on Saturday, the mark of her most recent win which came at Kempton.
While Verreaux Eagle hasn’t won as yet this season, her trainer certainly has. It’s been an excellent start to the campaign for the Dunlop team and they are right to be confident about the chances of Verreaux Eagle adding to their tally.
2:20 Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes
The only thing not going for Al Aasy, the favourite for the Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes, is that he is as yet unproven at Ascot. His sole run at the course came in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes where he finished as far back as his odds of 16/1 would suggest. You can’t take much at all from that race other than he is not a top-level performer but he is more than capable of winning at the Listed level.
The one element of the race that could really play against Al Aasy is his draw. Horses with a low draw who prefer to run having been held up do not have a good record over this trip at Ascot so the favourite really will have to be much better than his rivals. Favourite backers might watch on nervously as Al Aasy works away to get himself in a good position but they’re likely to be happy come the end of the race.
2:40 SBK Derby Trial Stakes
Immediately after the 2,000 Guineas is run punters and racing fans start thinking about the Derby. While the conversations about the race at Newmarket have all been about which horse will be suited by the step up to 1m4f, the five horses in the field for the SBK Derby Trial Stakes still have to prove they are worthy of competing at the very top level.
Walk Of Stars and United Nations are the two most likely to kick on from this trial to the Derby itself. They represent two of the most powerful yards around with Walk Of Stars running for Godolphin and United Nations for Ballydoyle. Of the two it is Walk Of Stars who is the most likely winner. This son of Dubawi scored at odds on in his first run as a three year old last month and should be seen to best effect over this trip so is the right favourite at Evens.
3:00 Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle
Grade 3, 1m7½f
The main form line to analyse ahead of the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle is the Scottish Champion Hurdle. Anna Bunina looked well handicapped that day at Ayr and she duly put in a huge performance to take advantage. It was the way she quickened from three out that was most impressive as she got the better of the 5/2 favourite West Cork.
There was a feeling after the Swinton that West Cork’s chances were hurt by the steady pace of the race. He lost little in defeat after what has been an excellent season and the market has Dan Skelton’s charge as the favourite once again. That is a fair billing for West Cork who is still going in the right direction and on slightly different terms he should be able to reverse the form with Anna Bunina.
3:15 SBK Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes
Group 1, 1m
Aidan O’Brien may well find one too good for his horse in the Derby Trial and it may well be the same for the fillies’ equivalent. Emily Dickinson is the favourite for the SBK Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes and there is good reason to think that she will kick on from her win at Naas last month as she steps up in trip. However, she was still a little green on what was her third run whereas Belt Buckle looked almost like an experienced veteran on her debut at Wolverhampton in February.
John and Thady Gosden and Chasemore Farm are not quite sure whether Belt Buckle will quite have the class to win at the top level and she doesn’t hold an Oaks entry. However, she made such an impressive start to her career that another win, this time against better opposition, could prompt a late change of heart.
3:30 British EBF Fillies’ Handicap
Class 2, 1m
It could well be a day for the long shots at Ascot given the number of wide-open handicaps on the card. The British EBF Fillies’ Handicap doesn’t have the same size of field as others on the card but nine-runner field is enough to create a really competitive race.
Longer odds winners of this race are no rare thing and Rising Star can outrun his odds of 6/1 to claim a place or maybe even go on to win outright. Marco Botti has kept his four year old going over the winter and she came back into form in March when he won at Newcastle. This is a very different type of race but she is best suited to a mile and she has a draw which should suit her preference for front running.
3:50 SBK Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes
Group 3, 7f
The SBK Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes is a very important race for Lingfield as the only Group level race run on the course’s turf Flat track. Previous editions of this Group 3 have proved the importance of getting out in front early and that could suit Symphony Perfect just perfectly.
Although Symphony Perfect is yet to win on good to firm ground, she has won on both firm and good ground before so the going is no concern. Moreover, she loves to either lead the race early or chase the leaders should she be given a decent draw. With just five opponents, Symphony Power should have little trouble getting out in front even from stall one and from there she can power away to take the race at a generous price of 5/1.
4:05 tote Victoria Cup
Class 2, 7f
Saturday’s ITV Racing coverage ends with the 28 runner tote Victoria Cup. This is one of the biggest, most valuable handicaps of the early stage of the season and it is always a very hot betting heat. Winners in the last 10 years have ranged from 5/1 favourites to 25/1 shots and punters on the lookout for some each way value should consider taking the odds of 16/1 available about Dance Fever.
Clive Cox has a real chance of winning the Victoria Cup for the second year in a row as Dance Fever ticks the right boxes according to the trends. He’s the right age, has the right sort of rating and comes into the race on the back of a strong warm-up run. Dance Fever has actually run three times in 2022 already but it wasn’t until returning to the turf at Newmarket last time out that he looked ready to tackle a race of this calibre. It’s now all systems go for Dance Fever who can end our Saturday Racing Tips on a high.