We’re really into the start of the jumps racing season now and have a properly big contest to enjoy. The Charlie Hall Chase is good enough to be the lynchpin of most weekends of racing and it is supported by some excellent races both at Wetherby and at Ascot.
This is the sort of weekend to get really excited about if you love National Hunt racing and we’re hoping to make it that bit better by finding the best bets in our Saturday Racing Tips. As usual, we’ve picked through the form and the odds to bring you the best value from the televised races, so let’s try and bag some winners!
1:30 Ascot Underwriting Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m3f
This weekend’s action is a real treat with some of the most popular horses in racing getting their seasons underway. Goshen is one such horse. Enigmatic rather than relentlessly consistent, Goshen is capable of brilliance on his day but predicting when that day will be is never easy.
There will be huge interest in Goshen making his chasing debut at Ascot. If his colourful history is anything to go by, this first foray into tackling the larger obstacles will be anything but uneventful. If Goshen doesn’t quite get it right then Samarrive will be there to take advantage. He too is taking his first steps into steeplechasing on Saturday but he’s always looked the type to make a cracking chaser and can make this step up in style, winning at the solid looking odds of 5/2.
1:50 bet365 Novices’ Hurdle
Class 3, 2m3½f
Prairie Wolf started his season off at Uttoxeter a couple of weeks ago with his first appearance over hurdles. Having made quite an impression last season in bumpers, it was pleasing to see him tackle his hurdles with vigour even if there were clear signs of inexperience as he finished third, in behind the bookies’ favourite and a 33/1 outsider.
Sue Smith was far from disappointed that Prairie Wolf failed to win his hurdling debut. Indeed, she is happy for him to use that experience nice and quickly as he returns to the track here at Wetherby in the bet365 Novices’ Hurdle. Stepping up in trip to 2m3½f looks a sensible decision as there is plenty of stamina on the dam’s side of his breeding and Prairie Wolf should justify his billing as the 4/1 second favourite here.
2:05 Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 1m7½f
The recent rain that has fallen across the country could not have come at a better time for Saturday’s racing. By softening the ground up the rain has seriously improved the size of the fields and the competitiveness of the racing. That much is evident in the Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle which sees 10 horses go to post in a race where most of them have a real chance of winning.
In a race where so little separates the runners, little things like race fitness could make all the difference. That’s certainly what connections of Broomfield Burg will hope. He got his season off to a decent start with a third-place finish at Chepstow earlier in the month. Raised just 1lb for that effort but likely sharper and ready to give his best, the JP McManus-owned six-year-old is worth each way support at 6/1.
2:25 bet365 Mares’ Hurdle
Molly Ollys Wishes had the perfect start to last season when she won the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby in October. Although her season ultimately tailed off, connections are hopeful that she can repeat the trick and begin the 2022-23 campaign by winning the same race.
The trends for this race show that it pays to side with experience. Just one horse younger than seven has won the race in the last seven renewals and that trend can continue with Molly Ollys Wishes getting the better of some talented younger rivals. Martello Sky is the obvious danger while Alan King is right to feel confident about the chances of Nina The Terrier. Still, it’s last year’s winner who is the one they all have to beat and at 11/8 we cannot oppose her.
2:40 Byrne Group Handicap Chase
Premier Handicap, 2m1f
The end of the Flat season proper sees most of the horses who have starred over the summer months get given the cold winter off. That will not be true of Gumball. He served trainer, Fergal O’Brien, and his owners well on the Flat but is equally adept in the jumps sphere.
Gumball’s handicap mark of 137 makes him of interest in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase. Although he can be a tricky customer at times, he ran very well on the Flat at Ascot last time out and can take that form with him as he goes back chasing. The price of 6/1 also makes him interesting for each way punters.
3:00 bet365 Hurdle
Group 2, 3m
Connections of Sporting John had high hopes that he would make into a top-class chaser capable of challenging in some of the very, very biggest steeplechases over 3m plus. He did indeed have top level success over fences, winning the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase but from then on, his form fell away and he was switched back to hurdles last season.
The bet365 Hurdle is not an easy start to the season for Sporting John but a big run at Wetherby could set the tone for the season ahead. You get the feeling that he has some unfinished business at the top level of racing and although his biggest days ahead are likely to come over hurdles and not fences, Sporting John is one to look forward to this season. Philip Hobbs is sure to have him fit and ready to go and the horse has a good record when running after a break, so he’ll be tough to stop at 7/4.
3:15 Bateaux London Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Premier Handicap, 3m
The Bateaux London Gold Cup plays the role of Ascot’s feature on Saturday. It’s always well attended and we have a decent field of 13 contesting this year’s edition. The last five winners of this race have gone in at 9/1, 14/1, 2/1 (favourite), 4/1 and 7/1 and this year’s race does look another competitive renewal with plenty of live contenders towards the head of the betting.
That said, those from lower down in the market will need to be at their peak if they are to get the better of bookies’ favourite, Major Dundee. Alan King’s seven-year-old ran a huge race in the Scottish Grand National and he’ll be seen over staying trips for sure this season. Our Power and Mister Malarky should be the biggest dangers but this is Major Dundee’s to lose.
3:35 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase
Grade 2, 3m
The bet365 Charlie Hall Chase is the feature race of the day and features an excellent head to head. Bravemansgame goes into the race as the narrow 6/4 favourite with the bookies but Paul Nicholls knows that his charge faces an almighty battle to get the better of Ahoy Senor.
Bravemansgame was disappointing when these two met at the tail end of last season. His usually excellent jumping was patchy at best whereas Ahoy Senor put in his best jumping performance over fences by some distance. Ahoy Senor looked good enough that day to give Scotland a genuine chance in the Gold Cup and after a nice break from racing in which he’ll have done plenty of schooling under the watchful eye of both Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore, Ahoy Senor can kick off the big season with a huge win. For him and us!