Please be aware that racing was cancelled from Cheltenham and Doncaster on Saturday 10th December due to frozen ground.
The festive period is always an excellent time of year for racing fans, with a stream of quality Saturday cards leading up to the big King George meeting on Boxing Day. This weekend sees the ITV cameras take up residence at the home of the National Hunt game, with the December Gold Cup and International Hurdle amongst the races covered.
Further north Doncaster plays host to one of its standout jump fixtures of the year, and a trio of contests from the south Yorkshire track round out the TV coverage. Here we pick out our best bets in each of the seven events, in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:30 bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle
A field of nine goes to post in this event for the up-and-coming hurdlers, won last year by Knight Salute who went on to Grade 1 glory at the Grand National meeting. Heading the betting is Nusret from the yard of Joseph O’Brien, who crosses the Irish sea having pulled six lengths clear on his hurdles debut at Punchestown. He is expected to go well, as is Mr Freedom who hasn’t had the rub of the green in his two most recent outings.
However, in what looks like a cracking contest to kick off the TV action, our vote goes to Scriptwriter from the yard of last year’s winning trainer, Milton Harris. Rated 102 on the flat, this beautifully bred recruit from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation looked to boast bags of promise making the switch to the jumping game, and so far has delivered in eye-catching style. A perfect two from two over obstacles, and full value for a success by more than two lengths in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last time out, he can take this on route to a possible tilt at the Triumph Hurdle.
13:50 AIS December Gold Cup
Premier Handicap, 2m4½f
Paul Nicholls has taken this prize three times in the past decade. The master of Ditcheat may hold the ace in the pack once again in the shape of the five year old Il Ridoto. Joining Nicholls in September of last year, this ex-French performer showed glimpses of potential, without really delivering all that was hoped for.
We were however pretty impressed with his comeback outing in the Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup last time out. Keeping on into fourth, despite a juddering error at the second last, he gets a pound drop in the handicap and may strip fitter on what will be his second start since undergoing wind surgery.
2:25 Unibet International Hurdle
Grade 2, 2m1f
A small but select field goes to post in the feature hurdle event on the Cheltenham card, including a clutch of likely improvers. Nicky Henderson’s First Street, I Like To Move It from the yard of last year’s winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Paul Nicholls’ Knappers Hill all fall into that category, but overall we just prefer the proven class of Epatante.
Also hailing from the Nicky Henderson yard, it was only back in March that this eight year old mare was finishing second by three and a half lengths to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at this track, having finished third in 2021 and won the race in 2020. Being beaten by 12 lengths into second – by the freak of nature that is Constitution Hill – in the Fighting Fifth on her seasonal debut was certainly no disgrace, and she won’t be facing anything in that league here.
2:40 Bet Boost at bet365 Handicap Chase
Class 4, 2m3f
From Graded class action, the next event on the TV schedule sees us drop down into Class 4 handicapping company at Doncaster. With only seven going to post this looks wide-open.
Heroique De Maulde is the most likely to be ahead of his mark on just his second start for James Ewart, but his efforts in France and sole outing on these shores at Newcastle aren’t all that easy to weigh up. We prefer to side with Maninsane from the yard of Charlie Longsdon. This one arrives on the back of a solid win at Huntingdon and was in the process of coming with a late rattle when falling at the last at this meeting 12 months ago. Seemingly held in high regard by his trainer, he just gets the vote.
3:00 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Grade 2, 3m
The Nigel Twiston-Davies runner Weveallbeencaught has been strongly supported ahead of this event which acts as a trial for the event of the same name at the Cheltenham Festival. That may prove to be an ominous sign, but he was beaten by over 10 lengths in this Grade at this track last time out, and as such we won’t be rushing to back him at so short a price.
Perhaps take a chance instead on the Irish raider Grand Soir, from the yard of John McConnell. Showing little on his hurdles debut last season, he then took a big step forward when romping home in a decent maiden contest over 3m1f at Kilbeggan on his final start of the campaign. Making his seasonal return in October, he built on that promise when staying on powerfully to score over this trip at Cork. McConnell took this with Make Good in 2020 and may have a live contender once again.
3:15 bet365 Novices Handicap Hurdle
Class 4, 2m3½f
Ewood Park and Maillot Blanc seem likely to prove popular in this handicap event. The former is surely better than we have seen to date given his solid pedigree and talented trainer, whilst the latter is probably the horse to beat on the form book.
However, the one to catch our eye is Gavroche D’allier from the Milton Harris operation. A step up in trip looked the order of the day for this one at Taunton two starts back, whilst the main purpose of his midfield effort at Kempton last time out was likely to obtain a handicap mark for this. The cheekpieces go on for this step-up in trip on handicap debut, and a vastly improved performance would come as no surprise, particularly as his trainer is operating at a 31% strike rate over the past fortnight.
3:35 Cheltenham Mares Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4½f
Martello Sky and Indefatigable were separated by just a neck in a sizzling finish to this race 12 months ago, and return for another crack this year. Both running off identical marks as in 2021, they seem unlikely to be far away once again. However, with a number of the opposition likely to be still improving, they may be worth taking on.
Nicky Henderson’s Theatre Glory makes the shortlist but can lose her concentration at times which may prove costly. One runner who has done absolutely nothing wrong is the Harry Fry mare, Lady Adare. Her recent odds on successes at Taunton and Newcastle don’t tell us much, but before that, she had made short work of Get A Tonic when recording a seven-length success at Uttoxeter. With Get A Tonic now having risen to a mark of 137, Lady Adare may just have a bit up her sleeve getting in off 130 here.