The cracking jumps action continues this weekend as the clock ticks down to those magical four days in March. There are big targets to aim at and big prizes to be won before the Cheltenham Festival rolls into town, and Saturday sees the ITV squad head to Warwick and Newbury for a seven-race salvo of quality entertainment.
The latest edition of the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase headlines the Warwick card, whilst Newbury provides the Grade 2 double act of the Betfair Denman Chase and the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase. With a trio of quality handicaps also on offer – including the hugely competitive Betfair Hurdle – armchair racing fans are in for a real treat. Of course, a winner or two always helps to liven up the afternoon, and here pick out our best bets of the day in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:30 Virgin Bet Warwick Castle Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m4f
Just the four go to post in the opener, and with Messire Des Obeaux still to prove his wellbeing following a long absence, and Knight In Dubai and Mackenburg likely to prefer softer ground, the market looks to have this right in favouring Stolen Silver.
Stolen Silver heads the betting despite shouldering the burden of 12st. He did put in one of his poorer efforts on his only previous outing at this track but that was back in 2020 and he comes to Warwick this time off the back of a good second in the big Cheltenham New Year’s Day handicap so gets the vote.
1:50 Betfair Multiples Offer Every Saturday Handicap Hurdle
Class 3, 3m
The staying handicappers are up first in the televised action from Newbury, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Barbados Bucks out on his own at the head of the market. Similarly named to the legendary Big Bucks and carrying the same Stewart family colours, he likely won’t be far away. However, he hasn’t been given any leeway by the handicapper for a pair of third-placed finishes in his two most recent starts.
Overall, we prefer an each-way punt on Henry Daly’s Bridge North. This one was deemed worth a shot at the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree last season and posted a solid effort to finish fifth. Now down to a mark of 125 on the back of two runs on unsuitably soft ground, he can be seen to much better effect on the quicker surface here.
2:05 Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Warwick Mares’ Hurdle
Harry Fry’s Love Envoi is the clear standout on ratings and is unsurprisingly trading at around the 4/7 mark. However, with all of her form coming on softer ground and no rain forecast in the area, she may be saved for another day.
Former Grade 1 winner Skyace is interesting at a big price, but the most sensible option is to side with Nicky Henderson’s Theatre Glory. A solid third in a soft ground handicap under 12st last time out, she arrives in decent heart, and her most recent effort in this type of race really stands out. That run came in a Listed Mares contest on good ground at Cheltenham and resulted in an eased-down success by six and a half lengths. Henderson took this with Maries Rock 12 months ago and looks worth supporting to enter the winner’s enclosure once again.
2:25 bet365 Betfair Denman Chase
Grade 2, 2m7½f
The Paul Nicholls-trained Hitman heads the betting on his first start since being pulled up in the King George. Seemingly held in high regard by the champion trainer, he is entitled to plenty of respect but is yet to prove he stays this far. Colin Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen definitely will stay, having won this in 2022, but the drying ground may not be ideal.
Side instead with Kim Bailey’s, Does He Know, who put in a sizzling effort to land a competitive Cheltenham handicap off top weight last time. A winner in this grade at Ascot at around this time last year, and arriving refreshed following a three-month break, he can go close under David Bass.
2:40 Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m
With just the four going to post and a heavy odds-on favourite, this doesn’t rate the most exciting of the day’s races from a betting perspective. However, it does provide plenty of interest for Cheltenham punters, as heading the market is current Arkle favourite, Jonbon. With the Willie Mullins-trained El Fabiolo putting in a scintillating effort at the Dublin Racing Festival last week, Jonbon will need to post an impressive performance to maintain his status at the top of the Arkle betting.
Chances are he will do just that. Beaten only once over hurdles – by a certain Constitution Hill – he has looked a natural over fences, including when winning over this course and distance on his chase debut. Slightly down in class following an eight-length win in a Grade 1 at Sandown, it would be a surprise to see him beaten.
3:00 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase
Grade 2, 2m½f
Another small field and another short-priced favourite – this time in the shape of the Paul Nicholls-trained, Greaneteen. This looks slightly trickier than the previous event from Warwick, with Funambule Sivola proven over the track and trip, and Elixir Fe Nutz bouncing right back to form at Wincanton last time out.
The last named of that duo makes some each-way appeal at 8/1 but has fully 19 pounds to find with the jolly, which may simply prove too much. A solid second in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek last time out, and a perfect four from four in good ground chase contests at around this trip, Greaneteen looks tough to beat.
3:35 Betfair Hurdle
Premier Handicap, 2m½f
The big handicap of the day most often falls to a younger runner yet to reveal the full extent of their ability. Of the past 10 editions, no fewer than nine have fallen to a runner aged six or younger, with nine of 10 winners also having seven or fewer hurdles starts to their name.
Of those to fit the bill this time around, our two for the shortlist are Deere Mark from the Sam Thomas operation and Gary Moore’s Yorksea, both of whom are available at a nice each-way price. With a slight question mark against Deere Mark regarding the ground, it is Yorksea who just gets the vote. A win by six and a half lengths at Fontwell last time out earned a seven-pound hike in the handicap, ensuring he would make the cut here, and having raced wide throughout, that effort looks worth upgrading. Going for a trainer who won this in 2007, 2008, and 2015, he looks solid value to at least hit the frame.