Just one week to go until the biggest race of the calendar year, with the 2023 edition of the Grand National set to take place on Saturday 15th April. Before all that though, we have the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday, preceded by another cracking Saturday afternoon of entertainment, as the ITV cameras head to Haydock and Musselburgh.
Haydock provides the jumping fare, with a trio of finals from the track’s competitive handicapping series. However, it is Musselburgh’s flat card which provides the day’s headline act, with the latest renewal of the Scottish Sprint Cup. Here we take a look at each of the seven televised races on offer, in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:30 cavani.co.uk Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 1m7½f
The speedy hurdlers take to the track in the first of the day’s three finals from Haydock, with the Stuart Edmunds-trained Bubble Dubi currently heading the market. One of only two last-time-out winners in the field, he gets a five-pound hike for that success at Stratford and moves up from Class 3 to Class 2. But he did it well that day, and there may be more to come.
Others for the shortlist include Dan Skelton’s Too Friendly, who won’t need to find much improvement for the first-time blinkers, and Pam Sly’s Takeit Easy, who has been out of form of late, but is becoming dangerously well handicapped. However, the one we like best at a decent each-way price is the Fergal O’Brien runner, Castel Gandolfo. This one arrives fresh from a break, but is running off the same mark of 118 as when beaten by only half a length into second in this race 12 months ago, and may well be on the premises once again.
1:50 tote 250k Guaranteed Placepot Royal Mile Handicap
Class 3, 1m
Captain Winters and Manitou head the betting in the first of the day’s flat events, and probably deservedly so, having both been tried at a higher level than this last season. Captain Winters’ third to Naval Power at Haydock is the single best piece of form on offer, but he wasn’t so good after that and doesn’t look obviously well in off a mark of 94. We would still be surprised if he was far away at the finish, but we just prefer to take a chance on one at a bigger price.
Operating at an impressive 21% strike rate over the past 14 days, Brian Ellison has his string ticking along nicely at present, and would look to have a shot of at least making the frame here with Chillhi. This one was a little up and down last season, but had a couple of cracking efforts to his name, including when effortlessly landing a handicap at Newcastle off a mark of 85. He’s four pounds higher here, but there may well be improvement to come on his first start since a gelding op.
2:25 tote.co.uk Bet£5Get£20 Musselburgh Silver Arrow Handicap
Class 2, 7f
We remain in Scotland for our next event, in what looks a wide-open 7f handicap affair. Autumn Festival and Abduction are sure to be popular in the market, having finished first and second over this course and distances last time out. Abduction looked very unlucky in running that day and may turn the tables, but neither is overly appealing at the current prices.
Dirtyoldtown is handicapped to go close, but we would like to have seen more from the Grant Tuer yard of late, whilst course and distance winner Gioia Cieca looks interesting at a really big price on his first start since a wind op. However, in a tricky event, we fancy the topweight Spirit Of Light may be the one to beat. This one was last seen finishing a solid fifth in a Group 3 sprint out in Meydan, and his last effort in a domestic handicap resulted in a fast-finishing third off this mark at Chester. The longer straight here ought to suit, and he can go close under Ciaren Fallon.
2:40 cavani.co.uk Challenger Staying Chase Series Final Handicap Chase
Class 2, 3m1½f
Dan Skelton’s Jeffery’s Cross catches the eye in this event for the staying chasers, and has certainly been knocking on the door of late, having finished second in each of his last four starts. He remains one of the least exposed runners in the field, but that run of consistency means he hasn’t been getting much help from the handicapper. He will most likely run his race once again but is just a little short for our liking.
The hattrick-seeking Mucho Mas is another likely candidate from the head of the market, but is up to a mark of 129 now and will be shouldered with a welter burden of 12st here. The two runners for our each-way shortlist are last year’s runner-up Enqarde, and Sue Smith’s Small Present, with the latter narrowly getting the vote. This one has been a little slow to take to fences, but there have been signs of encouragement of late, and the eight-year-old is now beginning to look nicely handicapped. In January of last year, Small Present was winning a handicap hurdle over this track and trip off a mark of 129. Now down to a chase rating of 122, it would be no surprise to see him outrun his odds if sharpening up his jumping just a little.
3:00 tote World Pool Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap
Class 2, 5f
14 go to post in one of the biggest Scottish sprint handicaps of the season, with a couple of runners who have run well in this before making their way to the top of the market. Ed Walker’s Came From The Dark went down by just a head 12 months ago, and makes obvious appeal off a two-pound lower mark with the excellent Oisin Murphy taking over in the saddle. Zarzyni, meanwhile, is seven pounds higher than when a narrow second in 2021, but is two pounds lower than when landing the Holyrood Handicap over track and trip last season.
The top two in the betting are greatly respected, but with four places to play for, it is once again an each-way punt for us here. The one to catch our eye at a big price is course and distance winner, Digital, who goes for the Roger Fell team that landed the Spring Mile at Doncaster last weekend. Three times a winner over this trip, he boasts a verdict over Zarzyni on his CV and gets in here off his most recent winning mark of 90.
3:15 cavani.co.uk Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 3m½f
We have another Dan Skelton-trained favourite in the final jumps event of the day. Farmer’s Gamble was certainly impressive when scoring by 14 lengths at Exeter last time out, but will likely need to improve again to take this. That’s by no means impossible, but given that he’s been pushed up nine pounds and is in a hotter race, we will be taking him on.
Plenty of these appeal from a handicapping perspective, with Pileon and Jatulwih in particular looking well in on their old form. However, that duo have shown precious little of late, meaning a leap of faith is required to support them here. Sirobbie is more interesting, having finished third in the race 12 months ago, but narrow preference is for the Mel Rowley runner, My Bobby Dazzler. This one has a number of pieces of form in the book that would give him sound claims, including when second off this mark in a similar event at Chepstow in February. Given a break since then to have his wind treated, any improvement as a result of that procedure could leave him looking like a well-handicapped horse.
3:35 tote Summer World Pool Queen’s Cup
Class 2, 1m6f
A valuable event for the flat stayers concludes the TV action. With £100,000 up for grabs, this event has attracted contenders from the top jumping yards of Paul Nicholls and Harry Fry. Andrew Balding’s Spirit Mixer currently heads the betting on the back of his unlucky sixth in the bet365 Trophy at Newmarket last season. An unchanged mark of 100 gives him every chance, if fit and raring to go following an absence of 274 days. Keith Dalgleish’s Good Show is another coming in for strong support on his handicap debut but is difficult to weigh up on just his fourth career start.
The one we like is the 2021 winner of the race, Themaxwecan. This seven-year-old will never be accused of consistency, but is a talented stayer on his day and gets in off a four-pound lower mark than when successful two years ago. Much like Spirit Mixer, he has a significant absence to overcome, but has twice scored following a break of 100+ days in the past, so now may be the time to catch him. At a double-figure price, he makes plenty of appeal to at least hit the frame.