This Saturday sees one of the most varied TV cards of the year as the ITV cameras head to Newbury, Market Rasen, and the Irish track of the Curragh. Jumping action is the order of the day at Market Rasen as the valuable Summer Series reaches its conclusion, whilst the flat card at Newbury is headlined by the Weatherbys Super Sprint. The Curragh chips in with just one event, but it’s a good one, as a quality field lines up for the Irish Oaks.
All in all, another excellent day to settle down on the sofa, and here we run through each of the eight cracking contests on offer in an effort to find a winner or two in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:50 bet365 Stakes
The William Haggas-trained Al Aasy heads the betting in the opener and undoubtedly possesses the talent to prevail, having won three times at up to Group 3 level. However, taking 11/8 about a horse who was all but pulled up on his return from a 420-day break last time out and was beaten 15½l on his only previous start over this trip on good to soft ground makes limited appeal.
Charlie Appleby’s Highland Avenue is next in the betting, but the form of his recent efforts, particularly his third to Adayar in the Gordon Richards Stakes, has taken a few knocks. In a tricky contest, we fancy the value may lie with Epic Poet, who makes his first start for Freddie & Martyn Meade, having transferred from the Jean-Claude Rouget operation. An ultra-consistent sort, boasting form figures of 31322 in races over this trip at Listed Level or above, his third to Hardwick Stakes runner-up West Wind Blows reads well in the context of this, and he can come out on top under the excellent Oisin Murphy.
2:05 Unibet Horserace Betting Operator Of The Year Handicap Hurdle
Class 4, 2m4½f
The ground at Market Rasen is currently described as good, but with heavy rain forecast in the area, that description may change significantly by Saturday afternoon. The prospect of soft ground would likely prove detrimental to many of the more fancied runners in this competitive handicap, including current favourite Fenna’s Loss and Jeremy Scott’s Wavering Down.
With several firms offering additional places, taking an each-way chance on one at a bigger price looks like the way to go here. Pink Eyed Pedro and Pardon Me are interesting, but the one to carry our cash is the Gary Hanmer-trained Malina Ocarina. A soft-ground winner in the past, she scored in impressive style over this trip at Southwell two starts back and is only 5lbs higher here. We do need to forgive a no-show at that same track last time out, but she had possible excuses that day and is a big price to hit the frame.
2:25 Mettal UK Handicap
Class 2, 2m½f
We switch back to the flat for race three but don’t move too far down in trip in this 2m½f contest for the stayers. The Northumberland Plate form is strongly represented here, with Aztec Empire, Nathanael Green, and Rainbow Dreamer finishing 3rd, 4th, and 6th respectively in the Newcastle showpiece. Going in the first-time blinkers, Nathanael Green makes the most appeal of that trio but hasn’t been missed by the market at around the 7/2 mark.
We again prefer an each-way punt here, and the one to get the vote is Zinc White from the yard of Ian Williams. Relatively lightly raced for a five-year-old, this one arrives with an impressive three wins from five starts in staying handicaps and put the reopposing Novel Legend to the sword in fine style at Chester two starts back. The combination of a step up to 2m4f and quick ground proved too much at Ascot last time out, but he’s back down in distance here and returns to a slower surface which ought to suit him well. The fact that Ian Williams has won two of the past three editions of this provides further cause for optimism.
2:40 Unibet Zero% Mission Summer Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m½f
With a pot of £45,000 up for grabs, this Class 2 handicap has attracted a decent field, including a number of contenders who have competed at a significantly higher level in the past. The James Owen-trained Too Friendly certainly falls into that category, having been spotted in Grade 1 company as recently as April of last year. Arriving on the back of a solid second at Cartmel, he makes the shortlist, as do the hattrick-seeking Everonesgame and Clear The Runway from towards the head of the weights.
However, when looking at the recent editions of this, carrying a big weight to victory has proved to be no easy task, with eight of the last 10 winners allocated 11st2lb or less on the day. Of those shouldered with a lighter burden this time around, the David Pipe-trained Myristica appears the most likely to have something up his sleeve from the handicapper.
Reaching a rating of 91 on the flat, this son of Harzand has taken to hurdles like a duck to water and heads into the race having won his three most recent starts by a combined 34l. Given that flat rating, an opening hurdling handicap mark of 112 seems perfectly fair, and he may well be up to landing this.
3:00 bet365 Hackwood Stakes
Group 3, 6f
The penultimate race from Newbury provides the pick of the British action from a class perspective in a top-quality sprint contest for the grade. Last season’s Cheveley Park Stakes winner, Lezoo, heads the betting under Frankie Dettori and must have a strong chance if returning to anything like that sort of form. However, having shown little in two starts this season, it takes a leap of faith to back her at single-figure odds.
Mitbaahy is interesting at a big price as the only previous course winner in the field, whilst Commanche Falls rarely runs a bad race and scored nicely at Listed level over in Ireland last time out. Rumstar and Shartash are others to note in a deep race, but the one to get the nod is the Karl Burke-trained Cold Case. This one was admittedly disappointing in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes last time out, but the good to firm ground was all against him that day. Boasting form figures of 211 over this trip when the word soft has featured in the going description – including an effortless win in a Listed event at Redcar – he looks like an excellent value each way option given the forecast rain in the area.
3:15 Unibet Summer Plate Handicap Chase
Class 1, 2m5½f
Peter Bowen has won three of the past five editions of the feature event from Market Rasen and looks to boast a decent chance of making it four from six with the 2021 and 2022 champ, Francky Du Berlais. Only 1lb higher than 12 months ago, he looks the most obvious choice from towards the head of the market, having limbered up with a decent third over course and distance last time out.
The five-timer seeking Born Famous can’t be ignored from the foot of the weights, but this does represent a quick turnaround from his most recent success at Perth on Sunday. Overall, the two we like best are Gloire D’athon and Killer Clown, who filled 1st and 3rd positions in a similar event at Uttoxeter last time out.
Gloire D’athon shouldn’t be far away if in the same form, but getting a 4lb pull in the weights with his conqueror, we prefer the claims of Killer Clown. Now fully 10lbs lower than when third at this track in October, he can be expected to take a step forward from what was his first start since a wind op, and should be rattling home late in the piece.
3:35 Weatherbys Super Sprint Stakes
Class 2, 5f
We have a whopping £250,000 up for grabs in this full-throttle 5f affair for the youngsters, in a race where the weights are determined not by handicap ratings but rather the sales price of the runners – the more expensive the horse, the more weight they carry.
Woodcote winner Bobsleigh and Queen Mary fourth Juniper Berries seem likely to go well, whilst Payment In Kind and Beenham rate amongst the more attractive each-way options, but overall the favourite looks tough to oppose here. Hailing from the powerful William Haggas operation, Relief Rally is 2 from 3 in her career to date, with that sole defeat coming by a rapidly diminishing short head in the Group 3 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Much better off under these conditions than she would be in a standard handicap, she will likely take a lot of beating under Tom Marquand.
3:45 Juddmonte Irish Oaks
Group 1, 1m4f
We have Classic action to round off the day’s punting, as a field of three-year-old fillies tackles a mile and a half in the Irish Oaks. Should Aidan O’Brien win this, he will move one clear of Sir Michael Stoute as the most successful trainer in the history of the race and – with four of the eight runners hailing from his Ballydoyle operation – he would look to hold every chance of doing just that.
O’Brien’s Epsom Oaks runner-up Savethelastdance is the highest-rated runner in the field and duly heads the betting at a shade of odds-on. Devastating in a soft ground Cheshire Oaks, the more rain that falls, the better her chance will be. However, it is beginning to look as though this year’s Oaks may not have been the strongest of renewals, with the winner, third, fourth, fifth, eighth, and ninth all being beaten on their subsequent outing.
As such, it may be worth taking a chance on the O’Brien second string, Warm Heart. Another daughter of Galileo, this one appears to be improving at a rate of knots, has already won on soft ground, and showed a great turn of foot to land the Ribblesdale last time out.