The last major mixed flat and National Hunt schedule of the year makes up the live TV offering this Saturday, as the ITV cameras head to Aintree, Wincanton, and Newcastle. A first outing of the season for the famous Grand National obstacles takes centre stage at Aintree, as the runners and riders line up for the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, whilst it’s Badger Beers Chase Day at Wincanton. In Doncaster’s weather-enforced absence, Newcastle steps in to stage the first all-weather edition of the November Handicap.
With a bumper 10 races on offer, there’s plenty for punters to get stuck into. Here, we pick out our best betting options in each cracking contest in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:15 Boodles Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase
Class 3, 2m4f
Twelve runners go to post in the opener from Wincanton, but with all seven previous editions falling to a runner aged between six and eight, we will focus on the seven contenders who fall into that age bracket. Dual course and distance winner Flagrant Delitiep (11/2) heads the betting and is undoubtedly well handicapped on his best form. However, it has been some time since he has shown anything like that level, and with his yard starting the season slowly, we will look elsewhere.
Paul Nicholls has won this three times in the past seven years, making his entry Huelgoat (7/1) look dangerous, but with the soft ground likely to be against him, preference is for the Venetia Williams trained Enjoy Your Life (5/1). A dual winner on soft ground in France, he runs off the same mark as when second at this track on just his second outing for the yard at this track in April. With a full summer now under his belt to settle into the Williams system, he has the look of a potentially well-handicapped performer.
1:30 Virgin Bet Daily Extra Places Irish EBF Gillies Fillies’ Stakes
We head up to Newcastle for race two, and the first of the day’s races transferred from Doncaster. Plenty of likeable sorts in here, including the Roger Varian duo of Mukaddamah (13/2) and Sound Angela (7/1), who have both already hit the frame in Listed class events. Persist (8/1) is another to note for William Haggas and won’t need much improvement for the first-time cheekpieces, whilst Vera Verto (12/1) would be our each-way pick from those available at a double-figure price.
Overall, we suspect the market has this right in rating the Charlie Appleby-trained Veil Of Shadows (11/4) as the one they all have to beat. Four pounds clear of the field on official ratings, she receives three pounds from the older runners and takes a drop in class, having filled the runner-up position in a Group 3 at Newmarket last time out. Two previous starts on the all-weather have resulted in a win and an unlucky running in second. With her yard in flying form, this daughter of Frankel can hit the target.
1:50 Boodles “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m4f
Six go to post in this event for the up-and-coming chasers. Captain Conby (4/1) has shown plenty of promise in his past two outings and should go well under Tom Bellamy, whilst Doyen Star (8/1) brings the only unbeaten record to the table for Evan Williams. As the youngest runner in the field, he rates an intriguing contender on his seasonal return, but with only two places to play for, we will keep this simple and side with the favourite.
Paul Nicholls regularly targets this Wincanton fixture and has claimed this prize four times in the past 10 years. Sitting 13lbs clear of the field on official ratings, Knappers Hill (8/13) ought to be up to improving that record still further. A dual Grade 2 winner over hurdles – including at this track – he couldn’t cope with the race fit and highly regarded Unexpected Party on his chase debut last time out, but jumped well in the main and should strip much fitter here.
2:05 Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Wentworth Stakes
Back to the flat in a race which sees the William Haggas runner Sense Of Duty (5/2) make her latest bid to rediscover her excellent form from last season. As a Group 3 winner over course and distance, it’s easy to see why she heads the market. On the downside, she hasn’t been anywhere near her best in two starts this season – albeit on ground softer than ideal. With that question mark over her current well-being, we prefer a punt on one at a bigger price.
Brad The Brief (11/2) and Sophia’s Starlight ought to go well, but the one for us is the Archie Watson-trained Albasheer (6/1). Rated as high as 112 in his pomp, he has been running consistently well in big-field handicaps all season and gets into this off a mark of 99 on his all-weather debut. Being by Shamardal, and having shown his best form on quick turf, the surface seems unlikely to be an issue, whilst his late running style could be perfectly suited by a track which regularly sees hold-up performers get on top late.
2:25 62nd Badger Beer Handicap Chase
Premier Handicap, 3m1f
With four wins in the past seven years, Paul Nicholls has been the dominant force in the feature at Wincanton. The Champion Trainer sends two to post this time around, in the shape of Threeunderthrufive (10/3) and one of the most popular horses in training – Frodon (7/2).
The younger legs of Threeunderthrufive are greatly respected on his first start following a wind-op, but the suspicion is he may need further than this. Preference is for the proven course and distance credentials of last year’s winner Frodon. With regular partner Bryony Frosty in the saddle, the eleven-year-old gets in off the same mark of 158 as when coming over two lengths clear in 2022. Frodon regularly goes well first time out and can land the 20th success of his glittering career.
2:45 Boylesports Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
Class 2, 2m5f
First up from Aintree is the most spectacular event of the day, as The Chair, Becher’s Brook, and Valentine’s make their seasonal debuts. The trip may not be as demanding as the Grand National, but a proven ability to cope with these unique obstacles counts for plenty. As such, it is no surprise to see the Oliver Greenall and Joshua Guerriero-trained Gesskille (10/3) sitting atop the market. Beaten by only a nose in this race in 2022, he again filled the runners-up position in the Becher Chase and should be in the mix off this five pound higher mark.
However, at three times the price of the jolly, the value bet in the race is an each-way punt on the Laura Morgan runner, Percussion (9/1). In two starts over the National Fences, this eight-year-old finished just one place behind Gesskille in this event and the Becher Chase when jumping magnificently throughout. Perfectly at home on soft ground, he was more than three lengths adrift of Gesskile in the Becher’s but finds himself nine pounds better off at the weights here. That may well be enough to see him turn the tables.
3:00 JenningsBet Elite Hurdle
Class 1, 1m7f
Another small field from Wincanton and another contest in which Paul Nicholls is responsible for the short-priced favourite. Several lofty targets are being mentioned for Ribaud (8/11), and on his three most recent starts he has looked well up to delivering on his trainer’s high opinion. The soft ground does pose a slight question mark, but unless West Balboa takes up this engagement instead of heading to Aintree, he may be so far ahead of his rivals on the ratings for it to matter.
Gary Moore’s Hansard is next in the market (4/1) but couldn’t get to within 15 lengths of Ribaud at Kempton last season, and a six-pound pull in the weights likely won’t be enough. Dan Skelton’s Sacre Couer (40/1) makes some appeal as a proven soft-ground performer, but with the likelihood that this will be a win-only race, we will stick with the jolly.
3:20 BoyleSports Acca Boost On Horse Racing Hurdle
Class 2, 2m4f
We have a disappointing turnout of just three in the last of the day’s events from Aintree. 2021 champ Brewin’upastorm (7/4) made it no further than the first when defending his crown last season, and Olly Murphy will be hoping for better this time. Millers Bank (4/1), meanwhile, was a 10-length winner of the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at this track in 2022. He would be the one to beat if bouncing back to that sort of form, but has been beaten by 26 lengths and pulled up on his two most recent outings.
In receipt of nine pounds from her two male rivals, the Dan Skelton mare, West Balboa (11/10) gets the vote. Rounding off last season with back-to-back wins in the Lanzarote Hurdle and a storming success at the Grand National meeting here, the mount of Harry Skelton is as tough as they come when the mud is flying and can grind this out in the straight.
3:32 JenningsBet Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle
Class 2, 2m5½f
Continuing the theme at Wincanton, Paul Nicholls is once again responsible for the favourite in the final TV race from the Somerset venue. Already a course and distance winner, there is likely plenty more to come from Lime Avenue (9/4) on what will be only his fifth career start. However, the fact that his only disappointing run to date came in a heavy ground event at Exeter is enough to put us off at the prices.
Ostrava Du Berlais (18/1) is another intriguing French recruit to the Venetia Williams yard and rates an interesting each-way option, but the one for us is the Joe Tizzard runner, Ilovethenightlife (4/1). Ready to roll first time out last season, he went on to win three of seven starts, with the pick of those efforts coming in a competitive soft-ground event at Newbury. He’s six pounds higher here but was well on top at the line that day. Being by one of the top National Hunt sires around in Walk In The Park, there may be more to come from this five-year-old.
3:45 Virgin Bet November Handicap
Class 2, 1m4½f
A decidedly different-looking edition of the famous November Handicap rounds out the action, as it will be Tapeta rather than mud flying in 2023. The boys in blue of Godolphin send out the favourite, with the Dubawi gelding Local Dynasty (9/2) latched onto by punters in the lead-up to the race. Still only three years old, he’s more open to improvement than most but is yet to race beyond 1m2½f, which is a slight concern at this stiff track.
Teaumessias Fox (13/2) and Chillingham (7/1) have no such distance concerns, and ought to go close. However, they both look high enough in the weights for such a competitive event. One who may be flying a little under the raider is the ex-French runner, Beraz (8/1). Now with Julie Camacho, following an abandoned hurdling career, he has only once finished outside the first two in four starts for his new handler. Only getting on top late at Leicester last time out, he gets a three-pound rise but has a nice racing weight of 9st2lb (carried 9st12lb last time), and his late rattling finish should be well suited to the Newcastle track. Having enjoyed such a successful season with star sprinter Shaquille, Camacho’s small yard can round off the season by landing another big pot.