Cheltenham & Doncaster Tips for 16th December 2023

Result: £-8.00 Results for Cheltenham & Doncaster Tips for 16th December 2023

Saturday sees the ITV squad serve up a pre-Christmas feast of jumping entertainment as the cameras head to Cheltenham and Doncaster. The action from Prestbury Park will attract much of the focus, with the December Gold Cup Handicap Chase serving as the big betting highlight. Elsewhere on the card, we have a field of potential staying stars in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, whilst the pick of the Town Moor card comes in the shape of the bet365 Handicap Hurdle.

Eight races on offer means eight winners to find, and here we give it our best shot in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.

1:15 Quintessentially Handicap Chase

Class 2, 2m½f

Prince Escalus EW

Calico and In Exclesis Deo are vying for favouritism in the opener at around the 2/1 mark, having both finished behind Triple Trade on their most recent outing. Both were under a length behind that rival, conceding nine pounds and two pounds respectively. In Excelsis Deo receives 11lbs from Calico here, so may hold the edge at the weights and, as a five-year-old, is also more likely to be open to improvement.

The claims of In Excelsis Deo are hard to knock, but there may not be as much between him and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Prince Escalus (14/1) as the odds imply. Having shown very little in his first two starts of the season, this one took a big step forward when almost five lengths behind Triple Trade here in November when conceding three pounds to that rival. That effort suggests he may be coming to hand at just the right time for this, and he can go close for a trainer who has sent out the winner three times in the last nine editions.

1:50 Virgin Bet December Gold Cup Handicap Chase

Premier Handicap, 2m4½f

Torn and Frayed EW

Four-time Grade 1 winner Fakir D’oudairies (8/1) adds a touch of class to the big handicap of the day and can’t be ruled out for his in-form yard. However, a burden of 12st makes life tough in a contest which most often favours runners lower in the weights. So Scottish (11/2) and Railway Hurricane (22/1) complete the Irish challenge, but this has fallen to a British-based runner in each of the past nine years.

Overall, we fancy the prize will remain on home soil again this time around. Thunder Rock (7/2) heads the betting, having mastered Coral Gold Cup runner-up Mahler Mission last time at Carlisle. He boasts obvious claims, but the fact his jumping has let him down in two previous Cheltenham outings is a little off-putting at a short price. Monmiral (11/2) is weighted to go just as well as Thunder Rock, with the pair crossing the line in unison behind The Real Whacker here last season. However, his form tailed off badly after that, and he is passed over on his first start since a wind-op.

It’s an each-way bet for us, and the one to be on is Torn and Frayed (16/1) from the Nigel Twiston-Davies operation. This one’s most recent win came when hacking up by six lengths over this course and distance back in January 2022, and he is only five pounds higher here. Off the track for a yawning 658 days following that success, he returned in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month – travelling well for a long way before falling two out. Sure to strip fitter here, he is attractively priced to hit the frame.

2:05 bet365 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase

Class 3, 2m3f

Deeper Blue

Competitive handicapping action kicks off the Doncaster TV card, with the Sue Smith-trained Cerendipity (3/1) sitting atop the market. A three-pound rise for his win last time at Wetherby looks fair, but he is up four furlongs in trip here and was beaten out of sight on his only previous chase outing over this trip. Mister Who (7/2) is possibly more interesting on only his second start over fences, but again looks short enough in the betting.

Findthetime (6/1) and Cruz Control (8/1) arrive in decent heart following wins at Wetherby and Newcastle, respectively, but the one we like best is the Harry Fry runner, Deeper Blue (6/1). Boasting some smart form over hurdles, this seven-year-old took a big step up on his chase debut when powering home late for second at Plumpton over this trip last time out. Getting behind around that tight course, he may find this more galloping track to his liking and is fancied to get on top late in the piece.

2:25 Favourite From The Sun Now Daily Handicap Chase

Premier Handicap, 3m2f

Easy As That

Nigel Twiston-Davies has taken this twice in the past four years and would look to boast strong claims of adding to that record with the current favourite, Broadway Bob (7/2). Running well when attempting to concede weight to Flooring Porter two starts back, he then stayed on dourly to rout the field in a Listed event at this track on his latest outing. Gavin Gromwell’s Malina Girl is also hard to fault, despite a nine-pound rise for her easy win in the Jewson Handicap.

In a tight betting race, the one to get our vote is the Venetia Williams runner, Easy As That (9/2). With two wins in the past seven editions, Williams also has a solid record in this, and this eight-year-old caught our eye when staying on late for sixth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup over 2m4f. Less exposed than many over this sort of trip, he looks the type to be well suited by the step up in distance and can go well off a featherweight of 10st2lb.

2:40 bet365 Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m½f

Rare Edition

Gin Coco (7/2) heads the betting in the next event from Doncaster, having bounced back to winning ways at Ascot last time out. He is up four pounds for that, which doesn’t look too harsh, but is seven years old now, and nine of the past 10 editions have fallen to a runner aged five or six. The stats suggest there may be a better-handicapped rival lurking amongst the younger contenders.

The most lightly raced runner in the five to six-year-old age group is the Charlie Longsdon-trained Rare Edition (6/1), and he looks the one to side with. This represents his seasonal return, but that needn’t count as a negative, as his last two starts following a break of 129 days or more have resulted in two wins by a combined 14 lengths. Posting a high-class effort to slam Ribaud by seven lengths at Kempton at around this time last year, his form tailed off after that, but he should find this easier than his two most recent starts, which came in Grade 1 company.

3:00 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Grade 2, 3m


Point to Point winner Shanagh Bob (2/1) makes his second start for Nicky Henderson in this contest for the emerging staying hurdlers. Impressive when staying on powerfully to score on his yard debut at Plumpton, he should be suited by this more galloping track and rates a threat to all.

Illico De Cotte (7/1) is a similarly unexposed sort from the Dan Skelton operation, whilst there shouldn’t be much between Cadell (13/2) and Kerryhill (10/1), with the duo having finished first and second at Kelso in November. The one we like best is Destroytheevidence (9/2) from the yard of Kim Bailey. Never outside the first three in five career starts, he put in an excellent effort to win in a canter over this trip at Kempton last time out – despite a welter burden of 12st2lb, looking every inch the tough and talented stayer required for an event such as this.

3:15 bet365 Handicap Chase

Class 2, 3m


The final event of the day from Doncaster looks a cracker, with a host of intriguing contenders in the field. Sail Away (6/1) and Forward Plan (5/1) finished first and second in a similar event at Ayr back in April and should go well once again, whilst Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey (11/2) has the talent to win one of these, for all that he seems reluctant to put his head in front when it matters.

Course and distance winner Twoshotsoftequila (9/1) is another to note for Rebecca Menzies, but, for our money, the one to beat is the Laura Morgan representative Whistleinthedark (6/1). This son of Fame And Glory looked like a horse going placed during a sparkling 2022/23 campaign, which saw his mark rise from an opening 110 to 144, with the suspicion that there may well be more to come. Dropped two pounds following a no-show in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, we are happy to put a line through that as a juddering error four from home completely stopped his momentum. Granted a clear round, he looks up to winning in these slightly calmer waters.

3:35 Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Mares’ Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m4½f


The mares round off the entertainment in another race which has favoured the youngsters; each of the past five editions has fallen to a runner aged six or younger. Theatre Glory (11/2) tops the weights and is respected for Nicky Henderson but may need the ground to dry out, whilst Nurse Susan (6/1) has amongst the strongest form on offer but didn’t show much on her recent return from a 600-day absence.

Windtothelightning (7/1) seems likely to prove popular for Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerreiro, having won well on her seasonal return at Wetherby. On the downside, she was beaten in a weaker event than this on her only previous outing over course and distance. We suspect the market has this right in rating the Fergal O’Brien runner Bonttay (5/2) as the one they all have to beat. Three from five over hurdles, she won despite not much going right on her return at Hereford, with this race mentioned as her next target in the immediate aftermath. Boasting admirable battling qualities and a fair share of ability, she may prove tough to deny.