Saturday Racing Tips for 17th February 2024 (Ascot & Haydock)

Results for Saturday Racing Tips for 17th February 2024 (Ascot & Haydock)

Happily, all of the top jumps action looks set to survive this coming Saturday, with the British weather cheering up a little and hinting that Spring may soon begin. The quality fare from Ascot and Haydock is the focus of the Scoop6 bet, with the Berkshire and Merseyside venues chipping in with three races each. The Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Ascot tops the bill from a class perspective, with the highlight from the Haydock card being the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

One lucky player scooped the lot last weekend, and, as ever, we will attempt to follow said punter into the winner’s enclosure with our best bets in each of the six legs in this week’s Scoop6 Racing Tips.

2:25 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m3½f

Ascot
Santos Blue
16/1

One of the trickiest contests of the day to kick off the action, as 16 go to post in this ultra-competitive handicap affair. Ben Pauling’s Bad (7/1) has yet to hit the heights following his switch from France but is proving popular in the market again here. He remains interesting but was crying enough at the end of 2m at this track last time out and needs to improve for a recent wind-op. 2023 winner, Irish Hill (8/1), is another to note off a three-pound lower mark, but having been woefully out of form in four outings this term, it requires a leap of faith to back him to bounce back.

Of those at bigger prices, In The Air (33/1) could outrun those odds on his return to hurdles, whilst Lanzarote winner Jay Jay Reilly isn’t out of it off this seven-pound higher mark. However, the two to make our shortlist are last-time-out winners Rare Edition (6/1) and Santos Blue (16/1), with narrow preference for the latter. Unlike Rare Edition, this Dan Skelton runner has already won over this distance, and a five-pound hike for his success at Wetherby looks perfectly fair. The fact he managed to win at all that day was remarkable in itself, with jockey Ben Sutton having a painful time of things, having lost his irons two from home. If showing a similar battling attitude here – and hopefully more in synch with his rider this time – he looks a big price to land leg 1.

2:40 Virgin Bet Rendlesham Hurdle

Grade 2, 3m½f

Haydock
Sounds Russian
11/2

Whilst in no danger of abandonment, the ground at Haydock is significantly softer than that at Ascot, with heavy going remaining a possibility. Considering just how gruelling it can become when the mud is flying on Merseyside, we will focus on those contenders with a proven ability to handle such conditions. That factor counts against the well-fancied Botox Has (5/2), who was beaten by 31 lengths on his only previous start on heavy, and Red Risk (7/2), who is zero from three under such conditions.

Butch (5/2) makes some appeal from the head of the market, but this is a big step up from Class 2 handicapping company. The one to be on is a horse last sighted in no less a race than the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the Ruth Jefferson-trained Sounds Russian (11/2). He does need to transfer that chase form to hurdles, but this will be his first crack at a three-mile trip over the smaller obstacles, and he’s the second-best in the field according to the official handicapper. What earns the nine-year-old the vote is his perfect record on heavy, which reads two wins from as many starts, with those victories coming by a combined 38 lengths.

3:00 Injured Jockeys Fund Ambassadors Programme Swinley Handicap Chase

Premier Handicap, 3m

Ascot
Shan Blue
7/1

We head back down to Ascot for another tightly knit handicap, but just the 10 runners to get through this time. The Venetia Williams runner Victtorino (7/2) heads the betting, and understandably so, having already landed two handicaps over course and distance this season. He bombed out at Cheltenham last time out, but that may have been due to the insufficient 2m4f trip. Only four pounds higher than for his win in the Silver Cup here, he shouldn’t be far away.

Topweight Threeunderthrufive (4/1) comes into it on the back of his solid second to Broadway Boy at Cheltenham in December, whilst the unexposed Iron Bridge (7/1) is the runner most open to improvement. However, if there is a well-handicapped runner in the line-up it is surely the Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue (7/1). Rated as high as 152 in his pomp, he gets in off just 143 here. That reduced rating is a result of pulled-up efforts on his first two outings this season, but his effort at this track last time out suggested he may be about to bounce back to form. Staying on well for second at the end of that 2m3f event, he’s a Grade 1 winner over this trip and looks worth supporting.

3:15 Virgin Bet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase

Premier Handicap, 3m4½f

Haydock
My Silver Lining
6/1

The trip may be significantly shorter and the fences substantially smaller, but the next from Haydock is one of the last recognised trials for the Aintree showpiece in April. Despite their differences, the two contests place similar demands on stamina, particularly with the ground riding as it is. Had the going been a little better, Gavin Cromwell’s Yeah Man (7/1) may have been the one to be on, having appeared unfortunate not to reel in Victtorino last time out at Ascot. Unfortunately, the Irish raider boasts a zero from three record on heavy – a stat which is enough to make us look elsewhere.

The Hemmings Racing duo of Famous Bridge (13/2) and Iron Bridge (5/1) make plenty of appeal, with the former a winner in heavy conditions and the latter having finished second in the Welsh Grand National last time out – albeit in another parish to the winner Nassalam. Old boy Iwilldoit (7/1) is a standing dish in these events and was only one place behind Iron Bridge at Chepstow. He should go well again, whilst Snipe (7/1) looks dangerous from the foot of the weights. No shortage of big players, but the one to carry our cash is Emma Lavelle’s Classic Chase winner, My Silver Lining (6/1). Unbeaten in four starts over 3m1f or further, she’s up five pounds for that Warwick win but still has a nice racing weight of 10st6lb and looks set to have conditions in her favour.

3:50 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 3m½f

Haydock
Cuthbert Dibble
5/2

The latest in the series of qualifiers for the big final at Cheltenham is up next, with a case of some sort to be made for the majority of these. Foillan (33/1) is the rank outsider of the field but won this off a six-pound higher mark in 2022, whilst Schalke (25/1) and Castle Rushen (14/1) also look overpriced on the pick of their form. All three make each way appeal, whilst Dan Skelton’s Punta Del Este could prove well handicapped if handling this significant step up in trip.

Overall, the market looks to have this right in rating Cuthbert Dibble as the one they all have to beat. As a six-year-old, this Nigel Twiston-Davies challenger is a good fit on trends (six of the last seven winners were seven or younger) and brings strong recent form to the table. Landing a 2m4f soft ground event at the back end of last season, he posted an even better display on his seasonal return when hacking up by 12 lengths on heavy at Chepstow. He’s up eight pounds for that but won in a canter and looks the sort to be well suited by this challenge.

4:10 Ascot Racecourse Supports Box4Kids Handicap Hurdle

Class 3, 2m7½f

Ascot
Don’t Rightly Know
8/1

Another event for the staying hurdlers closes out the Scoop6 action. Mt Fugi Park (7/2) is unbeaten in three career starts and is the obvious starting point here. However, he holds an alternative engagement at Haydock, which was mentioned as a likely target by Jonjo O’Neill in the aftermath of his most recent success.

I’m A Starman (14/1) shouldn’t be dismissed from the foot of the weights, whilst Supreme Gift (20/1) is the only course winner in the field, and Honor Grey (8/1) arrives on an upward trajectory with wins in three of his four most recent starts. All have claims, but in the likelihood that Mt Fugi Park heads elsewhere, the one to get the vote is the Polly Gundry representative, Don’t Rightly Know (8/1). Only once outside of the first three in six hurdles appearances, his most recent outing on good to soft or quicker resulted in a resounding 16-length novice success at Exeter. Having since performed with credit in three runs on soft or worse going, this return to a quicker surface can see him return to the Winner’s Enclosure.