Jason The Militant and Teahupoo made it two winners for the preview last weekend with both Crossley Tender and Romain De Senam placing at double figure odds. This weekend we have competitive action from Newbury, Kelso and Doncaster. The Cheltenham countdown is in full swing now but hopefully we can find some Saturday winners before The Festival.
Shantou Village can roll back the years in Veterans’ Chase
The old boys take centre stage in the BetVictor Veterans’ Handicap Chase over 3 miles and 2 furlongs at 1:15. Top weights Present Man and West Approach have some nice form in the book but will have to put up huge performances to concede plenty of weight to the rest of the field. At the prices, I believe it is worth taking a chance on Shantou Village 6/1 who has already attracted some support throughout the week. Officially rated 149 in his prime, Shantou Village runs off 128 here and has the help of highly talented claimer Millie Wonnacott, who takes a further 7lbs off. Millie has ridden the horse before and both her and trainer, Neil Mulholland, are in fine form boasting strike rates of 31% and 19% over the last two weeks. Shantou Village may appear to come here in poor form, but he hates soft ground, so I would ignore his last run and look back to his fourth placed effort in early October. He was beaten just under 2 lengths that day by Present Man but taking into account Millie’s claim, he finds himself 9lbs better off at the weights. He hasn’t won for some time now but if Shantou is to have another Saturday success this well be the one.
The Big Bite can swallow up his rivals on route to victory
Next up at Newbury we have a fiercely competitive handicap chase over 2 miles and 4 furlongs. Grand Sancy currently heads the betting at 7/2 but needs to bounce back after a very poor run last time out. Emphatic Kempton winner, Killer Clown has a 15lb hike to deal with, whilst Pistol Whipped needs to prove he is not just a horse who goes well fresh. The one I like in here is The Big Bite 9/1 who has run two big races over 2 miles so far this season and looks sure to appreciate the step up in trip. A fine front running win at Aintree, where he carried top weight, was followed by a bold display at Doncaster where he finished just over 3 lengths behind the highly progressive Ibleo. He only received 3lbs from Ibleo that day who is now officially rated 154, so his new mark of 146 looks well within his reach, especially now up in trip. His last 4 races have yielded form figures of 2121 against some very good horses, so we know he comes here in fine form. 9/1 looks a nice each way price in what looks a hot handicap.
Take a chance on Glynn for Henderson and De Boinville
Another very competitive handicap comes up at 2:30, this time at two miles over hurdles. Proschema sits at the top of the market and seems to possess a fair bit of talent. He comes here in good form after two Jumpers Bumpers wins but I am yet to be convinced about him as a hurdler and 3/1 looks a tad short. Tegerek has been in fine form for Jonjo this season but for the first time doesn’t have Kevin Brogans claim to help him and the handicapper may have caught up with him now. I believe it is worth taking a chance on Glynn 5/1 for Henderson and De Boinville who was pulled up in The Lanzarote at Kempton on his last start. Things didn’t go to plan that day and Glynn hated the testing conditions. Looking back to his previous start, he placed behind Ecco giving him 6lbs. Ecco has since gone on to record form figures of 212 and seen his mark rise to 136. Glynn goes off 133 here which looks a winnable mark. Running far too freely on both his starts, I believe this drop back to two miles may help him settle of what hopefully will be a strong pass. Henderson has purposely kept him off track until the spring ground returned. Conditions have come good for Glynn and I would be very disappointed if he can’t be competitive off a mark of 133.
Any News can take down the headline acts in Kelso showpiece
Over to Kelso now and their feature race of the day is the Grade 2 Bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle over 2 miles and 2 furlongs. My Drogo is the current favourite ahead of Bareback Jack, but I would have concerns about both. In my opinion, they may be flattered on form lines alone. My Drogo beat Soaring Glory last time out, but I don’t think Soaring Glory was anywhere close to his best that day and wouldn’t have liked the testing conditions. I have a similar line of thinking for Bareback Jack who defeated Third Time Lucki. They went a crawl that day which Third Time Lucki would’ve hated and he duly finished fourth. Neil Mulholland’s Any News 11/2 is rated 143, 3lbs higher than My Drogo and 6lbs higher than Bareback Jack. Due to conditions of the race, he will receive weight from both and as a result finds himself nicely clear on ratings. Strong early season form on good to soft ground makes Any News a big player. He travelled like the winner against Make Me A Believer last time out and I expect this return to sharp speedy track will suit. This would be another worry I have for the big galloping My Drogo who may not be quite as effective around this tight track. At the prices I believe Any News is worth a play at around 11/2
Look no further than Yeats for the Mega value
In typical Saturday racing fashion, we have a whole host of very competitive handicaps and that is certainly the case for the 2:05. Set to be run over 2 miles and 5 furlongs, I quite like the chances of Mega Yeats 13/2 for trainer Mark Walford. Mega Yeats finished last season with a good seventh placed effort behind subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorers, Dame De Compagnie and Indefatigable. Wind surgery and a change of stables followed. Mega Yeats reappeared after a 425-day break with a fine second in a Jumpers Bumper at Kempton. The form of these races is tough to assess but he appears to be in good form. Previously a winner off 135 in March 2019, Mega Yeats goes off 124 here and showed enough with that Jumpers Bumpers second to suggest he can be very competitive. The ground and trip should be right up his street and I am hopeful of a good run at 13/2.
Aso can get his revenge
A tricky but classy Listed race is next on the cards at Kelso, where Aso and Two For Gold look set to lock horns once again. Aso 5/2 come off second best at Warwick, but I expect him to reverse the form. He gave 6lbs to Two For Gold that day and went down a neck. This time around he has a 9lb swing with Two For Gold, receiving 3lbs due to the conditions of the race. I anticipate the step up in trip to suit both horses but the nature of the track to suit Aso more. Ladbroke Trophy winner, Cloth Cap, could be a huge threat despite race conditions not suiting him at the weights. He has his ground conditions and could get into a good jumping rhythm up front. I would worry about the form of the yard though, operating at just 7% in the last two weeks. There is also the small matter of the Grand National just 6 weeks away so Cloth Cap may be having a prep run for that.
Irish raider looking to land the spoils one again but don’t forget about Solo
The Shunter 9/4 looks like he could be a tough nut to crack in the Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle. Already a 9/4 shot in places, the early money has come in for him. He’s a horse in really good heart this season, winning The Greatwood hurdle at Cheltenham before switching to fences and placing third in a valuable handicap chase at The Dublin Racing Festival. Trainer Emmet Mullins successfully raided English waters last weekend with Cape Gentleman, and he looks to have another big chance of repeating the feat. I would also give a squeak to Solo 12/1 whose mark is rapidly falling. Down to 141 now and returning to 2 miles, Nicholls may have him ready to strike. The early nibbles in the market have been there and he could offer some nice each way value at a double figure price against the favourite. He hasn’t been on form so far this season, so would represent a risky bet.
Rikoboy and Canelo can strike at Doncaster
Rikoboy 11/4 is the first of two favourites I quite like to go well at Doncaster. Raised 6lbs for a narrow defeat last time out, I believe he had plenty left that day and maybe wasn’t given the greatest ride. Charlie Hammond is back in the saddle today and I am hoping he shakes Rikoboy up a little earlier than last time having travelled into the contest particularly sweetly. Only a 5-year-old, he destroyed his rivals two starts back and looks a really progressive chaser. Getaway Trump is yet to convince me over fences and along with Ballywood has to concede plenty of weight all round. Course and distance winner, Zoffee, looks a big danger for me and can well for Johnson and Hobbs.
Just over half an hour later we have a handicap chase held over 3 miles and 2 furlongs. Canelo 2/1 looks to have a solid favourites chance, against a group of horses who wouldn’t appear to be in the best form. Canelo on the other hand has thrived this season and ran a solid enough race off a pound higher in the Sky Bet Chase at the track in January. Canelo looks the clear pick on form and thanks to Beware The Bear doesn’t have to shoulder top weight. If this season’s exertions haven’t taken their toll, I would like to think he’ll be hard to beat.
As always best of luck if you’re having a bet!
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP