Racing fans are in for an absolute treat with this Saturday’s racing. The cards at Kempton, Newcastle and Lingfield always promised to be as high class as they are varied and it’s only got better thanks to the decision to run the Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton after last weekend’s meeting at Wincanton fell foul of the elements and Storm Very Annoying, or whatever it was called.
The going has forced some trainers to pull their leading lights from the big races this weekend but there is still more than enough for punters to get their teeth stuck into in the search for profit from the bookies. Let’s take a look at the key races.
Saturday’s card at Kempton was already looking good before the BHA announced that they were adding the Kingwell Hurdle into the mix.
In total there are four races being shown live by ITV Racing on the day, each of which is a worthwhile contest in its own right and can also throw up some valuable clues for the Cheltenham Festival which is drawing ever closer.
1:15pm Betway Pendil Novices’ Chase
The Pendil Novices’ Chase gets the ITV Racing action underway on Saturday. This promises to be an absolute cracker with any number of horses in with a real chance of winning this 2m4½f Grade 2. Connections of those at the head of the market will look with glee at stats which show only one winner came from outside the top three in the betting in the last 12 renewals of this one. However, such is the competitiveness of this field that it may well pay to look for the value in this year’s renewal.
The last three winners of this race – Bags Groove, Cyrname and Frodon – were all favourites and all three have gone on to bigger things. Connections of Commanche Red are hopeful their seven-year-old will be similarly successful. He was beaten by the favourite, Reserve Tank, at Wincanton in November but improved with a very good win at Kempton on Boxing Day. That form has since been given a boost with the second placed horse winning a good handicap at Cheltenham so Commanche Red looks very good value at 7/2 with bet365.
1:50pm Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Adonis Juvenile Hurdle
There is another race which has been used by some very good horses up next in the shape of the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. The trends suggest that it pays to stick with horses who have already shown solid form in Britain over hurdles in this Grade 2, 2m contest. However, it may be that a French import for Paul Nicholls gets the job done this year.
Solo has made just two performances so far, both of which came in France. After finishing second on debut, he toughed it out to win over 2m½f on heavy ground at Auteuil in November. The drop back in trip and slightly better ground that he’ll find at Kempton are both positives, as is Nicholls’ recent record in the race so back Solo for the win at solid odds of 6/4 with bet365.
2:25pm Betway Kingwell Hurdle
Connections of some very good hurdlers are exceedingly happy with the BHA’s decision to run the Kingwell Hurdle at Kempton this weekend. For many, the cancellation of the race would have meant some of their leading lights were unable to get a proper pre-Cheltenham run. The likes of Pic D’Orhy, Fusil Raffles and Ch’tibello all have hopes of doing good things at the Festival and it’s no surprise they make up the top three in the betting for this rescheduled contest.
It’s easy to make a case for all three but there is little doubt in our mind that the best value lies with Ch’tibello at 7/4 with bet365. Dan Skelton’s nine-year-old has yet to really make a mark in his two starts this season but it’s easy to make excuses on both occasions. He badly needed his first run at Cheltenham before finding the race just wasn’t run to suit him in the Christmas Hurdle. He should be much more competitive on his return to Kempton and 7/4 looks too big.
3:02pm Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle
The ground at Cheltenham does dry up pretty quickly but the amount of rain the course has had in recent weeks suggests that conditions will have to change significantly and very quickly for anything other than soft ground for the Festival. Connections of the up and coming hurdlers in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle will, therefore, be very keen to see how their charges get on with the likely similar ground at Kempton.
Nicky Henderson really wanted to get a big run for Son Of Camas at Kempton but the ground has proven to be too soft and he’s been pulled from the race. Henderson is still looking good to have the winner though with Buzz a firm favourite at 15/8 with bet365. He delighted connections with his first two wins over hurdles and although he’s unlikely to head to Cheltenham, he is one to watch in the big meetings towards the end of the jumps season.
3:35pm Betway Handicap Chase
This is the big betting race of the day at Kempton and indeed of the entire weekend. There has been no winning favourite of the Betway Handicap Chase in the last 10 years but many punters believe that run will be broken on Saturday with Adrien Du Pont proving easy to back at a general 5/1. You can make excuses for his two poor runs this season and his mark of 145 does look generous.
As strongly as Adrien Du Pont may well run, this just isn’t a race in which you should simply back the favourite. That’s as true as ever this year with Talkischeap looking a great each way bet at 11/1 with Coral. Alan King has been frustrated in his attempts to get his Grand National hope a run over the winter but there’s every chance of his patience being rewarded at Kempton and the double-digit price is too good to turn down.
The ITV Racing cameras are heading to Newcastle this weekend for one reason only, the Eider Handicap. This valuable and incredibly punishing chase will, as ever, be used by connections to see just how much stamina some of their stable stars have ahead of a possible tilt at the Grand National later in the year.
2:45pm Vertem Eider Handicap Chase
The Eider Handicap takes place over a monster trip of 4m1½f so it really is an excellent prep run for the big one at Aintree. If that wasn’t enough, it’s going to be run on heavy ground this year so you won’t find many more challenging tests until we get to the Grand National.
Those looking for a horse with proven stamina to have onside for the Eider Chase should consider the 6/1 that Coral are quoting on Calipso Collonges’ chances of winning. Trainer, Olly Murphy, believes his horse has what it takes to be competitive in even the most challenging of races and he warrants support as does Donna’s Delight who is finally starting to fulfil his potential following a recent wind operation.
ITV Racing is broadcasting both standout races from Lingfield’s Saturday card.
The Winter Derby takes top billing and rightly so but the Hever Sprint Stakes is also an important race which has attracted a solid card and promises to be an interesting contest.
2:05pm Betway Hever Sprint Stakes
The Listed Hever Sprint Stakes takes place over the minimum, blink and you miss it, distance of 5f and is open to horses aged four and older. A typically competitive field of eight horses has been assembled with cases to be made about most of those in the running.
We have a warm favourite though and Good Effort tops the betting at odds of 13/8 with Coral, Ismail Mohammed’s five-year-old looking to become just the second winning favourite in 10 years. If that stat doesn’t put you off, he is certainly tempting as his form has improved considerably on the all-weather since wearing cheekpieces. Furious is the bookies’ idea of the biggest threat to Good Effort but it’s Hareem Queen who represents the best each way value to our eyes at nice odds of 7/1 with Coral.
3:15pm Winter Derby Stakes
A very decent prize fund of £100,000 is up for grabs in the Group 3 Winter Derby. Andrew Balding and all connected to Bangkok are feeling confident about their chances of getting their hands on the winner’s share. Punters also have no problem backing Bangkok at a general price of 8/11 in no small part because half of the last 10 renewals have gone the way of the favourite.
The market suggests that the majority of the field is merely making up the numbers but that cannot be said of Dubai Warrior who may just get this favourite beaten and at the odds represents the value pick here. John Gosden was very happy with the progression that his four-year-old made before the turn of the New Year. He won a Listed contest over the same 1m2f course he’ll run on on Saturday and looks good value at 2/1 with Ladbrokes, well over double the price of the jolly.