We have the very rare prospect of Saturday racing on the 29th of February to enjoy this weekend. Our basic level maths tells us we can expect that to happen around once every 28 years so make the most of this bonus day of action we say! There are leap year cards scheduled for all over Britain and Ireland with the ITV Racing cameras broadcasting the best of the action from Doncaster, Newbury and Kelso.
Even though the leading competitors for the Cheltenham Festival are remaining in their boxes before the Festival gets underway in just two weeks, we have an interestingly varied day of racing ahead of us including plenty of value betting options which we have sifted through below.
The Doncaster card includes a few strong looking races but punters and racing fans will be most interested in the Grimthorpe Chase as it promises to throw up a number of clues for the 2020 Grand National.
There are also a couple of tough looking handicaps and a Listed mares’ hurdle to pick through.
1:50pm 888Sport Handicap Hurdle
The 888Sport Handicap Hurdle is the first ITV Racing contest of the day. This 3m½f hurdle is often used by trainers to get a stiff run in the legs of their chasers without having to worry about the perils of jumping fences and it is very interesting to see Traffic Fluide in the field after he came so close to landing a massive upset in the Betfair Ascot Chase recently.
Chasers returning to hurdles don’t actually have a very good record in this contest though, nor, interestingly, do horses who won their most recent outing. Whilst there are some tempting each way options such as No Getaway at a general 14/1, winners almost always come from inside the 8/1 range which is where we find Remastered at 13/2 with bet365. The seven-year-old just couldn’t quite cope with the heavy ground he encountered last time out at Sandown but should fare much better on ground which is described as good to soft at Doncaster.
2:25pm 888Sport Bet £10 Get £30 Handicap Chase
We have another handicap to pick through next up but the 888Sport Bet £10 Get £30 Handicap Chase is a very different type of race. For a start it is run over fences and also takes place over the much shorter trip of 2m½f. Some leading yards have entries in this including Paul Nicholls who saddles top weight, Dolos.
Dolos arrives on the back of a handicap win having failed to really compete in the Tingle Creek Chase. He’ll have plenty of support but the handicapper may just have the better of him which is not the case quite yet for Nuts Well. The nine-year-old has found some of the form of his career in the last three races since partnering with Danny McMenamin again and although the handicapper has not missed his streak of three wins, the quality of those performances still suggests he can outrun his mark of 152 to win at nice odds of 6/1 with Coral.
3:00pm 888Sport Take ‘Em On Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
There’s an odds-on favourite in the next race, the 888Sport Take ‘Em On Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. This 3m½f contest is certainly one for specialists and Cill Anna has accrued plenty of experience in longer distance hurdles for Paul Nicholls.
After a so-so start to the season, Nicholls decided to try his five-year-old with a tongue tie, a decision which has produced some very good results so far. Harry Cobden is the jockey who has benefited from the new equipment, partnering Cill Anna to her two recent wins. They both came at just over 2½ miles but the step up to this trip shouldn’t be a concern, especially if the going remains good to soft, so Cill Anna looks a very worthy favourite at 4/5 with bet365.
3:35pm 888Sport Grimthorpe Handicap Chase
The Grimthorpe Handicap is the most interesting race of the day at Doncaster both from a betting perspective and for what it might be able to teach punters ahead of the Grand National. The 3m2f handicap has started to become seen as a real trial for the Grand National ever since The Last Samuri followed up his win at Doncaster with a second place finish at Aintree in 2016.
Kim Bailey’s charge was easy enough to spot right at the top of the market and towards the top of the weights but he’s something of an outlier in terms of the stats for the Grimthorpe. Punters usually benefit from siding with a horse carrying less than 11st and who is from slightly lower down in the betting. Captain Chaos fits the profile of a Grimthorpe winner very well indeed. He made a very good return to action at Warwick in January having been pulled up in the Welsh Grand National and makes lots of appeal at very solid odds of 13/2 with bet365.
The Newbury card at Saturday is headlined by two very competitive looking handicap chases.
The Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap gives older horses a chance to shine again whilst the Greatwood Gold Cup features a handsome prize and some high quality entries.
2:05pm William Hill Supporting Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Chase
The Veterans’ Chase Series has proven to be a very popular addition to the National Hunt calendar as racing fans get the chance to see some much loved chasers serve up some cracking races. The entertainment is set to continue with the Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Chase with a field that includes the first two home last year.
Carole’s Destrier got the better of Theatre Guide 12 months ago but it’s the latter who is taken to get the win this time around at 5/1 with bet365. Colin Tizzard’s 13-year-old is actually off slightly worse terms than last year but that reflects some good performances of late. He will have no problem grinding his way around on the soft ground and has plentiful stamina to hold his rivals at bay and land this coveted prize.
3:15pm William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase
The Greatwood Gold Cup is the feature race of the day at Newbury. You can make cases for all sorts of different horses in the field but much of the pre-race attention is being paid to San Benedeto. He landed an incredible seventh winner for Paul Nicholls in last year’s edition of the Greatwood Gold Cup and has been fairly well backed for a repeat performance at a general 7/1 that is big enough to consider each way too.
Whilst San Benedeto does look to have what it takes to be a major player once again, the value bet in the field appears to be Enrichissant at the significantly longer odds of 11/1 with Coral. David Bridgwater’s six-year-old will carry bottom weight for this contest but won’t be so leniently treated by the handicapper for long. A wind operation has finally brought the best out of Enrichissant and his patient connections are getting excited by what could be in his future. A win at Newbury is certainly a real opportunity at a very tempting price.
The William Hill Premier Novices’ Hurdle is the big draw of the day up at Kelso with some promising young hurdlers making the trip to Scotland for a Grade 2 which is growing in reputation.
Some serious rain in the area has left the going heavy but we should still have a very good renewal ahead of us.
2:45pm William Hill Premier Novices’ Hurdle
The William Hill Premier Novices’ Hurdle is of sufficient quality to make sure that the ITV Racing cameras are in attendance at Kelso on Saturday. The Scottish course is set to welcome seven competitors for its feature race of the day and if the betting for this Grade 2 is anything to go by we’re in for an entertaining contest.
Calva D’Auge and Clondaw Caitlin are locked in a battle for favouritism at the head of the market but don’t be surprised if there’s a flood of fairly late money for Cheddleton. Jennie Candlish’s five-year-old has form when it comes to surpassing market expectations.
He finished a very credible second on his hurdling debut despite going off at 25/1 and has won his two hurdle starts subsequently. Cheddleton’s nature suggests that he will take this step up in class in his stride and he may well complete a hat-trick at 4/1 with bet365.