For a large number of horses competing at Newbury and Warwick this weekend, this will be their last competitive run before they compete in the Cheltenham Festival. Racing fans have any number of storylines to consider. What sort of shape will Altior be in? Can Native River win a third Denman Chase? Is Not So Sleepy a genuine Champion Hurdle contender?
The main thing on punters’ minds though, is where the best of the betting value lies. We’ve sought to answer that question with our collection of racing tips for Saturday’s live ITV Racing action.
Newbury’s card is the main draw this weekend. It includes several big names, many of whom haven’t given their best performances so far this season and therefore have much to prove ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival. Punters also have a choice between strong favourites and tempting outsiders to pick from as they try to beat the bookies.
1:50pm Betfair Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle
The Betfair Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle is the first contest being broadcast by the ITV Racing cameras. At three miles in distance it is fairly long for a hurdle and the horses in the field (who range between official ratings of 117 to 140) need to have proven stamina if they are to get the job done with some cut in the ground.
Acey Milan is yet to earn a win over anything more than two miles but connections believe that their six year old has enough in the tank to get the job done over three miles. He certainly came close when beaten by just one in a Grade 3 run over three miles and half a furlong at Haydock in November. Anthony Honeyball’s charge looks well treated by the handicapper so is a tempting option at odds of 10/1 with bet365.
2:25pm Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase
There is only really one storyline when it comes to the Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase – the form of Altior. The previously unbeaten chaser has had his return to the track teased a couple of times following his highly surprising defeat to Cyrname and has finally been deemed ready to compete.
The fact that Altior is available at odds 3/1 to win the Champion Chase – a race he has won in each of the last two years – tells you all you need to know about how poor his run was in the Christy 1965 Chase. If he is anything like that poor again he won’t just fail to win at Cheltenham but he’ll get beaten at Newbury. Nicky Henderson has made very positive sounds recently though, suggesting that Altior was right back to his very best in a piece of work at home. If that’s true, he should have little trouble returning to winning ways in this Grade 2 at odds of 2/5 with BetVictor.
3:00pm Betfair Denman Chase
The Grade 2 Denman Chase has long been used by trainers as a chance to ready their leading chasers for a shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Things are a little different this year as instead of looking forward, racing fans will be remembering the 2018 Gold Cup with the two protagonists, Native River and Might Bite, renewing hostilities.
Native River got the better of Might Bite in that big race and he has been backed into as short as 2/7 with Ladbrokes to secure the same result at Newbury. The 10 year old has only made four appearances since his Gold Cup success but continues to run at a high level whereas Might Bite’s best days are very much behind him to expect the favourite to earn his third Denman Chase win.
3:35pm Betfair Hurdle
This is the big betting heat of the day at Newbury. The Betfair Hurdle has always produced a variety of winners which have ranged from 5/2 favourites to 33/1 outsiders. The oversubscribed nature of the field for this year’s renewal suggests that we are in for another open affair with plenty of genuine potential winners.
Those looking for an each way bet to potentially win big should consider both Ecco (25/1 with Coral) for Paul Nicholls and Bryon Frost and Oakley (12/1 with BetVictor) who runs off a very good mark for Philip Hobbs. The most likely winner, however, is Not So Sleepy at 15/2 with Ladbrokes. Connections are mulling over a potential bid for the Champion Hurdle for their eight year old and he can complete a hat-trick of hurdle wins since his return from the flat.
Warwick is the other host of ITV Racing’s coverage on Saturday.
The calibre of the races isn’t quite as high as Newbury but we do have the important Kingmaker Novices’ Chase to enjoy and there are chances to win big in each of the three races we have previewed below.
2:05pm Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase
The Grade 2 Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase may not have crowned any kings of the chasing division but it has certainly been won by some very good chasers in recent years. A number of horses with the potential to kick on and become serious players against open company have been entered for this two miler.
Torpillo is one horse who has shown glimpses of real quality over the larger obstacles and holds an entry for the Arkle at Cheltenham. The five year old will need to run better than ever if he is to get the better of Nube Negra though. The Dan and Harry Skelton partnership have taken this six year old to two wins and a second place already this season. He’s improving all the time and is a worthy favourite at 7/4 with bet365.
2:40pm Paddy Power 31 Sleeps To Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle
Fillies and mares aged four and older compete in this Listed race. It is far from the highest grade racing of the day with £25,000 total prize fund but punters may be able to land a big win courtesy of Guardia Tap who is a generous price at 12/1 with Betfair.
Guardia Tap gets a nice allowance as a four year old which could prove to be vital. She may be the youngest horse in the race but Nigel Hawke’s charge has already proven herself to be a very gritty competitor who won’t mind the relatively large field so back her each way.
3:15pm Paddy Power From The Horses Mouth Warwick Castle Handicap Chase
The ITV Racing from Warwick ends with the always competitive Warwick Castle Chase. Whilst double figures are fairly rare, so are winning favourites (just two in the last decade). The stats show that it makes sense to focus on horses who are between 5/1 and 9/1 in the betting which is where we find Two Taffs at odds of 11/2 with bet365.
The Dan Skelton trained 10 year old returned from over two years away from the track with a surprisingly good run at Wetherby at the start of November. He had wind surgery at the start of his long break which connections hope will give him a new lease of life. It is easy to forgive him for a poor run in the Ladbrokes Trophy and he has every chance in the Warwick Castle Chase.