We are just days away from the start of Royal Ascot 2020. Although we have become used to seeing horse racing take place without fans it will be strange to see the Berkshire venue pretty much empty next week. Royal Ascot will still include many of the best horses in training and the pull of the meeting has inevitably had an impact on Saturday’s cards at Sandown and Newbury.
Still, there are some very good races in prospect at the two courses, which will have the ITV Racing cameras in attendance. With plenty of value to be found throughout the seven live races, we have picked out the best bets in our Saturday Racing Tips piece below. Don’t limit your options to just Ascot as there is loads more to enjoy before then as well.
1.50 It’s Not Rocket Science With MansionBet Handicap
Newbury, Class 3, 1m2f
It was always going to be difficult to fill the fields for this weekend’s races with Royal Ascot taking place next week but it is still a little disappointing to only have five entries for the first ITV Racing contest of the day. With that said, we could be in for an entertaining race with three interesting options at the top of the betting.
Gold Souk (7/2) developed into a smart front runner last season and will likely try to make all in this step up to 1m2f. Morisco has the quality to track the pace and score late on but may find he is just carrying too much weight so It’s Good To Laugh does look a worthy favourite with just 9st1lb to carry.
Clive Cox’s charge hasn’t always been the easiest to handle and showed signs of greenness multiple times last season but he improved with experience and was gelded over the winter so can utilise his proven stamina to win at 2/1 as he takes another step up in trip.
2.05 Sutton Handicap
Sandown, Class 2, 7f
Just like the first ITV race from Newbury, the first race broadcast by the channel from Sandown is also a handicap for three-year-olds. Thankfully, we have more entries for this 7f contest, which features a decent prize purse and some promising horses.
Interestingly, many of the leading contenders for this one prefer to do their racing on softer ground. That’s certainly the case for Ascension and connections will hope that the rain in the forecast for the lead up to this race will have a serious impact on conditions underfoot. Even if the rain does come though, Ascension may just find himself pipped to the win by Tomfre for Ralph Beckett.
Tomfre showed a really likeable attitude last season and will likely step up to 1m in the coming weeks and months but for now he is well weighted and should come on for his first run of the season just last week. He is tempting at 9/1, a very nice price worth taking each way.
2.25 Watch And Bet With MansionBet At Newbury Maggie Dickson Fillies’ Stakes
Newbury, Listed, 7f
The Maggie Dickson Fillies’ Stakes has attracted a healthy number of entries, including a couple who could have likely been found a berth to compete at Royal Ascot. The top two in the betting – Foxtrot Lady and Preening have both had some good runs in at this level and connections clearly felt that this was a decent opportunity for them to earn a Listed win.
Preening has the better form on paper thanks to her win at the Listed level in Deauville in December and she has Ryan Moore booked for the ride on Saturday which is another major plus point. However, preference goes to Foxtrot Lady who has the benefit of a run under her belt already this season.
Oisin Murphy, who saw Foxtrot Lady most days over the winter at Andrew Balding’s yard, suggested that she is stronger now as a five-year-old than she’s been before and she showed evidence of that with a very good finish in a strong race at Kempton 10 days ago. We fancy that means she is the one to be on here at nice odds of 5/1.
2.40 Scurry Stakes
Sandown, Listed, 5f
It is little surprise that Sunday Sovereign is having his first run of the season on Saturday instead of going to Royal Ascot. His run at the Royal meeting last season was the only real disappointment of an otherwise excellent juvenile campaign and many people believe that he has plenty of scope for improvement as a three-year-old.
King Power Racing were impressed enough by what they saw from Sunday Sovereign’s performance in a maiden at the Curragh last year to buy him. That excellent win came against horses of the calibre of Arizona and Alligator Alley and he followed that up by winning at odds-on at Tipperary.
He just seemed overcome with the occasion at Royal Ascot where he raced too freely in the early stages so some more time to mature and the guidance of new trainer, Roger Varian, should coax more out of Sunday Sovereign who is a worthy favourite for the Listed Scurry Stakes at a current price of 3/1.
3.00 British Stallion Studs EBF/MansionBet Abingdon Fillies’ Stakes
Newbury, Listed, 1m2f
This is the big Oaks trial at Newbury on Saturday. Connections of a number of those in the field for this 1m2f contest harbour hopes that their fillies will have what it takes to serve up a challenge at Epsom. Although winning this race is never going to send any of these into favouritism for the Oaks, this should provide some helpful pointers with some classy types towards the top of the betting.
Domino Darling, who had featured prominently in the betting for this has been withdrawn due to a bad scope but some very good fillies remain. Cabaletta and Franconia are the two the market like best and for good reason. They are both very well bred fillies from powerful yards and showed signs of quality on their debuts. It’s tough to ascertain which of these will improve most in their first run as three-year-olds so the best option from a betting point of view may well be to make a note of their runs but put your money elsewhere.
Shatha is an interesting each way option at 9/1. The Charles Hills-trained three-year-old has already sprung a surprise this season when she won on her debut at 66/1. The favourite in that race, Sun Bear, disappointed but you can’t take anything away from Shatha who came on very strongly. She’s a half sister to Tajseer who had success over hurdles and the stamina in her pedigree could well see her challenge for another surprise win.
3.00 Claygate Handicap
Sandown, Listed, 1m
The market is putting its faith in Sir Michael Stoute’s ability to get improvement out of older horses by making Solid Stone the 11/4 favourite for the Claygate Handicap. The four-year-old tailed off towards the end of last season but connections clearly think well of him as he’s been gelded and has remained in training.
This does look to be a competitive race and Solid Stone should get the strong pace that he favours but he’s yet to convince that he’ll be able to defy a mark of 94 so he does look vulnerable to the challenge of The Gill Brothers who carries 4lb less.
The Gill Brothers (who incidentally but not surprisingly is owned by the Gill Brothers) first caught the eye when coming from back to front to win a novice race on the all-weather at Kempton in September. He’s subsequently shown some real battling qualities to keep the positive performances coming and is well priced at 4/1 for the Claygate Handicap.
3.35 MansionBet’s Beaten By A Head Diomed Stakes
Newbury, Group 3, 1m
Saturday’s ITV Racing coverage ends with the Group 3 Diomed Stakes which has been rerouted from Epsom. King Of Comedy is the 9/4 favourite across the board for in-form trainer, John Gosden. This four-year-old never shirked a challenge last year, regularly bumping into very good horses at some of the biggest meetings of the year. He clearly possesses real quality but he can be a difficult horse so Gosden has had to try multiple different headgear options to try and settle him down.
There’s every chance that King Of Comedy will play up on his way down to the stalls at Newbury which could open the door to his challengers. Tabarrak is one horse who you can rely on to behave himself. He may be seven now but he made improvements as a six-year-old so should still be operating at a high level. Concerns about this rise in trip are countered by the fact that he saw out 7f on tough tracks and Newbury is not a stiff mile. The bookies rate him a danger but Tabarrak is still tempting at 6/1.