A bumper afternoon’s racing from our pals at ITV with ten races coming at us from Sandown, Musselburgh, Wetherby and the Irish Gold Cup from Leopardstown on Saturday. The ground is mostly good to soft at all meetings with both Leopardstown and Sandown actually watering earlier in the week. Here are my thoughts on the ITV racing tips for this weekend.
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Today’s terrestrial coverage kicks off with a six-runner novices’ handicap hurdle run over just short of 2m 4F. The only one of the sextet that holds any future Cheltenham novice hurdle entries is Milton Harris’s top weight and favourite here Twinjets. He’s looked a progressive sort in winning at Leicester and Plumpton this season to add to his two bumper wins and an Irish point-to-point victory. Harry Cobden has ridden him to both his hurdle victories and is again on board here. He’s the one to beat. The second favourite is Paul Nicholls’ Twin Power who actually finished runner-up to Twinjets at Plumpton at the beginning of the month and re-opposes on 8lb better terms for a nine-length beating. That should pull the pair closer together but Twinjets won quite cosily that day and can confirm the form. Five of the six are making their handicap debuts today and one who could have been let in lightly is Harry Fry’s Hot Rod Lincoln. His eight-length Irish point-to-point win looks decent and although he pulled up at Hereford last time he could run well at a nice price if taking his earlier Chepstow 4th into account. He’s worth a small stakes bet.
HOT ROD LINCOLN 1 point win @ 10/1 with Bet365
Six face the starter for this 2M 4F 68yds novices’ handicap chase. Bar the rank outsider Diamond State, each of the other five have claims of sorts. Irish raider Drumbear trained by John C McConnell won on his fencing debut at Limerick over Christmas and with the runner-up winning since should go well today. Laura Morgan’s Notlongtillmay is two from two over the bigger obstacles having won a handicap at Wetherby and over course and distance going up a stone in the handicap. Bear Ghylls is on a bit of a recovery mission having bombed out last time when his trainer thought the race came to soon to his re-appearance run. A tough race but I’ll take the lightly raced top weight Drumbear to plunder the prize for Ireland. He will be ridden by 5lb conditional jockey Ben Harvey who’s already ridden 25 winners in his native country.
DRUMBEAR 1 point win @ 5/2 with Bet365
The 1M 7F 99yds class 2 handicap chase is named after the three-time winner of this eight-runner contest Dolos. Paul Nicholl’s ten-year-old has won this three out of the last four years and was runner-up in 2021. He still shows a decent level of ability and without doubt is the one they all have to beat today. A four-length winner last year he’s now only 3lb higher in the handicap and can confirm that form with the runner up Frero Banbou who’s 5lb better off for last year’s defeat. Bottom weight Fast Buck maybe his biggest danger having won well at Lingfield last time but this can go to Dolos and he represents one of the better bets of the day under Harry Cobden who knows him so well.
DOLOS 2 points win @ 11/4 with Bet365
A highly competitive renewal of the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase run over a stamina sapping 3M 7F 108 yards. A decent-sized field of thirteen have declared. Ben Pauling’s top weight Slipway looked a smart stayer when winning the Southern National at Fontwell back in November rising 7lb. He should relish this trip and run well with the longer trip likely to suit. Sandy Thomson runs three here with possibly Flower Of Scotland the best of the trio having won over this trip at Kelso in early December. His Doyen Breed has stamina to prove whilst The Ferry Master may not be up to this. Fergal O’Brien took the first prize last season with his Captain Cattistock in a less competitive contest but is unbeaten in two starts over this long trip of around four miles. If we can fancy him for this then surely the runner-up from last year The Wolf must come into the equation. Trained by the very much-in-form Olly Murphy, who racked up his 50th winner of the season at Fakenham on Thursday, he went down by only 3/4L that day and can renew rivalry on 9lb better terms. That said he is quirky old thing but maybe the longer trip will bring out the best in him. Owned by the Macneill & Stone families and ridden by Paddy Brennan he’s worth chancing each way especially as he sports first-time blinkers.
THE WOLF 1 point each way @ 11/1 with William Hill 1/5th 1234
A small but select field of five line up for the class 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase run over 2M 4F. The race has been won by some smart novice chasers over the years and was won last year by L’Homme Presse. Gordon Elliott sends over Gerri Colombe from his County Meath base in Ireland and will be at short odds to take this. He’s unbeaten in seven (if counting his point-to-point win) career victories including two novice chases, the latest being in grade one company at Limerick. He could be anything and although he may prefer further he’s the one to beat. Jordan Gainford is over to ride him. Best of the British may be either Paul Nicholl’s Monmiral or Olly Murphy’s Thunder Rock who met last time at Cheltenham in the Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Years Day when only a head split the pair. Nicky Henderson saddles Balco Coastal who put a poor chasing debut at Newbury behind him when bolting up at Kempton over Christmas in a handicap and as promising as he is will need to step up again. Not much of a price but I’ll stick with Gerri Colombe.
GERRI COLOMBE 2 points win @ 6/5 with William Hill
A small field of just four assemble for the 3M grade 2 Townton Novices’ Chase. Warm favourite here is the Dan Skelton trained eight-year-old Ballygrifincottage who made a sparkling chasing debut when running away with a class 2 three-runner novices’ chase at Haydock back in November. It’s a bit concerning that he sports a first-time tongue tie and although he’s the most likely winner at his current odds of around 4/6 I’m happy to take him on with Nicky Henderson’s City Chief who will be ridden by James Bowen. He impressed when winning a three-runner novices’ handicap chase at Hereford last time and is a progressive sort who only has seven pounds to find on official ratings. O’Toole is the other one with a chance having won a handicap chase at Newcastle on his fencing debut.
CITY CHIEF 1 point win @ 4/1 with William Hill
The feature race of the day at the Esher track is the 2M 7F 98 yds Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle which has attracted a field of 15 and has a very open look about it. Top weight Flight Deck was last seen winning at Chepstow over Christmas but has been put up 7lb for that win and has to give weight all round here. Last year’s winner Green Book is back to defend his title from a 4lb higher mark and ran too bad to be true (easy to back) on his seasonal re-appearance in the Flight Deck race at Chepstow. He’s not without a chance today. The one I like though has to be the David Pipe-trained Remastered who I believe is being trained for the Grand National. He reverts back to hurdles following two excellent runs over the bigger obstacles when runner-up in the Ladbrokes Trophy (Hennessy) and then taking a valuable handicap chase at Kempton over Christmas. That win was gained off of a chase handicap mark of 146 (he’s now on a mark of 152) but can race today off of a hurdles mark of 142, 4lb lower than his last win all be it over fences. Pipe has been amongst the winners this week and he looks a solid each-way bet.
REMASTERED 2 points each way @ 11/2 with William Hill 1/5th 12345
Seven go to face the starter in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup run over 3M on softish ground (the track has been watering throughout the week). We have a very short-priced favourite in one of four Willie Mullins-trained runners in the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs. He’s four from five over fences (would of won the other start when falling at last in the Turners at the Cheltenham Festival last March) and was an impressive winner on his re-appearance in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown in December. He’s up against some rather exposed types now with the possible exception of his stable companion Stattler who was runner-up on his re-appearance in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase on New Year’s Day. At the likely odds a no bet race but a contest to savour with the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite in action.
Ten have declared for the bet365 Scottish County Handicap Hurdle and I believe there’s a decent wager in this 1M 7F 124 yard class 2 contest. The Michael Scudamore-trained eight-year-old Lebowski did us a favour when winning on his re-appearance at Wetherby and a 7lb rise may not be enough to stop him from scoring again. His underrated trainer thinks very highly of him. Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old mare Grivetana wasn’t suited by the tacky ground last time out at Newbury when bombing out and in her previous two efforts when runner up in decent Newbury handicaps should also run well whilst course winner Nayati trained by Donald McCain is another who should be competitive but for me this is all about Lebowski.
LEWBOWSKI 2 points win @ 4/1 with Bet365
The day’s terrestrial action concludes with a competitive 3M class 2 Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase which has attracted a strong field of 14. Many have chances with the likes of recent Cheltenham winners Rapper and Eva’s Oskar holding claims despite rising 6lb and 3lb for their two respective victories. Gary Moore saddles two with his son Jamie on board of Larry who has a good record here of two wins from four starts. I’m more interested however in his other runner propping up the handicap in nine-year-old Movethechains who will be ridden by the stable’s conditional jockey Niall Houlihan who still can claim a valuable 3lb. He was a progressive chaser last year winning four handicap chases rising some 37lb in the weights. He re-appeared when finishing a well-beaten 5th in the Welsh Grand National and with that run under his belt could be thereabouts. Ben Pauling’s Bangers And Cash is the other one I want on my side. He’s looked good winning at Exeter and Market Rasen this season and remains at the right end of the handicap despite a 16lb rise in the weights. I’ll split my stake on Bangers And Cash and Movethechains.
BANGERS AND CASH 1 point win @ 6/1 with Bet365
MOVETHECHAINS 1/2 point each way @ 25/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
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All odds quoted were available at time of writing.