The calm before the storm! The Grand National is only a week away and we have some less mundane but nonetheless enthralling and competitive racing today with ITV showing 7 races split between Haydock for the jumps boys and Musselburgh for the flat enthusiasts. The ground is currently good to soft at both tracks. Here are my horse racing tips and analysis of the day’s action.
We start the day’s action with a valuable class 2 handicap hurdle run over just short of two miles which has attracted fourteen runners. Stuart Edmunds saddles his progressive six-year-old Bubbles Dubi who came good at Stratford last time when defeating the re-opposing Word Has It and can confirm that form despite being 5lb worse off for 3L. He’s lightly raced and can run well in this open handicap.
I quite like a couple that ran moderately in the same race at Fakenham last time out, however. Alan King’s Big Boy Bobby was easy to back in the valuable Silver Cup Handicap Hurdle at the Norfolk track on Cheltenham Gold Cup day last month and ran accordingly with the rain which hammered down throughout the meeting very much against him. He had previously shown winning form at Huntingdon and was a decent second beaten a head at Kempton around Christmas to No Ordinary Joe.
I’m prepared to forgive him that one poor run on account of the ground and as long as the rain stays away looks decent each-way value here with Tom Cannon doing the steering. Also down the field in that Fakenham race was Pam Sly’s Takeit Easy who has slipped 8lb this season and now ranks some 10lb lower than his last win which came at Wetherby in October 2021.
BIG BAD BOBBY 0.5 point e/w @ 16/1 BetUK 1/5th 1234
Three-year-old handicaps are always tricky betting mediums at this time of the year and we kick off Musselburgh’s terrestrial television coverage with a class 3 nine runner 1M 0-95 contest. The first place to start with has to be with the Charlie Johnstone pair as the stable has won three of the last four renewals. Johnstone saddles Finn’s Charm who likes to front run but flopped on his last two starts last season and of more interest is the Oisin Murphy-ridden, Qatar Racing-owned Lion Of War who looks the bet here.
The son of Roaring Lion won his first two starts as a juvenile in June and wasn’t disgraced when 5th in group and listed company subsequently. He ended the season having been dropped into handicap company and running third in a heavy ground Doncaster nursery. He’ll surely appreciate the better ground today and should run well.
Archie Watson has his Lambourn string in fine order winning with 5 of his last 19 runners and saddles handicap debutant Manitou under Hollie Doyle. A market move for the chestnut gelding would be interesting. Amo Racing have started the new turf season in decent form and their Michael Bell-trained Metahorse, who’s been gelded since last seen, is another to watch closely in the betting. Pol Roger has also been gelded since his two-year-old days when he win a brace of novice stakes but I can’t have him with his handler Michael Dodds so out of form (42 runs and 99 days since his last winner). To small stakes, I’ll stick to Lion Of War.
LION OF WAR 1 point each way @ 5/1 bet365 1/5th 123
The 7F Silver Arrow Handicap is a class 2 race for horses rated 0-100 and has attracted a dozen runners this year. My pair against the field are the Jim Goldie-trained Abduction who is unlucky not to be three from three for Goldie having joined the Scottish trainer from Grant Tuer last August and quickly striking twice at Ayr before a luckless runner-up over this course and distance in October to Autumn Festival who re-opposes here on 2lb worse terms.
My other fancy, and my nap of the day, is Charlie Johnstone’s The Gatekeeper who appeared not to see out the mile last week in the Spring Mile at Doncaster when weakening close home to finish 5th beaten 2 1/4L to Harswell Duke. He’ll be fitter than most and with Andrea Atzeni retaining the ride looks sure to be thereabouts.
In that race, Grant Tuer’s Dirtyoldtown was well backed though his run can be totally forgotten as he was drawn badly and had no chance from the far side. He’s better than that.
Last year’s one-two are back again in Katie Scott’s Gweedore and Michael Dodd’s Northern Express. Only half a length split them on that occasion and there’s a pound between them in the weights in favour of the runner-up Northern Express whose trainer is badly out of form at present.
I’ll dutch my stakes here between The Gatekeeper and Abduction with a preference for the former whom we know will be strip fit.
THE GATEKEEPER 1 point each way @ 6/1 bet365 1/5th 1234
ABDUCTION 1/2 point each way @ 7/1 BetUK 1/5th 1234
A wide-open valuable 3m 1 1/2F fifteen-runner handicap chase is up next. Top weight Much Mas trained by Ben Pauling is up 4lb for his recent win at Sandown from the re-opposing Feivel (2lb better off here for 1 1/4L) and is on a hat trick now. He and his old rival Feivel have obvious claims along with the likes of the Dan Skelton-trained bottom weight Jeffrey’s Cross who’s been runner-up on his last four starts.
A case can be made for plenty of others and it wouldn’t shock me if any of the fifteen were to win! In such an open contest stakes should be kept small with my pin falling on Stuart Edmunds’ eight-year-old Feivel who races in first-time cheekpieces today and wasn’t done with when unseating his rider Charlie Hammond at Wetherby last time. Ciaran Gethings takes the ride today and can be competitive.
FEIVEL 1/2 point each way @ 8/1 bet365 1/5th 12345
The Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap is run over the minimum trip of 5F and has attracted a field of fourteen. The configuration of the sprint track here means that those drawn high (stands side) usually have an advantage although last year Zarzyni won from out wide. David and Nicola Barron’s six-year-old is back to defend his title off of a 2lb lower mark so can be fancied. 4th last year was Makanah who’s drawn a favourable stall here in 11 but is actually 6lb worse off with Zarzyni.
It’s a tight handicap where luck in running is likely to be needed and it may be worth a small each-way interest in one of the three oldest horses in the race in Ed Walker’s Came From The Dark who will definitely enjoy the cut in the ground. He’s a Group 3 winner from 2021 in the Coral Charge and has fallen to a nice mark of 97 now having been as high as 108 in his pomp. Stall 8 should be ok and the booking of Oisin Murphy catches the eye. He’ll do for me to small each-way stakes with any more rain being a bonus.
CAME FROM THE DARK 1 point each way @ 6/1 William Hill 1/5th 1234
Another wide-open handicap this one over 3M 58 yards of the hurdle course. A bumper field of sixteen lines up for this valuable prize of £50,000 guaranteed. Dan Skelton’s Farmers Gamble was very impressive when sprinting away from his rivals at Exeter back in February and even with a 9lb rise looks the one to beat though he’s been well found in the market.
The soon-to-be-retired Harry Whittington saddles his hat trick-seeking Docpickedme and is another with claims even if he is climbing up the handicap (up 6lb for his latest victory).
However, I like Joe Tizzard’s The Changing Man who’s been a model of consistency this season winning a brace of handicap hurdles at Ffos Las and Huntingdon prior to running second three times at this type of trip. He wasn’t disgraced when 8th of 23 in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham Festival and with regular rider Brendan Powell in the plate can run another decent race today. Like the other handicaps at Haydock today they’re incredibly tricky so once again stakes should be kept small with The Changing Man worth a small each-way wager.
THE CHANGING MAN 1/2 point each way @ 9/1 bet365 1/5th 12345
The day’s feature race is the 1m 6F Queen’s Cup Heritage Handicap with £100,000 guaranteed. A maximum field of fourteen has been declared for this competitive contest. A case can seriously be made for many. Bottom weight Good Show, trained by the soon to be retired, Keith Dagleish is the most unexposed horse in the field here making his handicap debut following just three runs which included a 12/1 debut win at Hamilton and on his final start last season a head second to Ralph Beckett’s Self Inflicted Sid (who’s subsequently shown little in three starts over hurdles). His dam is well known to Dagleish as he trained her to win in listed company and Good Show is her first foal.
Euchan Glen has a poor record fresh and is overlooked as is top-weight Outbox who has plenty of weight. Spirit Mixer is interesting from the Andrew Balding stable but does have to prove himself on a slow surface.
Adam Nichol’s Wise Eagle is three from four at the track which makes him interesting even though today’s mark is his highest ever. The Charlie Johnstone stable have won two of the last three runnings of this and their representative today is Themaxwecan who actually won this very race two years ago off of a 4lb higher handicap mark but finished plum last in this last year. Oisin Murphy is booked and could easily run well if in form for his first run of 203 days. It may not be soft enough for Harry Fry’s Metier and, in a wide-open contest, my money is with Good Show and Jason Watson.
GOOD SHOW 1 point each way @ 7/1 William Hill 1/5th 1234
All odds are correct at the time of writing.
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