A bumper afternoon’s racing from the ITV team with nine quality races across both codes, something for everyone as they say. Newbury have their 1000 and 2000 Guineas trials plus the Spring Cup to be run on softish ground whilst up at Ayr it’s Scottish Grand National day with the ground riding good. Here are my ITV Racing tips for the nine races.
A tightly knit ten-runner class 1 Handicap Chase starts the Ayr card today. The first four from last year’s race are reunited here with last season’s winner Return Ticket my fancy. Rebecca Menzies’s ten-year-old scraped home a year ago from Malystic who’s now a pound better off with Gold Des Bois 9L back in third and Ardera Cross a further 14L back in fourth spot. Return Ticket bounced back to form in no uncertain manner at Carlisle a fortnight ago following his second wind operation when leading 2 out and going clear. He’s been raised 9lb for that but is still fairly handicapped on old form and with a good record here of 2 wins from 3 starts can strike under his regular rider Sean Quinlan.
The dangers may come from the pair that raced at Aintree last week in the Red Rum Handicap Chase. That day Laura Morgan’s Hasankey had Ann Hamilton’s Pay The Piper half a length behind and there shouldn’t be much between them today.
Dan Skelton saddles Frere D’Armes, a lightly raced novice who’s won two of his three starts over fences and has Bridget Andrews taking over from her partner Harry Skelton today. A competitive race but it’s Return Ticket that hopefully can post back-to-back wins in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase.
RETURN TICKET 1 point each way @ 8/1 with Bet365 1/5 123
Run over 1m 4F the Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes or more commonly known as the John Porter Stakes is a Group 3 contest which has attracted just eight runners this term. A warm favourite and hard to oppose is Charlie Appleby’s five-year-old entire Hurricane Lane. A smart three-year-old when winning the Irish Derby, Grand Prix De Paris and the St Leger culminating in an excellent third beaten under a length in the Arc De Triomphe. His two starts as a four-year-old were disappointing and he’s back following a 293-day break.
On official ratings, his biggest threat may be the Richard Hannon-trained Mojo Star who missed a recent start at Nottingham due to the testing ground and hasn’t been seen since running an excellent second to Kyprios in last season’s Ascot Gold Cup. He has bumped into Hurricane Lane a couple of times as a three-year-old and the score is two-nil to the Godolphin colt.
Last year’s winner Max Vega has it to do with a 3lb penalty although he does have his ground whilst the Gosden’s Israr is on a retrieval mission having bombed out in the November Handicap when last seen. This is all about Hurricane Lane and he will take some stopping.
HURRICANE LANE 3 points win @ 5/6 with Bet365
Nine novices face the starter for this class 2 Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase run over 3M. Nicky Henderson plundered this prize last year with Dusart who lines up today for the Scottish Grand National and saddles his progressive novice City Chief who runs in the yellow and black check silks of the Donnelly’s. He’s impressed in winning two of his three starts over fences including the Grade 2 Towton Chase at Wetherby in February. He’s been raised 7lb for that and will have to shoulder top weight here but looks like the one they all have to beat. He’s been as big as 8/1 in the ante-post market for this contest during the week and although we won’t be getting anything like that today he’s still worth backing with Nico De Boinville here to take the ride.
Joe Tizzard’s Oscar Elite and Dan Skelton’s Sail Away both come here in preference to the Scottish Grand National later on the card and hold each-way claims along with the likes of Nick Alexander’s Ned Tanner but this can go the way of the long-distance traveller City Chief who can take this en route to better things next season.
CITY CHIEF 2 points win @ 5/2 with BetVictor
Fourteen promising three-year-old fillies line up for another 1000 Guineas trial in the Group 3 7F Dubai Duty Free Stakes (better known as The Fred Darling Stakes). This looks like a race more to watch with the future in mind than to get our punting boots on.
John and Thady Gosden have three fillies here with Soul Sister and Bridestones both impressing in winning their only races and don’t dismiss the ‘3rd’ string Fully Wet who I’m led to believe has done some good work this Spring at Newmarket. The highest official rating is held by Karl Burke’s Swingalong who had some good pieces of form as a juvenile including when a 4L 4th in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes. She’s very speedy though and 7F may not play to her strengths.
9 of the 14 hold the 1000 Guineas entry including Amo Racing’s Magical Sunset who is my pick here. She beat the smart Sakheer on his racecourse debut at Windsor last August and ended the season winning at Leicester and Newbury with the latter success coming in heavy ground in the listed Radley Stakes over course and distance. The same connections took the Fred Darling earlier in the week and she’s worth a tentative wager here.
MAGICAL SUNSET 1 point each way @ 5/1 with William Hill 1/5th 1234
The Scottish Champion Hurdle is up next, a limited handicap run over two miles which this year has attracted 12 runners including the last two winners of this valuable race.
All twelve can be given some sort of chance with the weights headed by Nicky Henderson’s First Street. Ireland is represented by Laura Fowler’s Colonel Mustard who ran a stormer at Kelso last time when runner-up to Benson with L’Eau Du Sud 3 1/2L behind (now 2lb better off).
John McConnell’s Anna Burina, who seems to come alive at this time of the year, was runner-up two years ago (to Milkwood) and won this last year. She should run well although she is now 12lb higher than last year so things won’t be so easy.
One horse who ran 5th in this race last year and actually won it the previous year is Neill Mulholland’s Milkwood who to my eyes has an outstanding each-way chance today. Only beaten 8L by Anna Burina a year ago he re-opposes on 24lb better terms and is now 4lb lower than when winning two years ago. His latest effort can readily be forgotten as that was on soft ground and in a first-time hood which may not have suited him. He’s been given a chance by the handicapper and if somewhere near the form he was in at this meeting for the last two seasons should go close at a nice price.
Kerry Lee saddles her improving novice Nemean Lion on his handicap debut and could be well in but I’m not sure a speed test on the good ground is what this six-year-old wants. Paul Nicholls has his novice Rubaud entered but he’s already been beaten in handicap company and the form of his recent win at Kempton hasn’t worked out well.
Soaring Glory is another who dropping in trip on good ground has claims but I’ll take my chances with the Sam Twiston-Davies Milkwood who looks so well handicapped.
MILKWOOD 1 1/2 points each way @ 12/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
The Watership Down Stud Too Darn Hot Greenham Stakes is a Group 3 contest run over 7F and is a trial for the 2000 Guineas in a fortnight’s time. Eleven go to post and we have a very warm favourite here in the Andrew Balding-trained Chaldean who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori. He’s the clear form pick here having won at Group 3, 2 and 1 as a juvenile. He’ll be hard to beat if anywhere near peak fitness. Official ratings have him 9lb and more ahead of his ten opponents.
Simon and Ed Crisford’s Knight looked like a horse of potential when winning the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes over course and distance (Greys Monument 2nd and held) last October but that was in very soft ground and that may be what he needs whilst the same can also be said about Doncaster maiden winner Theoryofeverything for the Gosden’s. James Ferguson has his Newmarket team in fine shape winning with 5 of his last 10 runners and sends his Zoology here who has 26lb to find with the favourite but it wouldn’t be a shock were he to outrun his odds with his latest win having already been boosted by the runner-up scooting up at Newmarket this week.
A non-betting race as Chaldean should win and is priced accordingly.
Only seven face the starter for this Grade 2 2m 4 1/2F Future Champions Novices’ Chase. The race that appears to be the key to the outcome of this contest is the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown in February won by Gerri Colombe. Nicky Henderson’s Balco Coastal ran a blinder in finishing runner-up to the useful winner with Olly Murphy’s Thunder Rock 3 3/4L back in third place having not jumped that fluently. The pair re-oppose here on the same terms and there shouldn’t be that much between the pair with both having run in one of the big novice chases at Cheltenham with no success. Preference has to be with the former who could top a good day for the Seven Barrows trainer and his jockey Nico De Boinville.
Emma Lavelle saddles her Hang In There who has his ground but has to shoulder a 5lb penalty for winning the Rising Stars Novices Chase at Wincanton last November and an absence to overcome whilst Jamie Snowden’s Datsalrightgino has to put a poor effort at Cheltenham behind him when pulling up in the Plate.
BALCO COASTAL 1 point win @ 2/1 with Bet365
A smaller than usual field of fourteen go to post for the BetGoodwin Spring Cup run over the straight mile of the Berkshire course. The favourite will be the William Haggas trained four-year-old Lattam who won the Irish Lincoln on very soft ground at The Curragh four weeks ago and despite a 5lb rise in the weights must go close although he has been very well found in the market.
John and Thady Gosden’s Saga is a quirky sort but has been gelded now and wearing cheekpieces for the first time it would be no shock if he were to run well for his Royal owner. Three of these ran in the Lincoln, form which has already been boosted by the 1-2 of Bopedro and Empirestateofmind at Newmarket this week who finished 8th and 7th in that race. Back in 9th was Richard Spencer’s Revich that day and he can confirm that form with the two that finished behind him that day in Jimi Hendrix and Atrium. He could be a bit of each-way value here.
Bear Force One did well to win on the all-weather last time from a high draw and has run well here before having won two of his four starts here. His 4lb rise can be negated by Billy Loughnane’s 5lb claim and he too could run well.
Lattam is the most likely winner but is short enough now and I’ll play Bear Force One and Revich small each way.
REVICH 1/2 point each way @ 16/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
BEAR FORCE ONE 1/2 point each way @ 14/1 with Paddy Power 1/5th 1234
The day’s feature race is the Scottish Grand National which has attracted 23 runners and is run over just short of four miles. A wide-open contest with the weights headed by Nicky Henderson’s Dusart. For a fully comprehensive look at every runner check out my Coral Scottish Grand National Preview where I look at the tips, trends, and analysis for the big race.
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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