We’re very much in the lap of the gods (or Jack Frost I suppose!) as to which if any of the two ITV televised meetings will take place on Saturday. Both hold inspections and when the fleece covers come off the ground is likely to be riding on the slow side of good. Seven races are covered by Ed and the gang and here are my early ITV Racing tips with a strong bet at Doncaster.
Nine have declared for this 2m 1/2F Summit Juvenile Hurdle but with six of the nine also declared for the opener at Cheltenham today is a race very hard to evaluate until we see who’ running where. On what they’ve achieved there’s not much between Milton Harris’s Scriptwriter and Joseph O’Brien’s Nusret and with the difference in price I would rather be with the former who was a 12lb better horse on the level when with Aidan O’Brien and has done little wrong in two spins over timber winning both at Sedgefield and Cheltenham races. He’s the pick for me but let’s maybe wait to see who’s running where.
The day’s feature handicap is the December Gold Cup, a handicap chase run over 2m 4F which has attracted a decent sized field of fourteen. Last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup looks the best form guide with five of the field re-opposing today. Il Ridoto did best of the quintet in finishing 4th beaten 5L despite a bad blunder at the last. A reproduction of that effort will put him bang in the picture here for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden. Just 3/4L behind him was Alan King’s Deyrann De Carjac and he too has each way claims. Simply The Betts, owned and ridden by David Maxwell, was back in 7th with Kerry Lee’s Storm Damage a place and 4 1/4L further behind. Today’s top weight Stolen Silver wasn’t done with when falling three out and is another who can make his presence felt here. Il Ridoto would be my pick of that five and should run a big race. I’ll dutch him here with Nicky Henderson’s tough mare Fantastic Lady who beat the subsequent winner Zambella last time over three miles and may appreciate dropping back to this intermediate trip. The Irish are represented by Norman Lee’s Sole Pretender in an open race and with a decent 5lb conditional on board is yet another with claims in a wide open contest.
IL RIDOTO 1 point win @ 9/2 bet365
FANTASTIC LADY 1 point each way @ 8/1 bet365 1/5th 1234
Bar rank outsider Zoffanien (who’s declared to run on Friday), four smart hurdlers assemble for this year’s renewal of the Unibet International Hurdle run over the minimum trip of two miles and has been won by some smart types over the years. Nigel Twiston Davies has an excellent record in the race winning four of the last nine and saddles his improving five year old I Like To Move It with his son Sam taking the reigns. Last seen winning the Greatwood Hurdle over course and distance under 12 stone by 5 1/2L four weeks ago he should be thereabouts despite a penalty of 4lb. Nicky Henderson runs a brace with Epatante the more fancied ahead of Gerry Feilden winner First Street. The former is a top class mare who won the 2020 Champion Hurdle and was placed the following two years. Her slick jumping has been very much her weapon over the years and it was no disgrace to be left behind by her stable freak Constitution Hill in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on her reappearance a fortnight ago. She is without doubt the one to beat. Paul Nicholls runs his improving hurdler Knappers Hill a good winner at Chepstow and Wincanton but has never run at Cheltenham so there are questions to answer there. Officially Epatante is 5lb and upwards superior at these weights to her rivals and I’ll take her to take this under her regular rider Aidan Coleman.
EPATANTE 2 points win @ 6/4 BetVictor
Seven assemble for a fairly modest class 4 2m 3F handicap chase where the afternoon’s best horse racing tips lies. James Ewart is a very under rated trainer who saddles a nice type that he’s acquired from France in Heroique De Maulde. The five year old was a dual winner in his native country and ran a stormer on his stable debut following a 361 day lay off when going down by the shortest of margins to Hidden Commander who like the 5th (14L back) have won since. Sure to improve for that effort he looks over priced currently and is worth backing. His opposition looks modest to my eyes with 16/1 Catterick winner Getaway Luv and four runner Huntingdon handicap winner Maninsane the only pair on form to hold claims. The icing on the cake is the booking of Brian Hughes and he’s a confident selection.
HEROIQUE DE MAULDE 3 points win @ 9/4 Betfred
Only six go to post for this Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle run over just short of three miles and an early trial for the Festival back here in March. Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Weveallbeencaught has been popular in the ante post market during the week and should be competitive following his third over 2m 5F here at the last meeting in his hurdling debut. The extra 3F will be very much in his favour for this very big animal. Paul Nicholls was saying some nice things about his Outlaw Peter after he had taken his field apart in a modest novice hurdle at Exeter last month and like Weveallbeencaught will relish the step up in trip. I favour him of the pair. Thomas Mor is an very interesting runner but also very hard to assess. A 57L winner last time at Wincanton in a race where the only real danger appeared not to perform at all. He shouldn’t be dismissed easily for in form David Pipe stable.
OUTLAW PETER 2 points win @ 2/1 William Hill
This six runner 2m 3 1/2F novices’ handicap hurdle must be a candidate for the worst race shown on terrestrial television this year! A moderate bunch where it might be worth a small bet on the Olly Murphy trained Ewood Park who ran as though the race was badly needed on his re-appearance at Southwell races last month. Easy to back he ran better than his final finishing position when a 25L 4th of 5th. Milton Harris has his team in good form and saddles his handicap debutant in Gavroche D’Allier who’s third to Rubaud at Taunton was boosted by that one winning on Thursday. It’s a shocker of a race and I’ll go with Ewood Park owned by the McNeill Family who are presumably Blackburn Rovers Supporters.
EWOOD PARK 1 point win @ 4/1 William Hill.
A cracking ten runner mares only handicap hurdle over 2m 4 1/2F which features last years one – two in Lucy Wadham’s Martello Sky and Paul Weber’s Indefatigable (also holds an entry on Friday’s card). Both are back on the same handicap mark and with the former blatantly failing to stay three miles last time looks poised to play a major part in the finish of the contest. Nicky Henderson runs his smart mare Theatre Glory who fell early on her re-appearance and is another who should be thereabouts. Harry Fry saddles his unbeaten Lady Adare who could be well handicapped whilst Alan King’s Nina The Terrier is also not out of this. A tough horse racing betting event with slight preference for Martello Sky who appears to have her optimum conditions and can follow up last year’s victory under Aidan Coleman.
MARTELLO SKY 1 point each way @ 5/1 William Hill 1/5th 1234