Our resident tipster has give this afternoon's TV races the once over.
There’s no Chepstow this afternoon sadly but we’ve still got some cracking action at Kempton to look forward to, with three races live on Channel 4.
UPDATE – four races have been added to the schedule: Kempton 1.25, Chelmsford 1.40, 2.15 & 2.50.
First up is the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase (due off 2.00pm) and we shouldn’t be too disappointed it has attracted just five runners as they include Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, both of whom returned to their best last time. Sprinter Sacre’s romp in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham was particularly heart-warming given his well documented problems and a repeat performance would make him very hard to beat. Encouragement for that us provided by his trainer Nicky Henderson, who said: “He does seem. In good form. It’s a good opportunity, the timing’s good and he’s all ready to go.”
Sire De Grugy was a game winner of the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown last time, though there’s a suspicion he is not quite the horse he was in the 2013/2014 season. At today’s level weights, I’d expect SPRINTER SACRE to beat him and also Vibrato Valtat, who was a disappointing favourite in the Tingle Creek, though the Henderson horse is prohibitively short at 4/6.
The William Hill Handicap Chase (2.35pm) is far more appealing betting medium with bookmakers going 6/1 the field. Several bring solid recent form to the table with a couple – Viva Steve and Harrys Farewell – winning last time, while Alan King’s Ned Stark should enjoy this ease in grade after finding the competition too hot in the Hennessy last time. But the best bet looks to be the Chris Gordon-trained BALLYHEIGUE BAY at a double-figure price (12/1 Paddy Power).
I fancied him to run well on his reappearance in the London National at Sandown and he didn’t let me down, finishing third of the 15 runners (at 20/1) just three and a half lengths behind the winner Carole’s Destrier. That run will have put the eight-year-old spot on for this assignment and still lightly-raced over fences after just five starts, there ought to be plenty more to come. The clincher for a bet is his victory over course and distance last February when virtually making all to score by six lengths under today’s pilot Tom Cannon.
Seven will go to post for the William Hill Exclusive Mobile Offers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (3.10pm) and the Harry Fry-trained Desert Queen looks the one they all have to beat. A dual winner over hurdles last season, she was pulled up at Wincanton on her reappearance this term after boiling over in the preliminaries, but she bounced right back when winning by 12 lengths at Ascot last time. She’s reportedly heading back to that track next month for a Grade 2 her stable has won for the last couple of years and she looks capable of making her mark at that level. However, this is a handicap and off a 12lb higher mark for winning last time, meaning she has to give weight to all her rivals, she might prove vulnerable.
At just 6/4, she could be a lay and especially as I’m struggling to choose between four her rivals, all of whom hold decent claims. Broxbourne perhaps found the very soft ground against her at Cheltenham last time and should go better here, but there would be no more deserving winner than CANNON FODDER. Sheena West’s charge has twice found one too good this season, including at Plumpton last time where she was only headed close home, and was runner-up in the 2013 version of this race. That was off just a 3lb lower mark and clearly at the top of her game coming this, she can make the most of the weight she receives from her main rivals, with the 9/1 (Paddy Power) on that happening looking very fair.
Channel 4 are now showing the williamhill.com Novices’ Chase (1.25pm) and it looks a cracking renewal with four of the five runners winning over fences last time. Ar Mad was particularly impressive when slamming his rivals in a Grade 1 at Sandown in a good time, making all on that occasion, but he faces competition for the lead here and VANITEUX looks the one to be on. Nicky Henderson’s charge was near top class over hurdles and made an exemplary start over fences over course and distance last month, when also making all. As that was his first run since April he can be expected to come on for the run and, as his hurdles form shows, he can sit off the pace if necessary.