What are the best bets at Newbury on Saturday?
There’s a seven-race card at Newbury this afternoon with the feature undoubtedly being the Hennessy Gold Cup (due off 3.00pm).
It’s a shame that Coneygree has been denied a shot at greatness through injury, but this is still a high-class renewal despite the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner’s defection. That has left Paul Nicholls’ Saphir Du Rheu with top weight and, while three horses in the past decade have lumped 11st 12lb to victory, his task has been made all the more harder. The fact his main rivals are also near the top of the handicap helps and they include Smad Place, who carries 11st 7lb and was a hugely impressive winner of his prep race.
Alan King’s runner will be very hard to kick out the frame and I’d much rather back him at the odds than the Nicholls horse, but the value surely lies with THE YOUNG MASTER. He was well held by Saphir Du Rheu at Carlisle on his reappearance but he needed that run badly according to his trainer Neil Mulholland, who also reports him to have strengthed up a lot over the summer and likely still ahead of the handicapper as a result. Mulholland also runs The Druids Nephew but he rates the selection the pick of his pair, saying in a stable interview that he has a ‘serious chance’ of winning. That’ll do for me!
The opening mares’ novices’ hurdle is not the strongest race of its type by any means and it looks a good opportunity for the Evan Williams-trained TEA IN TRANSVAAL to get back to winning ways. She sets the standard on form having rattled off a hat-trick of wins before finishing fifth in a hot race at Cheltenham last time. She wasn’t beaten far by the winner Devilment and a reproduction of that effort should suffice here, though she’s priced accordingly.
The bet365-sponsored novices’ limited handicap chase (12.45pm) is more competitive and plenty can be fancied. That said, the bookmakers look to have called it right in making the Venetia Williams-trained ASO favourite at around the 7/2 mark. A Grade 2 winning hurdler, he promises to be an even better chaser judged on his debut effort at Warwick, where he was beaten just a neck by a decent sort in Willows Saviour. Best when the mud is flying, he will have his conditions and is fancied to give weight away to some useful rivals, the best of whom may be Harry Whittington’s Arzal, a winner at Ludlow last time.
The Sir Peter O’Sullivan Memorial Handicap Chase (1.15pm) is wide open, but I vowed to back David Pipe’s LA VATICANE when she was stepped up to this sort of trip after her sixth over an inadequate 2m at the Paddy Power meeting. She was well backed beforehand and she travelled well for a long way before being swamped on the run-in. The stable runners generally underperformed at that meeting so the run can be upgraded and she should go close now the yard’s horses are running much better. Take the 6/1 on offer at bet365.
The Paul Nicholls-trained IBIS DU RHEU begins this season on what looks a workablemark of 131 and he could be the answer to the bet365 Handicap Hurdle (1.50pm). He still looked backward in a couple of runs last season and has reportedly done very well for his summer break. A close second behind Top Night onheavy on his racecourse debut when trained in France, he could now be ready to fulfil his undoubted potential and he’s likely been targeted at this meeting. I’m almost loathe to put up another favourite – 7/2 best with Paddy Power – but he could be a blot on the handicap.
Just the five runners for the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle (2.25pm) but it’s a fascinating contest nonetheless. Cole Harden and WHISPER ended last season as the leading staying hurdlers and they could dominate the finish, despite having to give weight away all round. The former horse led this race 12 months ago until the lack of a run told and he went on to show the benefit of a breathing operation when landing the Word Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Whisper was only fifth that day, but that horse comprehensively overturned the form at Aintree and he can come out on top again today. He’s a worthy 7/4 favourite with he sponsors.
That just leaves the closing bet365 Handicap Chase over 2m (3.35pm) and in an open race it could be worth taking a chance on the Kerry Lee-trained top weight GREY GOLD. He hasn’t run for 212 days but has gone well fresh, winning first time out last season, and the stable is flying. If he runs anywhere near his best, he must go close off a 1lb lower mark than his last winning one.
12.15: Tea In Transvaal @ 6/4 bet365
12.45: Aso @ 7/2 bet365
1.15: La Vaticane @ 6/1 bet365
1.50: Ibis Du Rheu @ 7/2 Paddy Power
2.25: Whisper @ 7/4 bet365
3.00: The Young Master each-way @ 10/1 bet365
3.35: Grey Gold each-way @ 10/1 Paddy Power