What are the best bets in Saturday's TV races?
There are six races live on Channel 4 this afternoon – four at Ascot, two at Haydock – and our resident tipster has run the rule over them all.
1.50 Ascot: BGC Partners Handicap Chase, 2m2f175y
Venetia Williams does well with her handicap chasers at the track and she saddles the most interesting runner here in MARCILHAC, a 6/1 shot with bet365. He’s been off the track since March 2014 due to injury but Williams can get one ready after a layoff and, interestingly, the six-year-old was her ‘dark horse’ in a recent Stable Tour. It’s easy to see why as he showed some useful form over fences and looked progressive in his three British starts over hurdles. His short head second to the smart Carole’s Destrier in the big handicap hurdle run at Kempton after the Cheltenham Festival is his standout piece of form with the winner now rated in the 150s. The selection could therefore be very well treated on a mark of 135 and, having already had plenty of practice and given his size, he should have no trouble making the transition to British fences.
2.05 Haydock: nationwidevehiclecontracts.co.uk Handicap Hurdle, 2m2f191y
This is tough despite the small field with six of the seven runners holding decent claims. Four were successful last time out, albeit a while back in the case of Three Faces West and Montdragon whose fitness is best gauged by the betting. There are no such concerns over BABY KING (9/2 Betway) as Tom George’s charge won well on his reappearance here last month and that will have done the six-year-old’s a lot of good as he struggled for much of last season after a crashing fall at Exeter on his reappearance, when in the process of giving the useful Dormello Mio a good race. He was rated 128 that day so his latest revised mark of 129 still looks very fair.
2.25 Ascot: JLT Long Walk Hurdle (Grade 1), 3m97yds
Reve De Sivola is bidding for an historic four-timer in this Grade 1 and has his favoured soft ground, yet he’s not even favourite. Instead, bookmakers prefer the chances of Long Distance Hurdle winner Thistlecrack and Saphir Du Rheu, who is switching back to hurdles after a slightly disappointing fifth in the Hennessy, with bet365 going 15/8 and 2/1 respectively. The same firm make the three-time winner a 4/1 shot and that is surely where the value lies.
Whilst Thistlecrack is very much respected on the back of his Newbury success, his task was made considerably easier by main rivals Whisper and Cole Harden failing to run up to their best. I’d still have him as favourite over Saphir Du Rheu, though, as the latter horse appeared to be outdone by a lack of stamina in the Hennessy and, while he did finish second in the World Hurdle back in March, this is likely to be a far more searching test if stamina with REVE DE SIVOLA again likely to go hard from the front. That tactic has served the ten-year-old well and he showed he was no back number when finishing a staying on sixth at Auteuil last month. That will have put him spot on for a race his in-form trainer Nick Williams has no doubt targeted long in advance.
2.40 Haydock: Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (Sponsored By Nationwide Vehicle Contracts), 2m6f204yds
Jonjo O’Neill’s lightly-raced Spookydooky has been installed as 4/1 favourite but that may be more down to the fact you can pick holes in his rivals. Final Assault was beaten off today’s mark last time and looks an out-and-out stayer, top weight Seventh Sky is in the grip of the handicapper, O Maonlai is error-prone and all Sun Cloud does is stay, though that’s not such a bad thing in the likely testing conditions. The O’Neill runner stays at least this far and his best days should be ahead if him at seven, though he’s now on a career-high mark and Warriors Tale, the horse he beat at Newbury last time, hardly advertised the form when pulling up at Catterick in midweek.
Let’s take a chance then on CLOUDY TOO returning to form at one of his favourite tracks and in conditions he loves – the nine-year-old is 3-3 on the forecast heavy ground. He’s failed to shine in eight starts since chasing home Captain Chris at Ascot in February 2014, failing to complete on two occasions, including when unseating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Lord Windermere. But he’s not had his favoured conditions in that time and has also been battling the handicapper, who has finally relented in dropping him back to 138, which is a 10lb lower mark than his last winning one. His latest eighth in last month’s Rehearsal Chase is better than it looks as he had traveled and jumped well until making a bad blunder four out, after which he wasn’t given a hard time. He’s an each-way price with Boylesports’ 8/1 the best quote at the time of writing.
3.00 Ascot: Sodexo Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Listed), 2m7f180y
Last year’s winner The Young Master got rid of his jockey at the first in the Hennessy last time and deserves another chance off a mark just 3lb higher than 12 months ago, taking Sam Waley-Cohen’s 3lb claim into account. However, he’s still 17lb worse off with last year’s second Houblon Des Obeaux and that horse comes alive in this race having also won the 2013 version.
But I’m going to take them both on with another course and distance winner in the shape of PENDRA (6/1 BetVictor). Charlie Longsdon’s charge has had his problems but has always promised to be a decent chaser and he put everything together when scoring over track and trip in late October, winning more easily than the three and a quarter length margin would suggest. The second Double Ross has since franked the form by running fourth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and, given a nice break since, there is a good chance the selection can run up to the same sort of form here off just a 7lb higher mark. Barry Geraghty gave him a peach of a ride last time and the fact he’s reunited with the gelding clinches the bet.
3.35 Ascot: Ladbroke (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle), 1m7f152yds
A typically competitive renewal of this Grade 3 handicap, though the bookies see it more as a two-horse affair with WINNER MASSAGOT and Jollys Cracked It disputing favouritism at around the 5/1 mark and it’s 12/1 bar. That the pair have got what it takes to win is hard to dispute and I’m just favouring the former horse, whose trainer Alan King is making a habit if winning big Saturday handicaps this season. The four-year-old has won half his six starts including a Class 2 here on his reappearance from useful yardstick Rayvin Black and, while he’s been raised 12lb for that effort, he needed to go up by that fair to get into a race that has been his target for a while. I’d be fairly hopeful of beating the current best quote of 6/1 (Paddy Power) during Saturday morning’s price war.
Of the rest, I like the look of ZARIB whose trainer Dan Skelton won this with a similar type two years ago. He was a decent juvenile last season and probably hit the front too soon in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival, eventually fading into sixth. He’s come out this term looking stronger and ran a satisfactory third in the Elite Hurdle last time, which would have been needed, and his cruising speed will stand him in good stead in a race of this nature. His jumping has looked much improved too. He’s worth a saver at least at the 12/1 on offer at Coral.
Back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the above races with bet365 and they will give you a free bet (up to £50 per customer, per race) on the next live race on Channel 4. If that also wins, get another free bet and so on.