What are the best bets in Saturday's TV races?
Our racing guru has run the rule over the seven races being shown live on Channel 4 this afternoon – four at Ascot, three at Haydock – and has come up with some big-priced selections who should go well.
13:50 OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Warfield Mares’ Hurdle), 2m7f118yds
All eyes will be on the Willie Mullins-trained Vroum Vroum Mag on her first venture outside Ireland since coming over from France with a tall reputation. She’s done nothing to dent that in her seven starts for Mullins, going unbeaten, though she’s yet to be properly tested and this will be the acid test of her Cheltenham Festival credentials. She’s an 11/1 shot for the Mares’ Hurdle but with stablemate Annie Power seemingly on course for that race and currently trading at odds-on, it would be no surprise to see her end up contesting the World Hurdle – she’s no bigger than 8/1 for that three-mile contest behind the likes of Thistlecrack and Cole Harden. However, even if she were to hack up in this – she’s 2/5 to oblige – it’s hard to see her price contracting much more, so the best advice is ‘no bet’.
But any punters determined to get involved could do worse than giving AURORE DESTRUVAL each-way support at the 8/1 on offer with bet365. Rebecca Curtis’ charge was successful in a Listed race at Wetherby in November 2014, before chasing home Irving in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. She’s been reduced to just two runs since due to injury but, having made a satisfactory return at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, she can begin to make up for lost time.
14:05 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle), 1m7f144yds
Paul Nicholls’ Le Prezien goes for a rapid hat-trick of victories in this Grade 2 after bloodless wins at Ludlow and Doncaster. This is a big step up in grade for the French import but given his only defeat in Britain came at the hands of Yarnworth, who is a leading fancy for the Supreme, it’s clear he has stacks of ability.
However, quotes of evens don’t really excite and especially as the stable has suffered one or two reverses of late, so a chance is taken instead on BIGMARTRE. Harry Whittington’s charge has won two of this three hurdle starts and has been given plenty of time to get over his game victory over course and distance at the end of December. The runner-up that day, Vintage Clouds, is highly regarded so the form looks strong and he’s a value alternative to they’ve favourite at Betfair’s 13/2, with his ability to handle deep winter ground proven.
14:25 ’40 Years Of Keltbray’ Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3), 2m3f58yds
An ultra competitive contest and in which you can make a case for half the field. It’s hard to resist a crack, though, with bookmakers going 7/1 the field and the one I’ve landed on is the Nick Gifford-trained THEO’S CHARM, who may have got in lightly on a mark of 132 on his handicap debut and carries just 10st 7lb, a big plus in the ground. The assessor has based that on a couple of wide-margin wins on heavy ground at Plumpton and the bare form is admittedly nothing special, though the horse he trounced by 23 lengths last time, Clayton, was rated as high as 104 on the flat. But it’s his bumper form that marks him out as a potential blot as he was a close third to the smart Wait For Me in a bumper here last February, before going on to finish a highly creditable seventh in the Champion Bumper behind Moon Racer. While both his hurdle wins have come over the minimum, his trainer has said he wants further and today’s extra three furlongs could prove ideal at this stage of his career. BetVictor go a best-priced 9/1, which is very fair.
14:40 StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial (Grade 2), 1m7f144yds
With Peace And Co not being declared, the race has surely been left at the mercy of THE NEW ONE, who will appreciate taking on lesser rivals after proving no match for Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He is entitled to be sharper for first run in two months and he is unbeaten in two runs at this track, including last year’s renewal. At odds of just 1/2, though, we can let him win.
15:00 Sodexo Clarence House Chase (Grade 1), 2m192yds
Punters are faced with another odds-on shot here in the shape of Un De Sceaux, who has been put in at a best-priced 8/13 on his first British start since hacking up in the Arkle Trophy at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. However, in hindsight, that was far from a vintage renewal of the novice championship and he lines up today on the back of a fall at Leopardstown, which was the second time he has to come to grief in six chase starts. He’s not a bad jumper by any means, more so a little too bold for his own good and if challenged for the lead today (likely) he could come unstuck once more. He’s certainly no bet at the odds and there’s a very strong case for backing SIRE DE GRUGY against him.
Gary Moore’s stable star landed this Grade 1 in a stunning campaign two seasons ago that also saw him capture the Champion Chase, before completing a five-timer in Sandown’s Celebration Chase. He was out of sorts last term and was even written off by some, but he’s bounced right back to his best in his last two starts, with a gutsy success in the Tingle Creek followed by a highly creditable second to Sprinter Sacre at Kempton over Christmas. Moore has been making some bullish comments about him this week, saying: “His work of late has been top-class and I honestly think he’s at his peak now, every bit as good as two years ago of not better.” If he’s right and he’s not prone to spouting BS, we should all be lumping on at the available 3/1 with Boylesports.
15:15 Peter Marsh Chase (Grade 2 Limited Handicap), 3m24yds
This race is full of the usual suspects you’d expect to see in a big northern staying chase with the exception of Reve De Sivola, who is better known as a staying hurdler and has not run over fences since finishing third at Ascot in December 2011. His chase career was aborted after just one success in ten starts in that sphere, with some ponderous jumping his main downfall, and he’s done connections proud over hurdles since. Still rated 160 over the smaller obstacles but quite possibly on the wane at the age of 11, it’s not a huge surprise to see his attentions switched again and he’s undoubtedly well treated on a mark of 139. However, bookmakers are not giving much away by offering just 4/1 and, besides, I’ve found one to back against him.
The Venetia Williams-trained KATENKO had shown some smart form when trained in France and made an immediate impact in staying chases in this country, winning valuable handicaps at Sandown and Cheltenham in January of 2013. Not much has gone right for him since, though he did finish fourth in the 2014 renewal of this race off 8lb higher and was highly tried afterwards, running in that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. He’s been restricted to just two runs since due to injury and reappeared in a Listed race at Ascot in December when pulled up. That doesn’t tell the true story, though, as he was travelling as well as anything when making a terrible blunder at the 12th, with his rider calling it quits before the next. Clearly, he still has some fire in his belly and with his stable continuing in good form and runners performing particularly well on heavy ground, he looks well worth an interest at Betfair’s 12/1.
15:35 bet365 Handicap Chase, 2m5f8yds
Venetia Williams is doubly represented in this with last-time-out winner Bennys Mist and top weight Cold March, and both hold decent claims. They are both on career-high marks, though, and others are preferred. Both Regal Regatta and Regal Encore returned to winning ways last time and both are progressive enough to be still of interest off their revised ratings. They also take quite a big chunk out of the market – bet365 go 9/2 the pair – and that helps the price of the Rebecca Curtis-trained TARA ROAD no end, with 16/1 up for grabs at Paddy Power – but be quick!
His chance is far less obvious, hence the price, with form figures of 7PP achieved in the space of a month last autumn coming into this. However, his stable was going through a quiet spell at the time due to some infected feed, and at Aintree last time it looked like he was going to play a part until a horse fell in front of him, injuring his heel in the process. He’s been given plenty of time to recover and his stable is in much better form now, so he has to be of interest off a mark of 123, which is 9lb lower than when he started the season. Before his problems he was a progressive young chaser and his sole victory over hurdles came at this track, so there are enough positives to suggest he can outrun his big odds.
Free Bets Offer – back a winner at 4/1 or bigger in any of the seven Channel 4-televised races with bet365 and they will give you a free bet to the same stake (up to £50 per customer per race) on the next race shown live on Channel 4.