What are the best bets in the TV races at Newbury and Warwick on Saturday?
Our racing guru has run the rule over the seven races being shown live on Channel 4 this afternoon.
1.50: Betfair Acca Edge Handicap Hurdle, 3m52yds
I was all set to tip up mudlark Baywing but, like last weekend, he has been withdrawn on account of the ground not being soft enough. Instead, the Philip Hobbs-trained bottom weight SYKES looks the one to be on at bet365’s 4/1. The seven-year-old returned to action in September after nearly a year off and quickly made up for lost time with a double at Aintree and and Chepstow. He’s been beaten twice since but there was no disgrace in his third (of 12) over track and trip in November off today’s mark, and he wasn’t beaten far into fourth on his latest start back at Chepstow, where he seemed to get bogged down in the very testing conditions. He surely has more to offer after just seven starts and reunited with Richard Johnson this afternoon he can make the most of the weight he receives from his rivals.
2.05: OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (Listed), 2m5f
Jennies Jewel has plenty of placed form at a high level, including when chasing home Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot last time, and she should again go well. However, she could prove vulnerable to the younger and more progressive JESSBER’S DREAM (15/8 Coral), who has improved on each of her three hurdle starts, finishing second behind the smart Myska in Listed company at Taunton last time. She’s a real mudlark with both her wins coming on heavy (which is the forecast for Saturday) and, given how Ellis she been finishing her races over shorter, today’s step up in trip could unlock further improvement. Willie Mullins (Myska’s trainer) sends over Petite Parisienne and she has to be respected, though her latest tailed off effort at Sandown in January offers no encouragement and connections are resorting to a first-time hood in the hope of sparking her into life.
2.25: Betfair Denman Chase (Grade 2), 2m7f86yds
This is a strange renewal of a race won by the likes of Kauto Star, Silviniaco Conti, Coneygree and Denman of course, with not one of the seven runners having made the first three last time and four failing to complete. Still, something has got to win and a tentative vote goes to the David Pipe-trained BALLYNAGOUR (11/4 Paddy Power) in the hope a 49-day break will have done him some good. He’s produced most of his best efforts when fresh, including when winning a Grade 3 at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival on the back of a four-month absence, and he wasn’t beaten far when third behind Cue Card in the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance. He makes more appeal than Rocky Creek, who hasn’t looked the same horse since winning the Betbright Chase last February and is penalised 6lb for that success, Classic Chase fourth Houblon Des Obeaux looking a bigger threat.
2.40: 7bets4free.com Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (Grade 2), 2m
A clear round of jumping should see L’AMI SERGE make it three from three over fences against just two rivals, albeit at cramped odds of 1/3. Nicky Henderson’s charge has hardly put a foot wrong in convincing succeses at Plumpton on his chase debut and over a longer trip at Wetherby last time and, tellingly, the trainer has used this race as a stepping stone to an Arkle challenge for several of his smarter two-milers in the past. Violet Dancer should ensure an honest gallop as he goes from the front but he’ll need to jump better than he did at Newbury last time to get round, and Fox Norton looks the safest option for forecast backers.
3.00: Betfair Exchange Chase (Registered As The Game Spirit Chase) (Grade 2), 2m92yds
With L’Ami Serge expected to take up his preferred engagement at Warwick, that should leave the way for reigning champion chaser Dodging Bullets to make a winning return to action as he has plenty in hand over his three rivals on the ratings. However, it’s safe to safe he won’t be at his very best on his start for 339 days and with several of his stablemates running below par in recent weeks, he’s no bet at odds-on. Indeed, there is a good case for backing Kerry Lee’s TOP GAMBLE at 4/1 (bet365) against him, though punters might want to wait for the market to be readjusted after the expected withdrawal of L’Ami Serge or else be subject to a hefty Rule 4. The case for him being he’s in the form of his life, according to his trainer who has made a habit of winning big Saturday contests, and will find two miles on soft ground around here absolutely ideal (he’s already scored over track and trip). The 5lb he gets from the Nicholls runner is the clincher for the bet.
3.35: Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3 Handicap), 2m69yds
A total of 22 runners have been declared for what is Europe’s richest handicap hurdle but connections of 21 could be excused for thinking they are only running for the albeit considerable place money, given the presence of the Willie Mullins-trained BLAZER. The five-year-old is now no bigger than 4/1 with the sponsors Betfair, having started the week at 13/2, and it’s easy to see why as he’s unlikely to be as well handicapped again under a 5lb penalty for beating 14 rivals on his handicap debut at Leopardstown last Saturday. There is a danger two quick runs could find him out but in reality he had little more than a school round before being produced at the last, and that run also proved he revels in conditions as testing as he faces here. Barry Geraghty was quick to get off Modus (ante post favourite at one stage) to ride him and, providing he stays clear of trouble (a worry in such a big field), he could enjoy an armchair ride.
However, with the last two winners being returned at 20/1 and 33/1, it doesn’t hurt to put one up as an each-way alternative and one that fits that bill is the Dan Skelton-trained ZARIB (18/1 Paddy Power). A classy juvenile, he has run with credit on both his starts this term including when spotted making good late progress to finish sixth in the ultra competitive Ladbroke handicap last time. A strong travelling sort, he probably needs further than two miles now but the conditions and likely fast-pace will make it more of a stamina test, and he may improve for the first time cheek-pieces. Bridget Andrews aids his cause further by taking 5lb off his back and I’d be hopeful he an fill one of the five places offered by the Irish firm.