A bumper ITV racing harvest on Saturday – and it’s LIVE!

Wow. The small matter of TEN live races are scheduled to be shown by ITV on Saturday. A couple of Grade 1s, a fabulous selection of tip-top tracks both here and in Ireland, and of course some of the very best trainers and jockeys in action that the winter game has to offer.

It’s February 4th. Just a timely little reminder that a certain four-day gathering in the Cotswolds commences on Tuesday, March 14th.

We can almost taste it …. but in the meantime, have a brilliant afternoon’s racing.

ITV’s planned schedule today, Saturday

Sandown

1:10 Virgin Bet Novices’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f

1:45 Virgin Bet Dolos Handicap Chase 1m 7 1/2f

2:20 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, Grade 1, 2m 4f

2:55 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle 2m 7 1/2f

3:30 Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase 3m

Musselburgh

1:28 Frodon Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2 f

2:03 bet365 Edinburgh National 3m 7 1/2f

3:16 bet365 Scottish County Hurdle 1m 7 1/2f

Wetherby

2:40 William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase 3m

Leopardstown

3:05 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, Grade 1, 3m

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Sandown 1:10 Virgin Bet Novices’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f

Small field, but some nice types from notable stables take their chance. Twinjets for Milton Harris (Harry Cobden up) is a warm order at around 6/4, but has shown a tendency to jump slightly out to his left of late and at this right-hand track that’s a little bit of a negative.

Has a couple of ambitious Cheltenham Festival entries, and carries 12st. Could prevail, no problem, but I’m looking elsewhere today. Twin Power was beaten readily by Twinjets last time at Plumpton, but is 8lbs better off here for 9 lengths. The one I really like however is the Tizzard entry I Shut That D’Or.

Appreciated the step up in trip last time at Wincanton, improving massively, and scoring at 50/1 no less. Conditional rider Harry Kimber takes off a useful 3lbs and at around 5/1 for me represents value. A cracking little appetiser for the gems to follow.

Selection – I Shut That D’Or to win.

 

Musselburgh 1:28 Frodon Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2 f

Another small but select field line up, chasing a very attractive ten-grand pot. Northern powerhouse Brain Hughes rides  Notlongtillmay (I wish), who won readily here last time. This is a step up, and the handicapper has had his say (10lbs higher mark today).

Having Frodon in the race title, it’s entirely fitting that the marvellous Bryony Frost is here on a Paul Nicholls’ raider in the same ownership – Halo Des Obeaux.  A decent second at Newbury last time, connections would I’m sure love to win this (circa 7/2).

Trainer John McConnell is no stranger to bagging prize money over here, and ships Drumbear (5/2) in from County Meath. Won readily at Limerick last time and has an obvious, outstanding chance.

Selection – Halo Des Obeaux to win.

 

Sandown 1:45 Virgin Bet Dolos Handicap Chase 1m 7 1/2f

Ten-year-old Dolos has won several times here in the past and shoulders topweight of 12st, bidding to add another victory at the Esher venue (around 5/2). This looks ultra-competitive to me, and I’ll be exploring other options today.

Venetia Williams’ Frero Banbou might just be coming to the boil nicely for this, and has been keeping very good company. Decent value for me, at around 11/2. Several here with a bit to prove for me, concerning their current form, with Eclair D’Ainay and The Widdow Maker popping into that category.

Fast Buck won in deep ground at Lingfield last time, and I feel that might have flattered him a little (circa 7/1 today). This is surely tougher. Fingers crossed for me at least that it’s Venetia time ..

Selection – Frero Banbou to win

 

Musselburgh 2:03 bet365 Edinburgh National 3m 7 1/2f

A mammoth staying test for a decent prize has attracted a good field, we’re each-way 4 places, and it’s around 9/2 the field – what’s not to like?

Captain Cattistock took this last term under conditional pilot Liam Harrison, and the 3lb claimer bids to follow up off a 7lb higher mark. Trades at around 7s, and will have his supporters. Slipway took the Southern National last time at Fontwell and at around a mere 470 miles north looks to add another notable staying test to his CV. The 8-yr-old appears only sparingly, carries 12st, and is 7lbs higher today. Tough ask.

Flower Of Scotland took the Scottish Borders National at Kelso last time very readily at around this trip, and must have an outstanding chance. At the age of 8 this admirable mare has been hiked 8lbs, but can hopefully follow up from that career-high performance. At around 7s we can take advantage of the 4 places, fingers crossed!

Selection – Flower Of Scotland, each-way.

 

Sandown 2:20 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, Grade 1, 2m 4f

Not too many lining up, but a fascinating clash nevertheless.

Talented novices face those railway fences and more, with Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe heading the market at around 6/5. Took a Grade 1 at Limerick last time with little fuss and will take all the beating today.

Balco Coastal for Henderson/De Boinville takes a steep rise in class, but has untapped potential in this sphere. Monmiral is a horse I like – Nicholls/Cobden/Sir Alex and pals – and after 2 really good runs so far this season could be ready to strike (circa 7/2). Jumped nicely around Warwick and Cheltenham so far, which is encouraging. Only 6, and for me has a big future.

Selection – Monmiral to win.

 

Wetherby 2:40 William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase 3m

Only 4 are slated to line up for the Towton, which is disappointing – but again it should be an entertaining contest.

Harry and Dan Skelton are here – and their Ballygriffincottage is a very warm order to take this notable prize. Jumped well when taking a good Haydock contest last time, and this is a similarly tough left-handed track that takes some jumping and ‘getting.’ Trip should be fine, and he comes out as much the best horse on official ratings. His to lose, for me.

The great Nicky H sends City Chief, up in class, but with bags of potential (around 3/1). O’Toole (9/2) is another aiming high, having taken a Newcastle novice very nicely for the Crawford/Munir and Suede/Jacob combo. Both have it to do on ratings with ‘Bally,’ but if you’re not in you can’t win ..

Ballygriffincottage is short enough already for the Brown Advisory at the Festival, and take this en route.

Selection – Ballygriffincottage to win.

 

Sandown 2:55 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle 2m 7 1/2f

A big field for this fabulous staying test; 4 places each-way; and 5/1 the field. Great stuff.

We’re privileged once again to see Remastered, 10 years young and a wonderful, genuine advertisement for the game (around 5s for this). Took a Kempton chase readily last time, and a classy Aintree hurdle in November off 132. He’s 10lbs higher today.

Flight Deck (11/2 today) was pulled up in that Aintree contest, but has since struck form at Chepstow. Shoulders a 7lb hike for a cosy win there. Stellar Magic is one I like – a cracking run at Wincanton last time, finishing second, and sneaked up 4lbs for it unfortunately (9/1 this afternoon).

Trainer Philip Hobbs doesn’t look to a claimer to reduce that burden though, engaging stable jock Tom O’Brien instead. I’m taking that as a sign of some confidence, and hope for a bold show at a track and stiff finish he should appreciate.

Selection – Stellar Magic each-way.

 

Leopardstown 3:05 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, Grade 1, 3m

A mouth-watering contest featuring some of the finest chasers in Ireland.

Galopin Des Champs is a warm order for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and is unsurprisingly even skinnier to take this. Stattler opposes (around 9/2), is a Festival winner himself, but is rated 12lbs inferior on official ratings. Level weights for all at 11st 10lbs today, so he’s got it all to do and then some.

Similar remarks apply to the veteran Kemboy, 11 years young now, and with this very race among his many past triumphs. Surely he’s battling for a place only today, but hey, you just never know.

Any Second Now has run brilliantly in Aintree Grand Nationals, and you’d imagine that’s his target once again this term. You can have around 33s today. This is one to savour for the presence of ‘Galopin’ alone, and if he gets beat it will shake the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting to its very foundations. Hard to oppose, so I’m not going to.

Selection – Galopin Des Champs to win, and straight forecast Galopin Des Champs to beat Kemboy.

 

Musselburgh 3:16 bet365 Scottish County Hurdle 1m 7 1/2f

Another lovely prize, with Paul Nicholls again having a live chance courtesy of his Grivetana. Ran poorly when reportedly unsuited by the soft ground at Newbury last time, and looks to bounce back. Smashing racing weight of 10st 8lbs. Trades around the 11/4 mark.

Donald McCain is double-handed with Nayati and Collingham, 9/2 and 7s respectively. I’m not terribly convinced by either (famous last words), and there shouldn’t be much between them today.

Philip Hobbs sends Camprond a very long way, has next to no recent form, carries 12st, but has hit some pretty heady heights in the past. Given the connections (JP McManus-owned, too), he warrants respect.

Socialist Agenda is interesting. Had no luck whatsoever here last time, claimer-ridden, against Nayati. He’s won at the track too, and at around 9/1 can give us an each-way run for our money, carrying just 10st 6lbs.

Selection – Socialist Agenda each-way

 

Sandown 3:30 Virgin Bet Masters Handicap Chase 3m

Stacks of runners, 11/2 the field, and four places each-way. A fittingly intriguing finale to what should have been a tremendous afternoon of sport.

Staying chases at around 3 miles, on good-to-soft. Ground with some juice in it, basically. The eye for this one then is immediately drawn to two trainers in particular – Venetia Williams, and Henry Daly. Both are masterful under such conditions, and saddle Laskalin (7s) and Rapper (11/2) respectively.

Venetia’s Laskalin ran respectably in defeat at Newbury in the Mandarin last time, having previously scored at Ludlow. Henry’s Rapper took a Cheltenham contest very impressively on New Year’s Day. Can he follow up with a 6lb hike and 12st on his back? The million-dollar question.

Bangers And Cash arrives in great nick, but is the handicapper now in charge after two recent wins? We’ll soon find out, and he’s not for me (more of those famous last words!)

Trainer Sandy Thomson sends Empire Steel a long way, and shoulders 12st. Talented 9-yr-old, tough ask. This is a puzzle and a half, and I’m going to hope that Rapper can not only carry that welter burden, but repel all would-be boarders up that unforgiving hill. He was superb at Cheltenham – more of the same, please.

Selection – Rapper to win.

Have a brilliant afternoon, and the very best of luck.

Alan

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