This will be a historic weekend, off the track at least, as ITV pick up the baton from Channel 4. Their opening show will be aired live on Sunday, which is when the lion’s share of this weekend’s big races will take place. Here are our top tips.
Challow Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)(4yo+, 2m 4f 118y, Class 1, 8 runners)
Robin Roe looked very handy on his hurdling debut at Aintree, finishing 12 lengths ahead of No Comment and barely breaking sweat.
However, Messire Des Obeaux’s much narrower victory at Sandown, in the G2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle looks by far the more impressive form – paricularly as the 4-year-old raced keenly in the early stages.
Baltazar D’allier won easily at Naas and Gordon Elliott may well have uncovered yet another gem, but he’s one to just admire in the jewellery shop window at this stage.
Betting Tip: Messire Des Obeaux (1 point win)
NIM Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) (4yo+, 2m 4f 56y, Class 1, 11 runners)
Coo Star Sivola found the competition a little too hot to handle, in the G1 R. Du Vivier at Auteuil in mid-November, but this contest looks well within reach for the Assessor-sired gelding.
He finished just a length behind El Bandit, in the G2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle and probably would have won had it not been for a very canny hold-up ride by Sean Bowen on the winner.
Nicky Henderson’s Baden looks the principal threat, although connections would have preferred to see a slightly larger margin of victory at Wetherby last time out.
Betting Tip: Coo Star Sivola (1 point win)
Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (5yo+, 2m 4f 166y, Class 1, 5 runners)
Whisper certainly still has something to prove, over this distance, despite winning at it last time out. A Class 2 victory is not to be sniffed at, but Different Gravey’s performance will have left a bad taste in the mouth of Nicky Henderson and that didn’t leave much for Whisper to finish ahead of.
A horse can only beat what is in front of him though and let’s not forget that this is a G1 winner (over 3 miles) who beat Cole Harden, Un Temps Pour Tour and Zarkandar in the Liverpool Hurdle.
Clan Des Obeaux’s 10-length triumph in the G2 Berkshire Novices’ Chase makes him the chief rival, but favourite One Track Mind looked to be thinking about anything other than racing competitively on that day. Whisper’s form speaks quietly, but also firmly.
Betting Tip: Whisper (2 points win)
Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (5yo+, 2m 4f 166y, Class 1, 13 runners)
A very tricky race for punters and cases can be made for Vaniteux, As De Mee, Village Vic, Top Gamble, Quite By Chance, Henri Parry Morgan, Tenor Nivernais, Shantou Flyer and even Thomas Brown.
There’s one other Thomas lining up though and a small each-way punt on the Tamure-sired gelding looks the value bet here – particularly with RaceBets paying out 1/4 place odds on all ITV races and offering to refund bets if your horse finishes runner-up in an ITV handicap (max £25).
Thomas Crapper is a consistent jumper who always gets home and he’s 4lb better-off than when he ran in last season’s renewal (he never recovered from a rare mistake at the 4th fence). A clear round is needed from the 10-year-old, but he’s well-capable of that and looks the value here.
Betting Tip: Thomas Crapper (1 point each-way)
Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) (5yo+, 2m 4f 56y, Class 1, 9 runners)
Camping Ground won this race in 2016 and an 11-length defeat of Lil Rockerfeller means that he will attract plenty of bets.
Lil Rockerfeller has come on leaps and bounds since then, however while Camping Ground has gone the way of a 2-man tent pitched by the Portaloos at Glastonbury Festival in a downpour!
Cole Harden looks a far bigger threat to Lil Rockerfeller. 4th in the G1 World Hurdle, here in March, he wasn’t fluent on his seasonal reappearance and a 7-length win didn’t flatter Its’afreebee but William Greatrex’s inmate has the class to win this even if he’s not quite yet reached top-gear.
Betting Tip: Cole Harden (3 points win)
EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (Listed Standard Open NH Flat Race) (4yo, 1m 5f 209y, Class 1, 16 runners)
Brian Ellison’s Shearling’s debut victory was eye-catching, as the Rail Link filly was badly hampered 3 furlongs from home. She showed real grit to rally and get the better of True Self by a head.
A smoother passage to victory awaited her at Wetherby, where defeated runners included Alan King’s Passing Call.
Cap Soleil, Daphne Du Clos, Dentley De Mee and White Valiant have all shown promise, but the nod tentatively goes to Shearling.
Betting Tip: Shearling (1 point win)