The Cheltenham Festival might be over but for the time being the racing continues in the UK, and it does so on Saturday with Uttoxeter in the spotlight as the Midlands Grand National is the headline attraction. There are also cards going on in Kempton and on the all-weather in Wolverhampton and we have come up with selections there in a hope to turn our ridiculous Cheltenham luck around at the first time of asking.
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2.40 Kempton: Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle
A competitive looking 20 runner, Class 2 handicap hurdle kicks us off over a trip of 2 miles 5 furlongs. With some bookmakers paying 6 places, there’s value to be had in opposing market leaders Downtown Getaway and Tamaroc Du Mathan.
The first named hails from the top yard of Nicky Henderson and holds claims judged on his win over course and distance last time out. He’s up in grade and up 5lbs in mark so is not guaranteed to follow up but he’s still only 5 times raced over hurdles so has scope to improve.
Tamaroc Du Mathan is up 3lbs after running what looked like an excellent 2 lengths 5th in the Betfair Hurdle at a monster 50/1. Before Cheltenham, he’d have been the selection but, on the basis that of the top 10 finishers that day, 5 have run since and all of them massively disappointed in the County Hurdle yesterday, I’m happy to look elsewhere.
There are 2 that interest me at big prices; the first of those is Smarty Wild. He looked a hurdler going places last term when winning 3 on the spin including a pair of handicap hurdles. He needed his seasonal reappearance before back to form when winning a Class 3 hurdle off 2lbs lower than today at Exeter. He’s since run well twice at Sandown, once in a Listed Handicap, finishing 4th both times. Up in trip (which is likely to bring around improvement), returned to his favoured better ground and down another 1lb in mark, he’s a silly price.
The 2nd bet is classy flat horse Coeur De Lion. In the last 12 months on the flat, he’s won the Chester Plate and been placed in the Ascot Stakes, the Northumberland Plate and the Marsh Cup so his credentials on the level are well documented. It’s a different matter, however, over the jumps. The key is the need for strong handling and the return to a pro taking the ride. His record with a conditional jockey is 50055 as opposed to 12217 with a pro up top. It’s not quite as straightforward as his good form was back in 2016/17 as a novice but it did include a very narrow defeat to the top class Defi Du Seuil. This season, he’s been twice over hurdles and finished 5th both times. It was a particularly eyecatching run last time out in this grade when losing his position badly before staying on as well as anything late on. Dropped a further 2lbs, he looks primed to go very well in an open race.
Back Smarty Wild (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 19.00 Coral BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back Coeur De Lion (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 19.00 Betfair Sportsbook BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
Back it here:
3.35 Uttoxeter: Midlands Grand National Handicap Chase
It doesn’t get more stamina sapping than this, 4 miles 2 furlongs on heavy ground. The Midlands Grand National is a race for thorough stayers and they’ll be finishing well strung out at the end.
There’s 14 runners and we have 3 vying for favouritism in Truckers Lodge, Petite Power and Christmas In April. The first named is lightly raced over fences having had just 4 runs but proved he’s up to a race of this calibre after his 2nd in the Welsh Grand National on similar ground to this. He’s 2lb higher today and has another half a mile to go today.
Petite Power is too short in the betting. He’s 1lb out of the handicap, is now an 11 year old and, after a decent season, he’s gone up quite a bit in the weights. Christmas In April is the mount of Richard Johnson and has already won a couple of smaller regional Nationals this season but this tougher and he is up 8lbs after his win last time out. That said, he should go well.
At a bigger price, I prefer the chances of Welsh National 4th Prime Venture. He’s 2lb better off with Truckers Lodge for just over 2 lengths but will relish the extra distance. On his first start this term, he was also behind that same horse, 3 lengths back but is 6lb better today and, had it not been for hitting the last fence, he’d have finished closer. Interestingly, his best run (Welsh National) was when fitted with first time cheekpieces and today, he’s fitted with first time blinkers so hopefully they can do the trick. He will love the distance (was 4th here last year off 4lb higher when losing his right shoe) and the heavy ground is right up his street. He should be hard to keep out of the frame.
I’m also happy to have a little interest in one of the outsiders in Just Your Type. He’s noted as being a sketchy jumper but that seems only to be an issue when it happens too quickly for him. When tried over further, that issue seems to disappear and would bring him right into the mix. He ran 6th in the Eider last year and then finished 2nd in the Scottish Borders National back in December, despite being badly hampered. He rallied and stayed on all the way to the line that day. It’s easy to ignore his last run when he was outclassed in a Grade 2 over a trip way short of his best. He’s had wind surgery since and, with stamina assured, he’s worth an each way punt.
Back Prime Venture (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 10.00 Coral BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
Back Just Your Type (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 23.00 Betway BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
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A Class 3 handicap with 10 runners is where we find the first of our evening bets. The market is quite tight as, at the time of writing, they’re going 9/2 the field.
Tathmeen, from the in-form Anthony Brittain yard, is the current market leader after winning 3 of his last 4, all at Newcastle over a furlong shorter. Up in trip, up in grade and up 7lb in mark is enough to make me oppose him. Storm Over won in good style at Chelmsford 2 starts ago and, on that run, looks a huge danger but he failed to back it up next time and the fact Ben Curtis isn’t on top worries me a little.
Deputise has a big chance judged on his neck 2nd at the All Weather Championships and, after 3 below par efforts over the minimum trip, he showed a return to form back up in distance last time out behind one of today’s rivals Fizzy Feet. The winner had the run of the race that day and a 3lb higher mark may put paid to his chances.
This leads me to Alsvinder who looks to hold claims in this wide open affair. His form this winter reads 6th of 6, 3rd of 8, 7th of 7 and 3rd of 6, not the most obvious chance you’d think. However, looking deeper at his form, he was running off a mark 11lbs higher just 12 months ago and he’s returned to his favoured trip of 6 furlongs today. His mark of 87 is appealing (form off this mark or lower on the all-weather reads very well) whilst he’s got a 3 from 7 win record at this trip. From 23 runs on the all-weather (7 at this trip), 4 of his top 5 RPRs have been recorded at 6 furlongs including his top 3, and 2 of top 4 RPRs have been at this venue from just 3 starts. He showed improved form last time out in a higher grade so up in distance, down in grade and at a track he likes, I fancy him to go very close. The dangers being Storm Over and Deputise.
Back Alsvinder (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 7.00 BetVictor BOG (⅕ odds 1-3)
Another Class 3 handicap over 9 furlongs with just the bare 8 runners. Furzig is the favourite having got up in the last stride last time out at Chelmsford over a slightly longer trip. A 2lb higher mark awaits here but the bigger concern is the shorter distance and lack of pace guarantee.
Candelisa holds claims at a big price but the race could focus around the 4 that ran in a course and distance handicap just less than 5 weeks ago. Rangali Island came out on top that day and made it 3 from 3 this winter. He’s up 2lbs for beating Sha La La La Lee by just a nose, the 2nd horse himself going up 1lb. He had his own way at the head of affairs and might just get the same today. Universal Gleam was just over a length back in 4th having been pushed along some way out before coming back on the bridle and, had there been more of a place, I fancy he may won. The three of them are trading between 7/2 and 6/1 currently and I feel the market is ignoring the other horse to have run in the race.
That leads us to our each way bet in Kaser and is quoted in double figures. He was only just behind Universal Gleam on that run and, despite having no apparent excuse, he is normally held up but instead raced wide in 2nd all the way round. What’s interesting is that he was the shortest price that day so it seems a bit premature to write him off. He’s the only one to have raced since but that was in the much higher quality Lincoln Trial where the shorter trip didn’t help. He’s a course specialist having had 14 runs here, winning 5; his record over course and distance reads 4 wins and 2 seconds from 8 tries. Add to that the fact that the 3lb apprentice jockey that’s ridden him to 3 of his career wins (from 6 rides) is back on board today for the first time since he comfortably disposed of Sha La La La Lee 3 starts back. At the price, he cannot be ignored to add his excellent record at his favourite track.
PLACED – Back Kaser (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 13.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-3)