On a busy day of racing in the UK and Ireland, the racing broadcaster provides five selections, including a runner from his stable of tracked horses.
After a really informative weekend at Cheltenham, attention now turns to Ireland with the two-day Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown and the appearance of several major stars, including Galopin Des Champs, Marine Nationale and State Man. Given the dominance of the Willie Mullins yard, the top-level races in Ireland rarely make much appeal from a betting perspective but they will no doubt have significant impacts on the ante post markets.
It will also be interesting to see whether the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle (13:50 Saturday) throws up an Irish challenger to Sir Gino, who set the bar high in that division after his Cheltenham success.
ITV3 is the home for racing on Saturday with no less than 10 live races, and then Leopardstown and Musselburgh take centre stage on Sunday – one of the first of the extra days’ coverage on the channel for 2024.
Sandown hosts the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase where Hermes Allen is a short-priced favourite. He deserves to be favourite but is short enough given he was completely taken apart by Il Est Francais at Kempton over Christmas. Il Est Francais will bypass the Festival and aim at the major French races before a King George bid back at Kempton next season. Hermes Allen is no slouch, and this drop back in trip will likely determine which of the Festival novice chases he will head for.
The most interesting races at Sandown from a betting perspective are the two closing handicaps. Ed Keeper is dealt with below as he is a stable tracker horse, while BLACKJACK MAGIC / looks the answer to the Masters Handicap Chase (15:45). Winner of the Badger Beer at Wincanton on his return, he is very much an improving chaser and connections have campaigned him sparingly. The better ground on the Chase course will suit him well and he is up against a far more exposed set of rivals.
Away from Sandown, NO CRUISE YET (13:15 Musselburgh) looks overpriced. He placed in the Eider last season off a higher mark, the switch to blinkers didn’t seem to work last time and this time his usual cheekpieces are reapplied. His strong travelling style should suit the track well and, Catterick aside, he has a good consistent profile.
Finding a genuine excuse for a poor run last time can often identify a horse that may go off over the odds, as punters generally overestimate the value of a horse’s last run in comparison to their overall career records. The trip was to blame for a seemingly below par effort by EATON COLLINA / (13:32 Wetherby) over 3 miles at Wetherby last time and the return to 2m 4f will suit far better. This looks set to be a strongly run race and if Richard Patrick can get the horse into a good rhythm just behind the leaders he will give a much better account this time around.
Finally POP THE CHAMPAGNE / (16:30 Wolverhampton) is a very interesting horse away from the spotlight. A bumper winner in her youth, she went down the jumping route and is still very much unexposed on the Flat. She has only had one run in a handicap over today’s course and distance, where she met trouble at a crucial stage off the home bend and was allowed to come home in her own time. She is well drawn in Stall 4 and if she avoids similar trouble this time could be well treated off a mark of 67.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Our regular feature identifying jockeys who are riding at tracks where they have an excellent career record:
Kempton – Benoit De La Sayette (18/99 with an Actual Expected Ratio of 1.71)
Wetherby – Charlie Hammond (16/70, A/E 1.60)
Wolverhampton – Gina Mangan (17/167, A/E 1.64)
STABLE TRACKER HORSE
ED KEEPER / (15:10 Sandown) runs in the 3m handicap hurdle and is very much a horse to keep on your radar over the next couple of seasons. An impressive winner at Newbury, his mistake at the last cost him at Cheltenham last time having looked to be going best at the time. Sandown’s hurdles course and its heavy ground can be an acquired taste, but he is a big, strong horse and hopefully can cope as he has the ability to rate much higher both over hurdles and ultimately fences. The stable also ended a quiet spell with a winner in these colours at Wincanton on Thursday.
Our stable tracker horses are largely picked from meetings I have attended and are usually updated once a week, along with a summary from those fixtures. You can read the latest update here.
COLUMN PERFOMANCE 2024
Performance is expressed in the same way as the rest of the column, in terms of actual winners compared to the expected number based on their prices. An A/E of 1.11 means currently 11% more winners than would have been expected, given the odds they were sent off at. This means that backing each to win the same amount (the preferred staking plan) would yield an 11% profit.
Selections (Winners vs Expected) – 2.00/2.78, A/E 0.72
Jockeys For Courses – 5.00/4.82, A/E 1.04
Stable Tracker Horses – 3.00/1.38, A/E 2.17
Overall Performance – 10/8.98, A/E 1.11