A mix of Flat and National Hunt action means a busy and entertaining enough Saturday of racing this week, unusually perhaps at this time of year the all-weather action handing us the better wagering opportunities this time.
It’s about quality over the sticks though as the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle can provide yet more Cheltenham clues and we have a juicy bet in that race against the ante post favourite, but we start with Lingfield and a couple of bets in decent winter flat races.Embed from Getty Images
1.15 Lingfield (Class 3 Handicap) – MATTERHORN
Despite the presence of Breden who, unusually for a nine-year-old, is still improving on this sort of surface Mark Johnston’s 4yo Matterhorn is the one making the greatest strides on the all-weather and should be set for another win under popular jock Franny Norton.
I’d have fancied him to some level even over the mile trip he has won his won three of his last 4 races over but the style of his victories and the fact he is a maturing type by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass suggests he’ll be even better over a mile-and-a-quarter and so he gets a definite vote.
The aforementioned Breden is next on the list ahead of perhaps the returning Shargiah who may need the run, but if coming back after 568 days to his best would take a hand in the finish for sure and in time could even be described as well handicapped.
2.15 Lingfield (Class 2 Conditions Stakes) – STRAIGHT RIGHT
Often in such races we find horses going backwards or those, as some interested parties often wrongly put it, coming into such events to get their confidence back with a win.
In this case we see a bunch of runners going about as well as we can expect of them though and so we should find an honestly run contest with one standout performer potentially still getting better in the shape of Andrew Balding’s five-year-old Straight Right.
He has won on a similar surface recently over seven furlongs but his performance in beating Gallipoli last year at Newcastle going up the hill towards the finish suggests this mile may be even better for him and he is taken to win this ahead of David O’Meara’s Salateen who continues to go well.
2.25 Sandown (Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ELIXIR DE NUTZ
A quality novice race as you’d expect and the spectre of soft ground has rather thrown a spanner into the works of some tipsters and commentators this week.
The likely short-priced favourite Rathhill won a 20-runner maiden on softer going and is highly regarded, however the bottom line is that despite easing into the race nicely and scoring with something in hand, the strong pace that day in what was truthfully not a great race means his level of form just isn’t yet what some believe it to be.
In the case of hat-trick seeking Elixir De Nutz he’s won two decent races from the front at Cheltenham, certainly a better level of form than the jolly, though having done most of his best work on good ground you’d be forgiven for having doubts about him here now that the rain has come.
Even if his form were to take a dip of a few pounds he’d still be a top two fancy in this race for me and so with no real evidence that he won’t handle soft conditions these days, there is the possibility that he may continue to improve and thus prove too strong for this field.
A win here puts him on course for the Festival in March and I believe he can go there with a proper winning chance, hopefully making his odds in this look a tad silly.
5.45 Kempton (Class 3 Fillies’ Handicap) – MARGIE’S CHOICE
Plenty of all-weather horses seem to move from Wolverhampton to Newcastle or Chelmsford to Lingfield without much bother but often they do not find the same levels of form when running on Kempton’s surface, whether due to the track or for going right-handed.
With this in mind we may find the otherwise progressive Yusra back among what looks a tight pack with Pure Shores and our second choice Roman Spinner but one particular runner looks capable of comfortably besting her handicap mark and that is Michael Madgwick’s Margie’s Choice.
Rab Havlin, a quality and underrated jockey used to sitting aboard Group 1 types at John Gosden’s yard, has been booked to ride this lightly raced filly once again and he should be able to get her in a nice position before pouncing on them after the turn to record what would be her second victory in a row at this venue.
6.15 Kempton (Class 2 Handicap) – ADDICTED TO YOU
With form figures of /1UP- there may not be too many people rushing to their bookmaker to pile on their thousands on this horse, however a close look at things reveals Mark Johnston’s five-year-old gelding to be potentially very well handicapped over two miles going forward.
Having been on the improve during 2017, Addicted To You returned last May with a very easy 10-length win at Chelmsford and a look at the form of that race proves it to be no fluke. He unseated at Newmarket and was pulled-up after a problem before being put away for the season but assuming he’s fully ready to return now his handicap mark of 95 is unlikely to prove very accurate.
Jason Hart may well attempt to dominate this race and run them right into the ground which I think he and his partner can do, with French challenger Amade on the shortlist though frankly looking to have something to find, while top weight Lord George rates as second best for place purposes.