It really is the calm after the storm this Saturday. After the high-octane Cheltenham Festival is over, we await more madness at Aintree as well as the start of the flat season which is very nearly upon us.
We do have plenty of information for this weekend though, five horses standing out as betting material in fact across two jumps meetings during Saturday afternoon and an all-weather affair in the evening.
2.25 Uttoxeter (Novices’ Handicap Chase) – SHANTY ALLEY
It’s Midlands Grand National day at Uttoxeter but the best betting opportunity may well be earlier on the card in this three-mile, Class 2 novices’ handicap chase.
St Barts is very interesting in the Santini colours, this time for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, but the one who seems to be comfortably ahead of his handicap mark is Ben Case’s Shanty Alley.
The seven-year-old was raised 13lbs for an easy win at Doncaster in January, and having been beaten last time it may be felt that the handicapper has quickly got to him.
However, his Wincanton race was never quite right for him, he was sent off at 8/1 on the heavy going and he did well to finish second so now in this event he can continue his rise up the ranks. 3lb claimer Bryan Carver rides once again.
3.10 Newcastle (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – NO REGRETS
There should be plenty of money in this event for Phil Kirby’s Bushypark, winner of five of his last 6 races including last time out.
His win at Haydock last time was admittedly impressive, however a 12lb rise for a win gained on a flat track can never be swept aside when assessing chances of horses, and Bushypark’s only defeat in his last six runs, a heavy one, was indeed at Newcastle.
Enter No Regrets. Trained in Cumbria by Nicky Richards, the seven-year-old gelding has been improving slowly and steadily over hurdles with his best run being a narrow defeat at Musselburgh over three miles last time out.
He’s had a rest since then and has wisely been placed over this 2¾-mile trip on a stiff course, something that should be just about ideal. Champion jockey-elect Brian Hughes takes the ride which is an important piece of the puzzle.
6.00 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – FUTURISTIC
Things should be fast and furious here with a decent Class 3 field having been assembled over Wolverhampton’s six-furlong course.
There should be some money floating around for Robyn Brisland’s Power Over Me who’s won four of his last five races but may find things much hotter here, while Ed De Giles’ Treacherous and Richard Fahey’s Gabrial The Devil will also be popular.
The one to be on however should be Futuristic of the Marco Botti yard. A Shamardal gelding, he came back from 15 months off the track with close second at Newcastle before finishing third at Kempton and winning around this course and distance last time in a Class 3 race.
Having gone up only 3lbs there are no worries as regards weight here, while his most impressive speed figures were recorded at Newcastle which is also a Tapeta track. With that in maind, one feels there is more to come back over a track and trip he’s already been successful on with Ben Curtis on board again to do the steering.
The horse he beat last time, Sun Power, was on a sharp upward curve which gives the form a solid look, while the third-placed Alminoor has also come out and franked the form further.
7.00 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – GARRUS
This just a small race, a 4-runner affair, but it is a Class 3 conditions event and in fact has attracted some notable participants. Among them is Charlie Hills’ Garrus and that’s the one we want to be on.
Garrus caught the eye when winning at both Newmarket and Newcastle back in 2018 and looked destined for big things. As a three-year-old he was at it again, winning at Nottingham before taking down a good Listed contest at York for Jeremy Noseda before he changed hands and then injury struck.
These days he gets to train in a stable that also houses Equilateral and Battaash, one that by default really knows its sprinters, and they retain hope even after 575 days off the track that this son of Acclamation can win Group races this season with this event being simply his starting off point.
There is always the danger of a slower than ideal pace in a race like this, however that may help Garrus just to settle back into racing and if it turns into a sprint within a sprint, we know he possesses the turn of foot to be able to put the race to bed.
Blue De Vega and Justanotherbottle are both decent but give Garrus 4lbs in weight, while Rayong is a little out of things on ratings.
7.30 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Handicap) – HEPTATHLETE
There are seven runners confirmed for this 0-90 fillies’ handicap, but it really may not take a lot of winning. With that in mind any sort of decent price about Heptathlete should be taken as we attempt to catch her on her winning run.
A six-year-old mare, she had raced some 33 times there before being bought and has now won three in a row on these shores.
Once rated in the 80’s, she began her British racing career on a mark of only 54. Having won twice at Wolverhampton, sandwiching a success at Lingfield, she’s gone quickly to a mark of 70 but has not reached her ceiling yet.
In fact, her last win was her most comfortable and while this is a step up in class, she is on such a low mark and carries such a light racing weight that she cannot be ignored for trainer Kevin Philippart De Foy and jockey Laura Pearson who takes off a very handy 5lbs.