Preview of each Channel 4 Race with Free Betting Tips - With less than a month left before the Cheltenham Festival, the final preparations are being made to fine tune those participating. With this in mind Channel 4 have a triple header this Saturday with racing from Ascot, Wincanton and Haydock.
The feature on the card is the final race of the coverage, the Betfair Ascot Chase where CAPTAIN CHRIS (11/10 William Hill) will be looking to add to his formidable record going right handed. He kicked the season off with a great return at Huntingdon before annihilating a smart field at Kempton on his most recent outing. He is best in at the weights and if able to replicate that form he will take all the beating. Riverside Theatre (5/1 BetVictor) is his closest challenger on official ratings and finished in front of him in that Huntingdon race. Undoubtedly talented, he is also fragile, quirky and is unlikely to find the underfoot conditions in his favour here. Rolling Aces (7/1 Coral) on the other hand relishes heavy ground and arrives off the back of a solid enough effort at Sandown where the ground was too quick for him. He did manage to finish in front of last weekend’s big race winner, Harry Topper, in that Sandown contest to give the form a solid look. His two best recent efforts have both come when the mud was flying and the cheekpieces first time may garner further progression and as such looks a solid each way alternative to the favourite. Cloudy Too (15/2 William Hill) is a rapid improver for the Sue Smith yard, proven over the trip and with plenty of cut in the ground. This is tougher than the Wetherby race he won last time, where his main market rival ran no sort of race, but he is respected nonetheless. Hunt Ball (33/1 BetVictor) needs to be monitored in the betting on his debut for Nicky Henderson. Formally one of the most rapidly improved chasers in training the wheels came off badly when tried in America and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour.
The Reynoldstown kicks things off with the staying novices putting their credentials on the line. Its very interesting that David Pipe is pitching the smart hurdler Gevrey Chambertin (9/4 bet365) straight into a Grade 2 contest over fences. His only start this season came when victorious in a very competitive handicap at Haydock, on that run and his hurdles rating he is the one to beat here. Ely Brown (9/1 Coral) has been a revelation over the bigger obstacles beating a useful yardstick in Beeves at Leicester before a similar demolition job at Wetherby, albeit made easier when his biggest rival unseated. He was beaten a long way behind the Pipe horse at Haydock however and despite showing better form over fences it's hard to shake that Haydock run from the memory. MANY CLOUDS (7/4 Stan James) is another to show improved form over fences, winning with his head in his chest at Werherby last time. There are ticks across the board with him for ground, distance, young and progressive, the yard aren't quite in the same form they were six weeks ago but it's a minor quibble in an otherwise solid case. Baby Shine (13/2 BetVictor) goes well with plenty of cut and gets the allowances as the sole mare in the field. This is far tougher than the two races she has won recently but as another with plenty in her favour she is certainly of interest. Others to consider are Third Intention (20/1 Stan James) who has the ability but doesn't show it that often and O’ Faolains Boy (8/1 bet365) who made a solid start over fences before disappointing last time.
The 2.40 at Ascot sees the admirable Houblon Des Obeaux (9/2 William Hill) looking for a third win of the season over C&D. It is hard to pick holes in his form but he may just find that conceding lumps of weight to these rivals is beyond him. Restless Harry (5/1 BetVictor) bounced back to something like his old self at Newbury two starts ago before a game effort up in grade at Cheltenham. He has never looked a natural chaser and on hurdling form he was entitled to win that Newbury race doing handstands. He stays well and loves this ground but I still have reservations over the bigger fences. Highland Lodge (7/2 William Hill) was a flopping favourite in the Welsh National on his most recent start having tried valiantly to give 26lbs to a tartar at Wincanton preceeding finishing a game fourth in the Hennessy. If none the worse for the Chepstow run he should go close but his front running style could just set things up for TEAFORTHREE (15/2 Coral). Rebecca Curtis's Grand National third is ideally suited by a bit further but given the prevailing conditions, this is likely to turn into a war of attrition which will suit him down to the ground. He ran no better than ok in the Welsh National but is entitled to come on for that seasonal debut here and represents a spot of value at the prices.
The handicap hurdle at 3.15 has the look of a race that would produce five different winners if it were run five times. Heath Hunter (9/2 Coral) has been very impressive in two novice hurdle wins at Sedgefield although it is questionable what he has actually beaten. It's likely that a mark of 125 underestimates him but he had the run of the race in both of those wins but faces competition for the lead here from stablemate Bygones Sovereign (16/1 bet365) and top weight Stopped Out (20/1 Coral). The latter has made a good start to the campaign winning at Bangor before a solid third in good company at Newbury. This will be tricky giving weight away all round but he is in good form and remains progressive. Bourne (8/1 Betfred) tends to run well at Ascot especially with plenty of cut in the ground making him a lively contender. I don't envy Adrian Lane his job here though as his mount takes a lot of cajoling and he will certainly earn his riding fee! Like Minded (8/1 Betfred) ran a stormer behind Saphir Du Rheu at Kemptom last time in arguably a stronger race than this. Conditions suit but a ten year-old off a career high mark just tempers confidence a little. Nicky Henderson introduces an interesting one in Lough Kent (10/1 BetVictor) who wasn't cheap when purchased at the back end of last year. It's hard to assess the value of that French form as it pertains to the accuracy of this handicap mark so a market check is strongly advised. In an open race the vote goes to TWO ROCKERS (6/1 William Hill) for an Alan King yard in much better health now than a few weeks ago. The ground cannot be soft enough for him as he showed with wins at Towcester and Haydock (Grade 2 contest) last season. Ideally he would be suited by another half mile but with plenty of front runners in this contest, bottomless ground and a steady climb through the final mile this should turn into a real test which will suit his extra stamina admirably.
The Kingwell Hurdle may be the only Wincanton race being shown but this traditional Champion Hurdle trial rarely disappoints. It looks a two horse race this year with MELODIC RENDEZVOUS (5/4 BetVictor) preferred to Zarkandar (13/8 Stan James). Jeremy Scott's stable star came right back to his best with an easy victory at Haydock routing Ptit Zig. It looks to be no coincidence that the extra cut in the ground, compared with his Fighting Fifth below par run, contributed massively to him coming back to form and he gets heavy ground again here. Zarkandar has yet to win this season and while it's harsh to judge him below his best against up and coming stars like Annie Power and The New One, he has looked to lack a bit of sparkle. On official ratings he is very much the one to beat but a bare 2m on a flat track against a specialist two miler may see him finish second once again. Grumeti (11/2 Betfred) is the only one who looks to have any hope of bustling up the front pair. He ran well on his seasonal return in the Fighting Fifth beating the selection but he was massively below par at Kempton over Christmas when most of the stable were under a cloud and has a little to prove now.
At Haydock we begin with a juvenile hurdle where AURORE D'ESTRUVAL (15/8 BetVictor) is taken to build on the impression she made at Wetherby last time. It wasn't the strongest contest but the way she moved so fluidly on the heavy ground, never coming off the bridle, to slam her rivals was hugely eye catching. Hawk High (6/1 Stan James) made rather harder work of another Wetherby contest and it's easy to see why he sports the cheekpieces as he wasn't doing a tap when he hit the front. He has the talent but Dougie Costello will need to give him a canny ride to get his head in front at the right time. Handiwork (4/1 Coral) lost his unbeaten record over hurdles last time when failing to give 10lbs to a decent sort. The jockey booking of Tony McCoy is eyecatching especially as he rode him to victory on his hurdling debut. The Green Ogre (10/1 Stan James) outran his price at Kempton last time against a potentially high class recruit and could prove a spot of value. It would be folly to rule out Sea Claria (7/1 BetVictor) either in receipt of weight from all her opponents. Venitia Williams yard continues in good form and this French import should be another from the stable who revels in heavy ground.
The Rendlesham hurdle at 2.20 looks relatively straightforward for CELESTIAL HALO (6/5 Coral) who won on his comeback at Newbury. There is more competition for the lead here so he is unlikely to get things all his own way but he should prove a class apart at the business end of the contest. He had suffered a bit of a setback that stopped him running in the Long Walk hurdle at Ascot but has been given plenty of time to recover. Quartz De Thaix (10/1 Betfred) has been running well back over hurdles this season and is well suited by the prevailing conditions. He is second best in at the weights and may prove to be the biggest threat to the Nicholls runner. Mickie (8/1 Stan James) was a massive disappointment at Ascot last time but is worth giving another chance. She had previously won very easily at Kempton, soft ground and the allowances she received bring her into the argument. Seeyouatmidnight (10/1 Betfred) is a very interesting runner pitched in the deep end for his small yard. A perfect two for two under rules both on soft ground, he was very impressive beating a 144 rated yardstick at Musselburgh. This demands another step forward but he might be a spot of each way value given connections. Cross Kennon (14/1 Stan James) has an excellent record in this race and with the first time blinkers an interesting headgear change he needs a market check.
The Grand National Trial at 2.55 is going to take an awful lot of getting given the heavy ground and extreme distance. Emperor's Choice (10/1 Stan James) was on and off the bridle from a long way out when victorious at Ffos Las last time. He adores bottomless ground and can't get a distance far enough but this sharper track isn't likely to play to his strength. NUTS N BOLTS (14/1 William Hill) was well fancied in the Scottish National in the Spring but was disappointing. He ran much better over C&D on very soft ground on his reappearance and is capable of going close on that. Our Father (13/2 Betfred) was sent off favourite for the Hennessy on his comeback but not for the first time failed to fire when well fancied. He acts well on soft ground but doesn't seen to be one for maximum faith at the moment. Hawkes Point (8/1 BetVictor) looked improved for the step up in trip when a game runner up in the Welsh National last time. He has had seven weeks to get over that although the form of that race hasn't worked out brilliantly. Wychwoods Brook (10/1 bet365) and Merry King (8/1 William Hill) are closely matched on recent form here over shorter. The latter has been running consistently well in big handicaps all season without winning and this is likely to be much of the same here. Wychwoods Brook is unproven over the trip but acts very well on this type of surface. The way he carries himself so easily through his races gives the impression that he may be capable of staying this far. Red Rocco (22/1 Coral) is very much a feast or famine type of horse and if the first time visor sharpens him up he is a massive price with trip and ground in his favour.
1.45 Haydock - AURORE D'ESTRUVAL (15/8 BetVictor)
2.05 Ascot - MANY CLOUDS (7/4 Stan James)
2.20 Haydock - CELESTIAL HALO (6/5 Coral)
2.40 Ascot - TEAFORTHREE (15/2 Coral)
2.55 Haydock - NUTS N BOLTS (E/W) (14/1 William Hill)
3.15 Ascot - TWO ROCKERS (6/1 William Hill)
3.35 Wincanton - MELODIC RENDEZVOUS (5/4 BetVictor)
3.50 Ascot - CAPTAIN CHRIS (11/10 William Hill)
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