Nick Hardman is back with tips for a busy Saturday of racing:
Some great racing this weekend – we have the Oaks and Derby trials at Lingfield, the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock and a cracking card at Ascot. As if that wasn’t enough, Channel 4 are televising a whopping eight races. Plenty to get stuck into so here we go……
The C4 opener is the Long Distance Handicap Hurdle over 3m at Haydock. You can make a case for most of these runners so it is not a race for me to get heavily involved in. I am going to back two against the field, but to pretty small stakes. The first is Big Easy @7/1 who has some decent hurdles form over staying trips. I imagine he needed the run at the Aintree meeting which was his first run over obstacles since taking a Cheltenham handicap 12 months ago. His trainer Phillip Hobbs has a great record in this race and I am certainly happy to have him onside. Perhaps the horse open to most improvement is the Jonjo O’Neill trained Join The Clan @15/2. He hacked up in a 3 miler at Exeter before going down narrowly over the same distance in a handicap at Exeter. He is up 8lbs for that but he is only 5 years old and could be up to defying that rise. AP McCoy takes the ride and a bold bid is expected.
Next up is the 1m 4f handicap at Ascot. Glorious Protector caught the eye on his comeback and has solid credentials and some decent form in the book. That run under his belt could be a huge advantage here, but 7/2 is a bit on the skinny side. Lady Cecil’s Hamelin will go off favourite having won 2 of 4 starts last year and could well turn out to be a really good horse. In fact it would be no surprise to see him rated 100+ this season. However, I am going to take them both on with Rhombus @7/1. Rhombus was sent off favourite for the November handicap and duly disappointed finishing 18th of the 23 runners. Prior to that he had looked progressive and a lot of money came for him on that final run at Doncaster. Whatever was amiss that day I am happy to forgive him and hope he can resume his progress here. He certainly won’t be inconvenienced by soft ground. Bet365 go ¼ odds, 3 places if you want to spread the risk and back him each-way @13/2. I’ll take the 7/1 with William Hill win only.
The first of the classic trials at Lingfield is the Oaks Trial, a Listed race run over a distance of a shade under a mile and a half. Casual Smile is sure to prove popular having the best form in the book, including a neck second to Tagroodah on her final start. That form looks even better after Tagroodah went on to win the Pretty Polly Stakes. I having been looking hard to oppose her with something and Sir Michael Stoute’s Queen’s Prize is a fascinating runner. She won a maiden over 7f on her only start and now returns over 1m 3f 106y. Ralph Beckett is mob handed with Moonrise Landing looking the best of his three on jockey bookings. Like Stoute’s filly, she is once raced but that win was over 10f so I am more confident she will get the trip. This is a tough race but I think Casual Smile, if the ground remains good (has only raced on Good or better ground), will be there or thereabouts. 3/1 with William Hill and some insurance for second place will do for me.
Back to Ascot and we have another Listed race, this time over 1m 4f. If Harris Tweed bounces back to form he will most likely win this. That is no guarantee so I have backed Pether’s Moon @9/2 and Cap O’Rushes @13/2. Pether’s Moon was an excellent second behind our selection Gospel Choir in a Group 2 at Newmarket last weekend and he could well be a smart horse this season. Cap O’Rushes has solid form in the book including a 4th in the Irish Derby last season and a Group 3 win in Ireland. If running to that level of form he has a serious shout here.
The Derby Trial at Lingfield looks a fascinating race. A chance is taken in Aiden O’Brien’s Blue Hussar. O’Brien’s horses ran well at the Chester meeting this week, none more so than the previously twice raced Orchestra. I think Blue Hussar @6/1 could be in the same mould and is a nice price with in-form jockey Ryan Moore on board. The other one at a nice price is John Gosden’s Munjaz @8/1 who made a winning return at the Craven meeting. The step up in trip really suited him and I think he has the scope for more improvement – which he will need if he wants to get involved here.
Back to Ascot again and the 1m Fillies Handicap. Ribbons @9/4 is one favourite I do want to back. Unbeaten in handicaps I am sure this is a filly can take this before going on to better things. I thought she was better than the 2 ¼ length beating that Zurigha gave her last time out in a Listed race that was not run to suit. I am hopeful she will be in the shake-up here and I have gone with William Hill and their 2nd place refund as a bit of insurance.
The Swinton Hurdle at Haydock looks like a typically competitive renewal. I have gone through the card and it would be no great shock whoever were to win this. That does not really help matters so I have gone for two each-way shouts at double figure prices. This will be run at a furious pace with Barizan sure to go ballistic from the front and there are quite a few others who like to front run in the race. Of those that will be at the head of affairs the one I have backed is As I Am @12/1. She acts on any ground and has a gritty attitude. I am hopeful rather than confident. She has raced 14 times over jumps and has been in the first 3 home on 12 occasions. This is a tough task but she might well be up to it. Of the closers in the race I am quite drawn to Swing Bowler @12/1 who ran a cracker from out of the handicap in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. Mickey Ennis takes off 7lb with his claim and that puts Swing Bowler on a mark of 138, just 2lbs higher than when 3rd in last year’s Betfair Hurdle. Those are my two against the field.
We are taking on a few hot favourites this weekend so I am not wading in and stakes are quite modest. As always I wish you the best of luck whatever you are backing and feel free to leave a comment or two.
Haydock 1.50pm Join The Clan @15/2 and Big Easy @7/1
Ascot 2.05pm Rhombus @7/1
Lingfield 2.20pm Casual Smile @3/1
Ascot 2.40pm Pether’s Moon @9/2 and Cap O’Rushes @13/2
Lingfield 2.55pm Blue Hussar @6/1 and Munjaz @8/1
Ascot 3.15pm Ribbons @9/4
Haydock 3.30pm As I Am @12/1 and Swing Bowler @12/1 (both each-way, 4 places)