Many punters will already have one eye on the Cheltenham Festival and they will be gradually adding to their Cheltenham tips portfolio, but there’s some decent action in front of the ITV cameras on Saturday afternoon and our man Steve Chambers has picked out his best bets for the racing at Kelso, Newbury and Doncaster…
One of the toughest betting heats of the entire day is the hugely competitive Morebattle Hurdle, which is off at 13:50 at Kelso and there could be some notable Cheltenham Festival clues here and the current market leader is Mctigue. The four-year-old lines up here on the back of an average run in a Grade 2 event last time out, but the juvenile is an eye-catching runner in handicap company and still holds a Triumph Hurdle entry, so has to be respected.
However, it’s the top-weighted COLONEL MUSTARD that is the most appealing as he’s been running over fences of late and was last seen being well beaten by Arkle favourite El Fabiolo at Fairyhouse, so that is top notch form. Returning to hurdles here, the eight-year-old will be hoping he can book his place in the County Hurdle in two weeks by running a stormer here and having finished third in that race 12 months ago he showed he can excel in hot handicap hurdles. Only 3lbs higher here, he could well be a class above a lot of his rivals and he marks terrific value at the top at the weights.
Evan Williams saddled BOLD PLAN to victory in this race 12 months ago and off a 3lbs higher mark in this year’s event the nine-year-old can reign supreme once again in the hugely competitive 14:10 at Newbury. A sparkling three-quarters-of-a-length winner over Dorking Boy in this race 12 months ago, Bold Plan has shown he’s a horse that excels in the spring and having been dropped 3lbs in the handicap for a mediocre effort at Uttoxeter he can bounce back here.
The likes of the last time out winner Dargiannini for Harry Derham and the Alan King-trained Jay Bee Why are sure to be dangers, but Bold Plan showed last season when landing this prize that he can deliver the goods at Newbury and he looks the solid punting option here in what should be another punting head-scratcher.
With such a sensational record at Newbury, Zanza is hard to overlook in the 2023 Greatwood Gold Cup, but he’s been handed a whopping 15lbs rise for a shock win in the Grade 2 Denman Chase last month, so it could be worth taking on the Philip Hobbs-trained raider, who has won five of his six races at the Berkshire track.
Paint The Dream is another class act and that pair will carry top weights, but the most fascinating runner is SEBASTOPOL, who was last seen winning a Grade 2 emphatically at the track back in November. He trounced the classy Stage Star, who has since impressed for Paul Nicholls and Tom Lacey’s raider here could be more than capable of landing this prize off 147 and is the one to side with.
Impressive Sky Bet Chase winner Cooper’s Cross will return to the scene of his biggest success on Saturday and is the market leader, at the time of writing, for the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at 15:15. Upped 5lbs for that success, he will need to improve again and while the step up in trip should suit he will face some stiffer opposition here.
The one contender that should have too much class for Cooper’s Cross is DOES HE KNOW, who lines up here for Kim Bailey and was a winner at Cheltenham two starts ago. Fending off the talented and gutsy Eva’s Oskar two starts ago at Prestbury Park over 3m 3f 71y, Does He Know then competed in the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury and ran a cracker in third. However, a return to handicaps should see him excel and stepping back up in trip will show that stamina is his forte and he can duly carry top weight to victory here.