Handicap fans will be singing Hallelujah, on Saturday, as there a number of fascinating encounters to get stuck into. Seymour Biz has picked out four horses to make up your Lucky 15 bet and they include a Paul Nicholls-trained inmate that has been quietly biding his time. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
The television cameras cover racing over the length of the country this weekend with action from Musselburgh, Wetherby and Kempton on offer. Out of the seven races being televised four are handicaps and these are the races I have concentrated on this week. The main action over the weekend will be at the Dublin Festival at Leopardstown with some great racing in prospect at the Irish course. On Saturday we have a renewal of A Plus Tard and Chacun Pour Soi after their Christmas battle over the same course and distance and I take the latter to reverse the placings. Honeysuckle looks exciting on the same card. On Sunday Kemboy looks the one to beat in the Irish Gold Cup but the race I’m looking forward to is the novice chase with Faugheen and Battleoverdoyen set to slug it out. I would love to see Faugheen continue his winning ways as a chaser but I think Gordon Elliott’s younger Battleoverdoyen will prove too strong. So although I’ll be keeping one eye on the excitement across the water, here are my thoughts for Saturday’s ITV4 meetings and the Lucky 15.
Starting at Musselburgh with the bet365 Scottish County Hurdle at 2.05. This two mile handicap looks to be well contested with John Quinn’s Ashington the current favourite. He is a course and distance winner but was beaten by Sir Chauvelin here on New Year’s Day when he could finish only third. The second horse home that day was another Quinn runner Project Bluebook who incidentally is also a course and distance winner. Top weight is Paul Nicholls’s Scaramanga who got bogged down at a very muddy Ascot before Christmas and he will relish the better going but may have too much weight. Tom Lacey’s Sebastopol was a beaten favourite last time out at Huntingdon in November after previously winning at Wincanton but I don’t think he has the class to take this. One who does have the class is another Nicholls runner Miranda who has won three of her five starts to date, however I just feel the improvement she showed last time may not be continued. So I return to Jim Goldie’s Sir Chauvelin who has won four times here at Musselburgh including the New Year’s Day victory where he kept on strongly, he can add to his tally here.
At 3.15 we have the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase, a 4m 1f contest. Little Bruce from Phillip Kirby’s yard is the probable favourite after his victory at Catterick last time over 3m 6f when he had Sumkindofking behind him in second and Brian Boranha fell at the last when challenging for third. Tom George’s Sumkindofking is only a pound better off here but that may be enough to reverse those placings. Top weight Step Back was involved in the crazy void race at Sandown in December and has not been out since but Mark Bradstock’s 10-year-old has not won since April 2018 and seems high enough in the weights here. Carol’s Destrier was also involved in the Sandown debacle and failed to shine on his reappearance back at the same course in early January. Wonderful Charm now saves his best for Amateur Hunter Chases but Paul Nicholls will have him fit if he comes here but as a 12-year-old he may find a couple too good. Doing Fine had a great victory at Cheltenham on New Years Day but that win comes at a price and Neil Mulholland’s gelding has taken huge rise in the weights. If he can last the distance he may run into a place but I side with Sumkindofking to prevail here.
Moving south to Sandown, the Betway Heroes Handicap Hurdle is at 3.00 over a distance just short of three miles. Among the favourites here is Graeme McPherson’s Ask Ben who snatched second at Cheltenham last lime in mid-December after going off as favourite. Another horse high in the betting is Phil Middleton’s Golan Fortune, a Cheltenham winner in November. He will be suited by the heavy going but the weight rise may be too much for him. Phillip Hobbs’s Big Shark was a beaten favourite last time at Haydock when going for a hat-trick of wins and the handicapper may have his measure. Bold Plan is plenty high enough in the weights after his Haydock victory in November, his fall when held up at Ascot last time was a juvenile mistake and he can get over that. Debestyman unseated his rider at the last fence at Kempton causing Echiquier to swerve in their latest contest in January. Echiquier still ran on to claim third and Nigel Twiston-Davies’s young gelding can come on after that unfortunate mishap and take this prestigious contest.
At 3.35 is the Betway Masters Handicap Chase, a three mile contest being targeted by Oliver Sherwood with Dominateur. This gelding has won four of his last five, lately at the Chepstow Christmas meeting and is a proven mudlover but is moving up in class here. Similarly Nicky Henderson’s Dragon d’Estruval is moving up in class and is looking to follow up his latest victory at Ludlow in January. Top weight Crievehill from Nigel Twiston-Davies’s yard ran in a Listed race last time finishing down the field, Mister Malarky was pulled up in the same race but I just feel this classy pair may be caught out by the going which is reported to be heavy in places. Looking further down the handicap there are plenty in with chances including Graeme McPherson’s Ami Debois who was second at Kelso on his latest outing. Paul Nicholls has been looking for an opportunity such as this for Sametegal who has not been seen since Kempton’s Christmas meeting where he finished fourth only 2l behind the winner. Last year’s winner Classic Ben has not shown that winning form since but has dropped down the handicap and is not without a chance of repeating the feat for trainer Stuart Edmunds. But I consider Nicholls looks to have the winning hand here with Sametegal.
Saturday Lucky 15
2.05 Musselburgh. Sir Chauvelin
3.15 Musselburgh. Sumkindofking
3.00 Sandown. Echiquier
3.35 Sandown. Sametegal