Saturday Horse Racing Preview & Tips – 26th January – Black Op’s Class To Count In The Cleese

Seymour Biz has his bags packed for a well-earned break, but has picked another quartet of horses out for his readers before heading for the airport. He’s backing a Tom George inmate to benefit from a return to hurdling and win a big race at Cheltenham, on Saturday. You can find all recent analysis and previews from Seymour Biz in his weekly Saturday Horse Racing Tips column.

This week we have what is billed as Trials Day at Cheltenham but don’t expect to see many champions running here at this meeting. Just take it as it is a great days racing. Many trainers will just be glad of a winner here, it is Cheltenham after all. ITV are covering four races on Saturday and Nicky Henderson has some of his top horses declared, whether they run is a different matter. He seems to have had some problems in the yard with a virus and withdrew some of his charges last week including Valtor, who is down to run in this week’s Cotswold Chase and O O Seven who is declared for the Skybet Chase at Doncaster. So even though the virus has only affected some of his horses, it didn’t affect Altior or Mister Fisher, I am loathe to tip any of his horses this week, I think they are best watched. This includes one of his stars, Champ, who the McCoy family have taken to their hearts. I think he may well win at the Festival but I am not so sure about Saturday due to his penalties. There is better value to be found in other contests on the card. The other televised meeting at Doncaster has some excellent racing and I have chosen two races from there to put in this week’s Lucky Fifteen.

The 2.05 at Doncaster is the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle and it has a small but classy field. Commodore Barry has fine form and is the bookies choice, Kim Bailey’s charge was a course and distance winner last time and is sure to put up a good run, however this is a major step up in class for him. Brewin’Upastorm is high in the betting and is one of my Ten Novices To Follow. Olly Murphy’s charge won well at Huntingdon then went to Cheltenham at the end of December and was beaten into fourth in a race won by Champ. He did not seem suited by the undulating track and should prefer Doncaster. Paul Nicholls’ Kapcorse has won his last couple of races including an excellent Class 2 Handicap at Newbury, however he is stepping up in distance and class here. Bailarico from Warren Greatrex’s yard won well at Kempton a fortnight ago beating the odds-on favourite but I think he is another making a big step up in class, so I will go with Brewin’Upastorm to fake this contest.

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The Sky Bet Handicap Chase is at 3.15 and this prestigious race has attracted all the top trainers. Current favourite is Alan King’s Dingo Dollar who ran third in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last month. King says this has been his target since but he needs rain, ifhe doesn’t get it he will switch him to Cheltenham. But he will not have it all his own way, Paul Nicholls has a strong hand here and Warriors Tale, last year’s runner up is the best of his trio. He won last time at Aintree beating Brandon Hill, but I think the 10-year-old may have to settle for runners up spot again as Nigel Twiston-Davies runs Go Conquer. He was just touched off here at Doncaster by O O Seven last time and can gain his revenge on that rival now he is a pound better off. Tom George sends Singlefarmpayment north for a change after his last two runs this season at Cheltenham have proved fruitless, I can’t see him having better luck up here. I will also mention Brian Boranha from Peter Niven’s yard who won a top class handicap at Sedgefield last time. He may well run into a place at a good price which would be a popular result for this local trainer.

And so we come to Trials Day at Cheltenham and the 1.50 is the Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase. Top weight here is Tom George’s Actival who ran a good second to Kildisart last time at Ascot, he had won previously at Haydock but usually seems to find one to good, plus he is too high in the weights. Favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Janika, this ex-French chaser had a good British debut when second to Hell’s Kitchen at Ascot in December, but would have needed to have improved considerably to take this. Paul Nicholls’s Brelan d’As finally got his head in front last time at Haydock, his first win for three years, despite his form l cannot see him following up here. Siruh Du Lac is on a hat-trick after fine wins at Exeter and Newbury but this is a major step up in class for Nick Williams’s young gelding. The King’s Writ would be a popular winner for Kayleigh Woollacott after winning last time out at Exeter, but he won’t get the heavy ground he prefers. I will give Phillip Hobbs’s War Sound another chance after his poor run here at Cheltenham in December. He jumped badly that day after hitting the fifth fence hard. It is reported Hobb’s has been working with him to improve his jumping and I will side with him to take this contest.

At 3.35 we have the Cleese Hurdle over just under 3miles. Paisley Park from Emma Lavelle’s yard is the bookies favourite after three wins already this season. At Ascot last time he had several of these contenders behind him and I see no reason to see any of those improving on that result. But the winner has a 6lb penalty for that win which may anchor him. The same can be said for Midnight Shadow and Uknowhatimeanharry as they both have penalties for their recent wins. Lil Rockerfeller reverts to hurdles after jumping badly recently and unseated his rider on his last run at Cheltenham. I look to another horse that reverts to hurdles after going chasing. Black Op didn’t jump well so trainer, Tom George, sends him back over the smaller obstacles. He had a fine win at Aintree over hurdles last April and I consider he has come on from that despite not taking to the bigger obstacles and can take this valuable prize.

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Saturday Lucky 15
2.05 Doncaster. Brewin’Upastorm
3.15 Doncaster. Go Conquer
1.50 Cheltenham. War Sound
3.35 Cheltenham. Black Op