Saturday Horse Racing Preview & Tips – 29th February – Mont Des Avaloirs Can Leap To Success

A rare leap-year Saturday brings some interesting action, with Cheltenham now very-much at the forefront of punters’ minds. Seymour Biz looks ahead to the action and among his Lucky 15 picks is a Paul Nicholls-trained horse that has hit the crossbar in his previous two outings. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.

We have three televised meetings this Saturday at Newbury, Doncaster and Kelso, it’s great to see the Scottish track on ITV even if there is only one race being shown. That race is top class novice hurdle and I’ve been looking forward to seeing Nicky Henderson’s Fred back at the races but he may well be pushed by Black Pirate. There are two chases being shown from Newbury, one of which is a Veterans Chase and I have reviewed them below. The main television meeting is Doncaster with four races being covered with Cill Anna due to run in the Mares Novice Hurdle after her fine victory at Wincanton. But Doncaster also has two Handicap Chases on the card, so looking for value this week my thoughts are drawn to the four handicap chases and I have summarised those below along with this week’s Lucky 15.

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Beginning at Doncaster with the 888Sport Bet £10 Get £30 Handicap Chase at 2.25. This two mile handicap usually goes to a horse who is high up in the betting and Nuts Well fits the bill but Ann Hamilton’s gelding has an extra 6lbs to carry after his latest victory at Wetherby and I think the handicapper has his measure. Zolfo is another with a penalty after his wins at Bangor and Market Rasen and they seem the courses where he usually shines. Paul Nicholls has the top weight with Dolos who won well at the beginning of this month at Sandown Park, a race in which Caid Du Lin and Joke Dancer both unshipped their riders. I expect the latter to put up a better show for trainer Sue Smith and he is 5lbs better off here so should improve on that outing. The King Of May looks a good prospect for trainer Brian Ellison who began his chasing career this season after an 18 month break. He has won two out of three but steps up in class here. Dr Richard Newland has the aforementioned Caid Du Lin here and also the well fancied Katpoli who won a classy contest at Wetherby in January. In his latest race over 2m 4f at Warwick he weakened after the last to finish 13 lengths behind the winner, but he does drop back in trip here and gets my vote.

At 3.35 we have the 888Sport Grimthorpe Handicap over 3m 2f and some Grand National hopefuls will be stretching their muscles here on their way to Aintree. Up near the top of the weights is Brian Ellison’s Definitely Red who has yet to taste victory this season, he ran second at Haydock in the National Trial but was well beaten. Captain Chaos has had an in and out season being pulled up on a couple of occasions however he ran a very good second at Warwick last time and has a chance if reproducing that form. Last year’s winner Chidswell trained by Nicky Richards is entered and although he has not won since, he has been very highly tried. His latest run when third behind Ok Corral here at Doncaster last month along with his low weight mean he can reprise that victory. A lively outsider worth a mention is the Michael Scudamore trained Some Chaos, who if able to reproduce last season’s form may well run into a place at a nice price after his four week break. But I take last year’s winner, Chidswell, to pop up again.

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Moving South to Newbury, the first televised race is at 2.05 the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Veterans Handicap Chase over 3m 2f. I really enjoy watching these ‘old’ timers strut their stuff but that is not really the case here as almost half the field are only 10-year-olds yet class as veterans. Last year’s winner Carole’s Destrier is back to defend his crown but he was slightly fortunate that day in that Theatre Guide handed him the race after making a mistake at the last. I think Colin Tizzard’s Theatre Guide can get his revenge here but that may still not be enough to take this contest. Nick Williams’s Le Rocher has been knocking on the door this season after good runs at Wincanton and Sandown however he seems to find one too good and the distance is a worry. Horatio Hornblower was going well when he blundered and unseated his rider last time at Sandown in January, he had won his two previous races but is meeting a higher class of opponent here. Gary Moore has a strong hand here with Antony and A Toi Phil, the former didn’t get far at Plumpton last time but has previously run a good fourth here at the Christmas meeting and can go well. But A Toi Phil is a totally different matter, he is a high class Irish chaser who after winning at Listowel in September for Gordon Elliott moved to Moore’s yard and came here to Newbury to run in the Denman Chase and was a creditable fourth. The move to handicaps after running in Graded company should prove profitable for his new trainer.

At 3.15 it is the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase over 2m 4f and due to carry top weight is Paul Nicholls’s Secret Investor after his fine second to Native River here at the beginning of the month. Nicholls makes a habit of winning this race and has a particularly strong hand this year. He sent out last year’s winner San Benedeto who returns to defend his crown, but his form this year has not been up to that high mark. Another Nicholls horse with what looks like a better chance is Mont Des Avaloirs who has been runner-up on the last two occasions and has shown a marked improvement. Tom George’s Clondaw Castle won at Warwick last time and had Gala Ball behind him in fourth, I would expect him to confirm those placings. Alan King has the veteran Valdez in the lineup and the trainer says “he ran well in the Denman here last time but didn’t get three miles. He will be suited by coming back in trip”. Tiquer has a lightweight to carry for trainer Alan Jones and was a good winner at Chepstow on heavy going at the Christmas meeting, he may take a place at a nice price. But Nicholls has the upper hand here with his trio of top class middle distance chasers and out of the three I will plump for Mont Des Avaloirs on the strength of his second earlier in the month, he can show further improvement to take this.

Saturday Lucky 15
2.25 Doncaster. Katpoli
3.35 Doncaster. Chidswell
2.05 Newbury. A Toi Phil
3.15 Newbury. Mont Des Avaloirs

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Find all previous Seymour Biz racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips