Saturday’s UK action is an early seasonal gift, for jumps fans. The main action takes place at Aintree and Sandown, with many elite National Hunt horses arriving to compete. Seymour Biz has a Paul Nicholls’ horse, among his Lucky 15 fancies. Find all previous UK racing previews in his weekly column: Saturday Horse Racing Tips.
Four really cracking pre-Christmas meetings this Saturday, so forget the Yuletide shopping and get along to your nearest course if you get the opportunity. ITV have scheduled two meetings for our delight at Aintree and Sandown but there is also some great jump action at both Chepstow and Wetherby. It’s Becher Chase Day at Aintree and here we have a racecourse that has really risen from the ashes. It’s not many years ago this meeting would have not merited a second look by both race goers and trainers. But that’s not the case now with beautiful stands and great viewing areas to replace the old run down and ramshackle ones that there was there previously. Because of this investment the quality of racing is of the highest standard and the place will be rocking this weekend. Moving south to the demure surroundings of Esher in Surrey it’s Tingle Creek Day at Sandown and there is a great card to back up the big race itself. The Tingle Creek has been won by Altior, Politologue and Un De Sceaux over the last three years and with a great field due to contest it we are likely to see another superstar on the trophy. With all these fine horses on show, here are my thoughts for value in this week’s Lucky 15.
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Starting with the 1.30 at Aintree, the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase, the big race of the day at the Liverpool course. Last year’s winner Walk In The Mill trained by Robert Walford is back to try and win the big race again. He went on from that victory to run a very good fourth in the Grand National last season but was disappointing on his reappearance last month at Wetherby when he weakened two out and had to be pulled up. The Grand National winner of 2017 is in the lineup, One For Arthur, but he was another who disappointed last year by unseating his rider in his first two races then finishing sixth in the National. This season he ran fourth at Kelso in October in a race won by Mysteree and Michael Scudamore’s gelding romped home that day with Amalfi Doug, One For Arthur and Vintage Clouds trailing in his wake. He can once again stamp his authority over these rivals. Top weight is Gordon Elliott’s Irish raider, Alpha Des Obeaux, who is a consistent performer but may have too much weight here. I like the look of Definitely Red trained by Brian Ellison, he had a run in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby which was won by Ballyoptic and can come on for that and reverse those placings. He is a winner here over the Mildmay fences and his jumping is such, he will have no problem over the bigger obstacles.
The Virgin Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase is at 3.15 and top weight here is Nicky Henderson’s Casablanca Mix. He is a dual winner already this season, here at Aintree in May and at Market Rasen in June and he looks the class act here. Henderson also has Gold Present in the lineup having his first run this season but his jumping is suspect. Flying Angel won last time out for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies at Ascot but he has a 3lb penalty for that victory. Ultragold is a course and distance winner and Colin Tizzard’s charge has had an outing this year at Ascot where he was pulled up, he seems to have lost some of his sparkle. Didero Vallis is fancied in some quarters after being pulled up in Flying Angel’s race but I find the form of Venetia Williams’s gelding unreliable and I think the young horse is best watched. Paul Nicholls’s Touch Kick looks a better prospect after winning a small race at Fakenham in October but I can’t really see him troubling Casablanca Mix.
Moving South to Sandown we have the Jumeirah Hotels And Resorts December Handicap Hurdle at 2.25. Top weight here is Song For Someone trained by Tom Symonds. This horse is a very consistent performer with three wins last season and he already has a win under his belt this time around. That was in November at Fontwell where he romped home by 12 lengths but he has a lot of weight here. David Pipe’s Umbrigado ran poorly when fancied at Haydock last time and is another with a lot of weight. Phillip Hobbs’s stable is back firing on all cylinders after the problems he had last year and he sends out Smarty Wild who won last time out at Exeter but is stepping up in class here and may not yet be good enough. One who is definitely good enough is Paul Nicholls’s Malaya, a horse I have put up before. She is a course and distance winner having won the Imperial Cup last season but has had a quiet start this year due to carrying an injury after her Market Rasen run. Apparently she is over that now, it was cut to her fore leg, and she can put up a fine performance to take this contest.
At 3.35 it’s the Betfair London National Handicap Chase and there is the usual strong turnout for this 3m 5f race. Top weight is Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil who has had a run this season at Wetherby but he never got going and was pulled up after four out. Classic Ben won here at Sandown last season but on his reappearance last month at Bangor-on-Dee he ran poorly when well fancied and would need to improve dramatically on that performance. Another course winner who has won three times here including a victory just four weeks ago is Houblon Des Obeaux from Venetia Williams’s yard. Although he has been a class act in his career he is getting a bit long in the tooth now as a 12-year-old and I can’t fancy him in this company. At the other end of the scale Nicky Henderson’s Dragon d’Estruval is only a 6-year-old and has had a prep race at Ascot but he was unable to put himself into contention and perhaps his time is to come. My fancy here is Paul Nicholls’s Captain Cattistock who was a dual winner last season, he has had a couple of runs this time around latterly at Fontwell and was beaten only a neck. He can improve on that outing to take this. I will also mention Carole’s Destrier who has been waiting for some decent ground and may take a place at a nice price.
Saturday Lucky 15 Tips
1.30 Aintree. Definitely Red
3.15 Aintree. Casablanca Mix
2.25 Sandown. Malaya
3.35 Sandown. Captain Cattistock