Steve Hughes provides his best bets for Saturday
Another terrific Saturday’s jump racing is highlighted by a monumental card at Newbury. Some top class horses are on show in the conditions races but the three handicaps on the day are the races I am interested in for betting purposes. I also have a selection for Warwick’s fine supporting card. Blazer was placed (16/1) for the each-way bet in the previous column.
Newbury 1.50: Ainchea
I napped Ainchea for Cheltenham’s Trials day card two weeks ago, but there was no denying Colin Tizzard’s charge was disappointing. However on breeding this huge step up in trip from 2m1f to 3m could see him at his best.
He was well backed for Cheltenham but a bad mistake two out left him with far too much to do. He did stay on up the hill though to suggest a longer distance was required and he is a full brother to One Track Mind a Grade 1 winner over 3m a few seasons ago.
Before injury struck necessitating a long lay-off last season, the selection had been second at Cheltenham in a listed contest on his only previous attempt beyond 2m. The handicapper has given him a real chance by dropping him 6lbs since that novice season and the drying ground will help eke his stamina out that bit further.
Warwick 3.15: Clondaw Castle
In a wide open contest Clondaw Castle appeals as an each-way bet with eight runners going to post.
He was the only horse to shake up Duc Des Genievres in the Arkle at the 2019 Festival before fading up the hill. He was also disappointing on his last start at Cheltenham on very soft ground. However I don’t think that undulating track is in his favour and he should be far better suited to this sharp circuit.
He was only just beaten at Ascot in the autumn on better ground where he saw out the 2m1f that day really well. He had good form during a dry winter last season and conditions should be right for him here. He looks to have more potential for improvement than several of these who are nearing veteran status now.
Newbury 3.35: Harambe, Ciel De Neige & Whoshotthesheriff
A wonderful prestige handicap in which I am going three against the field. The presence of Not So Sleepy will ensure a strong gallop so I am looking at strong stayers with the cruising speed to keep up early.
Harambe fulfilled his early potential with victory in the Greatwood – a similar level handicap at Cheltenham in November. This keen goer relishes a strong pace to help him settle and he did well to win that day on ground probably softer than ideal. Kept fresh for this to preserve his mark I am surprised to see him such a big price today.
It is incredible that Ciel de Neige has never won a race, especially how he got beat at Limerick over Christmas. He was pulling double two out, but then his jockey persisted with a rail run that saw him shuffled back and making a mistake at the final flight. He flew at the finish but just ran out of time to win. He was a fine third in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival last year and remains at the right end of the handicap.
Finally Whoshotthesheriff got me some place money when running well in another top handicap at Ascot last time despite racing widest throughout. There is a possibility he is best left-handed and he is a real good traveller. He was caught on the line over 2m3f at Haydock and looked a likely winner when falling over 2m at Cheltenham in the autumn. An end-to-end gallop here is perfect for him and he should handle the good going.
Newbury 4.10: Highest Sun
A decent 2m hurdler, Highest Sun has shown even better form at 3m over fences.
Whilst he was no match for graded opposition at Warwick last time I got the impression that sharp track was not to his liking. He has already demonstrated his aptitude for handicaps having finished a good second at Ascot in November. He was only beaten by the track there, jumping continuously to his left.
He tended to pull too hard for his own good over hurdles, hence being kept to shorter distances, but he has been much more tractable over the bigger obstacles, even winning over 3m2f at Plumpton. However I think he reserves his best for galloping left-handed tracks – he has good form at Chepstow, so there is every reason to think he will enjoy Newbury.
1pt each-way – Ainchea – 1.50 Newbury – 11/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Clondaw Castle – 3.15 Warwick – 15/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Harambe – 3.35 Newbury – 22/1 Bet365, 1/4 odds 1st 5)
1pt win – Ciel de Neige – 3.35 Newbury – 15/2 general
0.5pts each-way – Whoshotthesheriff – 3.35 Newbury – 18/1 William Hill (1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt win – Highest Sun – 4.10 Newbury – 4/1 Bet365