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Saturday Racing Recap: Winners, Surprises & Standouts

Hi all,

Inside today’s main piece I’m looking back at Saturday’s big race action.

An informative Saturday of racing. It wasn’t top class day by any means, despite the attraction of a Grade 1 chase, but it was competitive. I came into the weekend in good form, and no spin I was genuinely enthusiastic about the days sport.

Fortunately, my concern about potentially jinxing my recent winning run turned out to be unfounded.

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I only had one winner on Saturday, Henry’s Friend, but a small profit returned to advised prices and my enjoyment of the day wasn’t diminished in any way. Another winner at Musselburgh on Sunday and its four days in a row with a profit for Victor Value subscribers.  

Ascot
Ben Goes from Good to Bad

Trainer Ben Pauling and jockey Ben Jones kicked off the Ascot card with a win in the opening novice hurdle with Pic Roc. The day improved for the duo as Henry’s Friend triumphed in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase.

Henry’s Friend, stepping up in class after two handicap wins, wasn’t foot perfect early in the race but improved his jumping as it progressed. Approaching the last, four of the five runners remained in contention. However, Henry’s Friend held off Kilbeg King to secure victory, with Apple Away finishing third. The addition of cheekpieces by the trainer proved to be a wise decision, potentially impacting the result significantly.

Trainer and jockey eyed a potential hat trick with Bad in the next race. The 9/2 joint favorite, sporting first-time cheekpieces, travelled well throughout and appeared poised for victory at the final jump. However, he was overtaken by winner Mothill near the finish. While Bad demonstrates ample ability, he may lack resilience in the closing stages.

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Later on the card, the pair secured the hat trick by winning the 2m 7 ½ f handicap hurdle with Honor Grey, who was returning from a 482-day layoff.

A quick word about winning jockey Ben Jones. He’s made a cracking start to 2024 as the results below show.

A 51% win & place strike rate is some going. He’s really taken advantage of Kielan Woods absence with his partnership with Ben Pauling providing 12 winners from 36 runners 33% +29.97, 20 placed 56% and performing 83% above market expectations. Pauling & Jones are an inform duo who can have more winners this week.

Threeunderthrufive's Consistency Reward.

Threeunderthrufive's consistency paid off as the 9-year-old won the Swinley Handicap Chase. Despite edging up the weights without winning. His triumph under top weight was commendable. Always maintaining a prominent position, he idled towards the finish but remained in control.

Runner-up Rapper, finished within a length of the winner and returned to form but was probably flattered to get so close. Third-placed Shan Blue maintained his form but did not finish as well as the front pair.

Favorite Victtorino's numerous mistakes hindered his performance, but he did well to secure a respectable fourth place.

You Don’t Win Races at the Start but You Can Lose Them

Pic D'Orhy quickly gained an advantage at the start of the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. Building up a strong lead, jockey Harry Cobden guided him flawlessly over the jumps. He maintained his lead throughout and had plenty left in the tank to secure victory.

Uneasy favourite L'Homme Presse couldn't keep up with the winner over 2m 5f and struggled with his jumping. Despite finishing strongly, he couldn't make up for the early lead given to Pic D'Orhy. However, his performance keeps him on track for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Pic D'Orhy will skip Cheltenham to defend his title in the Marsh Chase at Aintree, a race he won last season.

Wincanton

It was Kingwell Hurdle Day at Wincanton, but gone are the days when it served as final prep for Cheltenham's Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle contenders.

This year's Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle lacked serious Cheltenham Hurdle contenders. Nemean Lion secured victory, always holding off Colonel Mustard after the last. The good pace suited him, and despite the drop back to 1m 7f, his fondness for mud meant it wasn’t an inconvenience. The 7-year-old continues to progress and gained a well-deserved success.

Colonel Mustard put on a better performance back over hurdles. However, he doesn’t find winning easy and never seriously threatened the winner in the closing stages.

Goshen, a dual race winner, looked like he might fade coming into the home turn but managed to plug and secure third place. However, he now requires much longer distances than 2m.

Rubaud set a strong pace in the conditions but faded when challenged two out. The testing ground didn't suit the 6-year-old, who performs better on good ground.

Haydock

Haydock hosted the Grand National Trial in heavy conditions. Despite a steady pace in the mud, it proved to be a significant test of stamina. However, any concerns about Yeah Man coping with the step up to 3m 4f and heavy ground were dispelled as the 7-year-old secured victory for Gavin Cromwell.

My Silver Lining continued her improved form in marathon trips with a strong effort for second place. Taking the lead five out and going well, she was just beaten by a better treated winner.

Iron Bridge performed admirably in third place, showcasing his suitability for the testing ground and the need for distances longer than 3m 4f. A race like the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter would be an ideal fit for him.

Famous Bridge's unseating of his jockey at the 17th was unfortunate, as he was still going well at the time. His potential for marathon distances remains untapped, with his trainer eyeing him as a possible future Aintree Grand National contender. The Scottish Grand National could be a suitable target for the 8-year-old, provided the ground isn't too quick.

Thirty-five minutes earlier, Botox Has once again demonstrated his liking for soft ground and flat, left-handed tracks by winning the Grade 2 Virgin Bet Rendlesham Hurdle. Despite a lacklustre renewal of the race, the winner cruised to an effortless victory.  I have to say the winner's odds of 5/2 looked a bit of a steal.

Sounds Russian made a return to hurdles for the first time since October 2021, having his first run since being brought down in last year's Gold Cup. He wasn't given a hard race and shaped with encouragement for future races. If I were his connections, I would consider bypassing Cheltenham and aiming for the Aintree Bowl over fences.

Monday Preview

I won’t spend much time looking at Monday’s action where the best of the racing is at Carlisle.

Carlisle

4:00 – Jet Legs appears to be a strong contender in the 3m 1f handicap chase. He showed his quality with a tidy victory at Newcastle two starts ago and followed up with a solid second-place finish at Kelso last month. Although he's been nudged up 1lb, the slightly longer distance today should be to his advantage. No But I Will, who had Jet Legs behind him in fourth at Wetherby, will be wearing first-time blinkers and needs to bounce back from a couple of recent poor performances. Keep Wondering, despite struggling for form recently, could be well handicapped if he returns to his previous level of performance.

4:35 – Booster Bob is the standout contender after winning three consecutive races over hurdles, including a Listed Novice Hurdle at Sandown. With two of those victories achieved on heavy ground and the 2m 3f distance likely to suit, Booster Bob is expected to win. Fingal's Hill, a previous winner over the course and distance, poses a threat, particularly on testing ground, but may not have much in hand of the handicapper.

Monday Verdict:

In the 4:00 race, Jet Legs stands out as the probable winner, but I've also contemplated an each-way bet on Keep Wondering at big odds. However, for me to back Keep Wondering, I'd need odds of 33/1 and at least three places.

As for the 4:35 race, while I had some interest in Fingal's Hill returning from a short break, I believe he's unlikely to beat Booster Bob.

If you're new to the column, I hope you enjoyed this recap of Saturday's big race action.

Good luck with your Monday bets.

John

1 thought on “Saturday Racing Recap: Winners, Surprises & Standouts”

  1. Hi John went to ascot sat couldn’t believe how few people there was there for a biggish day and the age group mainly 20 somethings and teenagers not many race goers at all and half the stalls shut is this horse racing in the 21st century and at the business end of the race just loads of screaming

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