The two main meetings today have survived everything the Weather Gods have thrown at them, although conditions will be testing, to say the least.
Feature event at Haydock is the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at 3.15, when 13 animals are due to slog it out over nearly three and a quarter miles.
At 6-1 the field, this is apparently very competitive, but there is one really well-handicapped horse lining up which must be backed.
Step forward the headline horse Tintern Theatre, which represents the value each way selection at 6-1. Just 5 runs over fences so far, but this 7-y-o was cantering all over its field in a Cheltenham novice event in December before hurling Tom Bellamy to the ground with a mistake at the 17th. The eventual winner and the second are now rated 149 and 141 respectively, whereas TT was off just 134, so no surprise to see it hardly come off the bridle when winning a handicap at Kempton off an unchanged mark.
Connections must have been fearing the worst after those two runs, but the handicapper, mellowed perhaps by a Christmas brandy or three, has raised it just 4lbs and with Jamie Bargary getting rid of 3 of those, if handling the Haydock Heavy, this is something to bet on.
Just in case it doesn’t, we also recommend a bet on Sue Smith’s runner Hainan, at 13-2. Also a 7-y-o, this horse outstayed the opposition on heavy ground on this course last time out and will be staying on when most will have had enough.
Can’t leave the Haddock meeting without recommending a win bet on Apollo Creed in the 4.15 at a prevailing 3-1. Just 2 runs over hurdles, winning the latest over 3m on Ffos Las ‘heavy’, this Evan Williams’s trained 6-y-o has been given an opening mark of just 119 and has been underestimated. We make this a rock(y) solid bet. (‘groan’)
Over at Ascot, there are two feature handicaps and we start with a look at the Ascot Spring Garden Show Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle at 2.25.
Joint favourite for this race at 4-1 is the enigmatic (polite word for nutcase) Jenkins, which was apparently rejuvenated by blinkers when finally winning last time out and has been hit with an 11lb rise for its trouble. Even with Wonderboy up top, we wouldn’t touch this one with a very long barge pole.
Our two against the field are Crossed My Mind and Oxwich Bay, available at the similar price and our advice is an e/w bet on each, at ¼ odds (first 3).
Both have the assistance of up-and-coming apprentices and both are well handicapped. We expect them to fight out the finish.
The bet365 Handicap Chase at 3.00 has been decimated by non-runners, all citing reasons other than going and just 6 now go to post.
Fortunately, our selection is one of them and we make no apologies for again recommending Guitar Pete, this time at 3-1.
Comfortable winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (9-1) when recommended here a month ago, the 5lb hike in rating may not be enough to prevent a follow up victory – remember this horse was rated 154 over hurdles when trained in Ireland and runs off 139 this afternoon. Now that Ryan Day has been knocked out of the Masters Snooker, he can concentrate fully on steering GP home.
We would be remiss not to mention the Royal Salute Whisky Clarence House Chase at 3.35, which is the richest race of the day, but with Un De Sceaux trading at 2-5, this is a no bet race and we absolutely refuse to join the rest of the media in making bad puns about the favourite’s name. (‘Sceaux Special’, ‘Sceaux Much better’ etc, etc)
Rant over – enjoy the day.
Tintern Theatre 3.15 Haydock e/w @ 6-1 (4 places)
Hainan 3.15 Haydock e/w @ 13-2 (4 places)
Apollo Creed 4.15 Haydock win @ 3-1
Crossed My Mind 2.25 Ascot e/w @ 4-1 (3 places)
Oxwich Bay 2.25 Ascot e/w @ 4-1 (3 places)
Guitar Pete 3.00 Ascot win @ 3-1