Newbury and Kelso are the chosen venues for our televised entertainment today, with seven races on view.
Most valuable race (just) at the Berkshire track is the Be Wiser Insurance Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 2.40, which has a field of 14, headed by Friend Or Foe at 9-4.
This Paul Nicholls‘ inmate made its stable debut at Taunton in December, winning a Novice Hurdle by not very far and beating not very much. The handicapper has made a guess of 128 for the opening mark, which was just too low to get into the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. Maybe compensation awaits this afternoon, but we think an each way bet on Elysees at 11-2 is the way to go.
Carefully put by for this race afer being beaten just a neck by Quel Destin at Doncaster in December, Alan King gave his charge a spin on the Flat at the end of last month and it should be spot on today.
The other pricey race on the card is the EBF & TBA Mares’ National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Series Final at 3.15 and this is a 6-1 the field, 15 runner contest.
We throw two darts at this, starting with the potential big improver, Sixty’s Belle, which can be backed at 8-1. Also an Alan King horse, this 5-y-o is very lightly raced but sprung to life last time out when a strong finishing second at Huntingdon and may have got in with a generous mark.
Our other selection is the horse which started favourite for this race last year, finishing an honourable sixth. With the novice status carefully preserved, she is back for another go and, with Connor Brace taking off a useful 7lbs, we recommend an each way bet at 12-1 on Oscar Rose.
The other televised race at Newbury is at 2.05, the Insure With Be Wiser Handicap Chase and this can be safely left to the young improver Classic Ben. Back it each way at 9-2, please.
Oop north at Kelso, the first four races are on t’telly, starting with the EBF/TBA Mares’ Novices Chase at 1.50. Just the four runners in this, headed by the ex-Nicky Henderson trained Kupatana at 7-4. NJH finally had enough of this young lady and Messrs Grech & Parkin persuaded Paul Nicholls to have a go and she duly confirmed what a shrewd man Henderson is by going butt over mammary at the second last, when looking sure to win. That makes her recent form figures UF2F, so let’s back her at 7-4 – not.
Even if she stands up, we don’t think she will beat the Jamie Snowden trained Kalahari Queen, who showed the benefit of a minor wind op by beating the horse that had previously beaten Kupatana (keep up).
We rate this horse a strong bet at 9-4.
The valuable Bernhard Lighting Rig Handicap Hurdle at 2.25 has co-favourites of four at 9-2 and with quarter odds available, we recommend backing two of them each way, namely Champagne City and Joke Dancer.
The Liz Adam Memorial Handicap at 3.00 witnesses the latest chapter in the La Reve revival story and, off just 2lbs higher, we see no reason to jump ship. An each way bet at 5-1 is recommended.
Finally (who said ‘Thank God’?) the Paxtons Exclusively Kverneland (No, me neither) Handicap Hurdle at 3.35 is worth a serious look.
Favourite is the Paul Nicholls‘ trained Worthy Farm, which, after its win at Ascot may well be good enough, especially with Lorcan Williams negating almost all of the 7lb rise, so we’ll start with a win bet on this one at 100-30.
With course form always important at this track, we also recommend each way bets on Taxmeifyoucan (16-1) and Arthurs Secret (20-1) in case this race is one for the locals.
As for the combination forecasts – we couldn’t possibly comment.
Elysees 2.40 Newbury 2pts e/w @ 11-2 (6 places William Hill)
Sixty’s Belle 3.15 Newbury 1pt e/w @ 8-1 (5 places PaddyPower)
Oscar Rose 3.15 Newbury 1pt e/w @ 12-1 (5 places PaddyPower)
Classic Ben 2.05 Newbury 2pts e/w @ 9-2
Kalahari Queen 1.50 Kelso 4pts win @ 9-4
Champagne City 2.25 Kelso 1pt e/w @ 9-2
Joke Dancer 2.25 Kelso 2pts e/w @ 9-2
La Reve 3.00 Kelso 1pt e/w @ 5-1
Worthy Farm 3.35 Kelso 4pts win @ 100-30
Taxmeifyoucan 3.35 Kelso 1pt e/w @ 16-1 (4 places SkyBet)
Arthurs Secret 3.35 Kelso 1pt e/w @ 20-1 (4 places SkyBet)