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Matthew Sutcliffe’s Value Pointers and Punts – Saturday, 21st October

GG’s latest recruit Matthew Sutcliffe gives an in-depth look at the horses to take out of last weekends action, before giving his fancies for Saturday’s action.

He’s backing three selections for this weekends action, all on the superb Ascot card. They include one at a big price in the Champions Sprint Stakes, as well as a double-figure fancy for the Balmoral Handicap.

Published: 5.35pm 17th October (Odds correct at time of publication)

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Last Week’s Pointers


2:05 York – GAMEKEEPER (3/15) – Blue Point x Gamilati (Bernadini) – Trainer: John & Thady Gosden

It was gruelling work at York across the weekend after a heavy amount of rainfall, and the 6F sprint to open the card looked like a three mile slog. The race-fit Pilgrim and Elegant Call clearly handled the ground better than most, drawing several lengths clear together, but Gamekeeper’s performance in 3rd was the one to take out of the race. He was wheel spinning early on in the soft ground and had to be kept up to his work, but he was the only other horse to lay a glove on the two in front, with the 4th five lengths behind. That was an eye-catching debut coming well under hands and heels, and there’s surely plenty more to come from him. His dam was 2-2 on the all-weather, so hopefully he’s not kept away for the winter.

2:48 Chepstow – DONNACHA (1/12) – Jet Away x Archdale Ambush (Heron Island) – Trainer: Nigel Hawke

I held Donnacha in high regard after his effort behind the now 133r Crambo last year, and had expected him to go handicapping straight away off a mark of 110 this season. I foolishly disregarded him in the historically competitive novice hurdle at Chepstow, and he won a shade cosier than the neck margin suggests. He sat in second place throughout, and for a novice his jumping was exemplary. Barely touching a twig, he was quick into them, quick away from them, and adjusted his stride whenever he got in too close. He drew several lengths clear up the long Chepstow straight and idled a tad after the last, but David Noonan was always doing enough on him and he wasn’t stopping at the line either. He’s a bold jumper who would improve over a fence in time, but there’s no reason he won’t excel just as much over hurdles and this race has been won by smart sorts recently.

3:15 York – MR MONACO (6/16) – Territories x Alle Stelle (Sea The Stars) – Trainer: Ralph Beckett

Mr Monaco never travelled a any form of fluency on the soft ground, with Rob Hornby constantly urging him along. However, he worked his way well into the race on the wrong side of the track in the finish, despite drifting left under pressure. Ralph Beckett has had several of his 3yos improve for a gelding operation and a trip this season, and I’d be sure Mr Monaco will be another for next season too. Progeny of Territories with Galileo’s influence down the damside tend to provide horses who improve for further, and he’s one to add into the tracker for next year.

3:58 Chepstow – ENDLESS SUPPLY (3/13) – Westerner x Selective Hearing (Flemensfirth) – Trainer: Fergal O’Brien

Sam Thomas has no doubt unleashed a smart mare in Alfie’s Princess, but she had the run of the race up front and I’d suggest Endless Supply learnt a lot more on her hurdles debut than the winner did. Paddy Brennan had her held upon around 20 lengths behind the leader throughout, jumping well but with a slight hesitation at times. She travelled like a dream and made swift headway through the field, firmly on the bridle the whole way until two out, but by then the winner had already flown. She was a tad green under firm pressure, but she came home the quickest of all and was ahead in second a stride after the line. I’d have the thought the winner will be stepping up to stronger company next time out, whereas Fergal’s is likely to go handicapping and she’ll be lightly let in in that sphere.

4:33 Chepstow – SWAFFHAM BULBECK (2/12) – Jeremy x Ballygollogue (Montjeu) – Trainer: Stuart Edmunds

Swaffham Bulbeck couldn’t back up his cosy success last time out, though lost nothing in defeat conceding 31lbs to the runner up who was once rated 21lbs higher. It’s fair to say the winner was chucked in, but the heavy ground won’t have suited Swaffham Bulbeck off top-weight and he’s worth following up on next time out. He ran a god race at Cheltenham this time last year in a conditional jockeys handicap, so we may see him back there, though his winning form tends to come in smaller fields, with eight of his nine victories having eight or fewer runners, so it may be better to wait until he has those conditions before contemplating him for win purposes. 


2:20 Chepstow – STRICTLYADANCER (6/7) – Yeats x Feale Dancer (Supreme Leader) – Trainer: Christian Williams

When the yards runners go off at a price of 50/1, it’s very rare you’ll see them go close, which was the case with Strictlyadancer on Saturday. That said, there was definite promise to take out from the eventual 13L deficit, and the winner won cosily by six lengths. He was held up in rear throughout on ground far softer than ideal from 2lbs out of the handicap, but jumped/travelled well until the pace lifted. He was beaten 14L on seasonal return here last season in a far weaker contest before going on to win three on the spin, and is below his last winning mark so he’s worth minding for next time out with that 637 day layoff behind him. 

3:55 Chepstow – O’CONNELL (3/7) – Westerner x Brixen (Heron Island) – Trainer: Sue Smith

Sue Smith’s string don’t tend to come to hand later on in the season, so it’s worth marking up any of her horses who run close to winning this time of year. Kirkistown P2P winner O’Connell was always going to come into his own over fences and recorded his best performance under rules yet  at Hexham. The Westerner gelding shaped liked needing the run and hung awkwardly on the turn for home, but despite jumping the last fence at the back of the field, rallied on well to grab two places up the short run in and came home strongly. He should be sharper for that behind him, and  I think a mark of 104 underestimates his ability over fences, so will look to back him next time out.

4:15 Chepstow – BLOW YOUR WAD (2/14) – Walk In The Park x Molly’s Mate (Goldmark) – Trainer: Tom Lacey

Blow Your Wad was progressive outside of Grade 1 company last season and returned with a solid 2nd at Chepstow, shaping very much like needing the run. He travelled well and briefly struck the front from the strong travelling Songino, before the race-fit Pyramid Place came over the top of the pair to lead. Despite being headed twice in the running, Blow Your Wad found a second wind and rallied back up for 2nd, suggesting his mark is still fine and he’ll have come on plenty for the run next time out, possibly at Newbury next month where stablemate Tea Clipper went when taking this contest in 2020.

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2:10 Ffos Las – SECRET PLAN (4/18) – Ocovango x Oscar’s Reprieve (Oscar) – Trainer: Evan Williams

Secret Plan is a half brother to the yards Secret Reprieve who had limited experience over hurdles before going handicapping over fences, taking the Welsh National in 2021, and he’s a full brother to a winning chaser over in France for Noel George & Amanda Zetterholm. He caught eye at the weekend, travelling/jumping well throughout though wasn’t persevered with when the pace lifted towards the finish, and smacked of a handicap prospect, most likely over fences. The clue may be in his name, as he’ll likely be allotted a low mark going handicapping and be a different prospect when tackling the larger obstacles. 

4:30 Ffos Las – BALLYMAGEE (3/7) – Kayf Tara x Tenable (Polish Precedent) – Trainer: Robert Llewellyn

Point-To-Point winner Ballymagee has some smart form in that sphere and is yet to translate that to rules, but he is firmly better than an 87r chaser when putting it all together. He’s still quite raw for a 7yo, but he’s a tall, rangy type who jumped and travelled with aplomb at Ffos Las on Sunday,  right up until the 4th last. He made a bad error on landing just after hitting the front, which impacted his momentum and put him on the back foot. He was looked after once that happened, but still rallied back for 3rd when regathering his stride and kept on well. I think he’ll benefit from a step up in trip with some headgear applied, as he jumped right and hung left throughout suggesting he’s not the easiest ride.

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Weekend Punts


1:50 Ascot – British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1)

RUN TO FREEDOM (1pt E/W three places – 25/1 generally)

Hopefully some backed Vadream at 25/1 on the back of last week’s column, but she’s short enough now at 10/1 so it’s worth exploring other avenues. It was disappointing to see Kinross beaten at short odds in the Foret last time out, a race he easily won last year en-route to success in the Sprint Cup, and is worth taking on at the current 2/1 despite his obvious claims. Nearly all of the field here lined up in either the G1 Sprint Stakes at Haydock or the G3 Bengough Stakes last time out which are normally key pointers for this race, and I’m once again putting my faith in Henry Candy’s Run To Freedom, who was a never dangerous 11th in the Sprint Stakes. The selection was 2nd to Kinross at 150/1 in this race last year, and is rated 8lbs higher this time around and will bring a larger amount of experience in Group 1 Sprint’s to put to good use. He was disappointing for me when slowly away at Ascot, though much more like it when 2nd to Shaquille in the July Cup, a short head in front of Kinross. I’d be willing to draw a line through his performance at Haydock from a two month break, as he was beaten well there at the start of the season too, so he’s fairly overpriced on that Newmarket form when you consider he split the two at the top of the market here. He’s unrated on genuine soft ground, however the July Cup was on ‘G/S’ as was this race last year, and there’s soft ground winners in his pedigree. On the topic off pedigree, his sire won the race in 2015, with his half-brother Twilight Son (same connections) in 2nd, so he’s certainly bred for the job and hopefully can go one better this time around.

Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series)

2:25 Ascot – Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1)

SWEET MEMORIES (1pt win – 12/1 generally)

Three year olds have won eight of the last ten renewals of this contest, and John Gosden was responsible for two of those, so I’m sticking with Sweet Memories who was twice a pointer for the column, both after her Chalice Stakes win and Dubai Stakes second. I advised her at 20/1 for this race after the latter, though I do think she’s still worth a bet at 12s especially with the softer ground in her favour. She didn’t seem to take to the quicker ground last time out, but she still ran with plenty of credit and I don’t think we’ve a vintage crop of fillies and mares to overcome. Gosden is responsible for the favourite here, but Free Wind was disappointing in the Arc last time out and will appreciate this easier contest, but she bombed out on heavy ground at Goodwood in August and seems to appreciate a quicker surface.

Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series)

4:25 Ascot – Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) (Class 2)

BLUE FOR YOU (20/1 generally – 1pt E/W five places)

Just one winner of the Balmoral in its last ten renewals wasn’t rated in the 100s, which rules out 21 runners here. While that’s not a concrete means of analysis, it certainly gives a lending hand in narrowing down the possibility of finding the winner. David O’Meara is a master at placing horses for these types of handicaps, and he’s won the race three times in the last ten years, so it may be best to keep onside the 100r Blue For You. The New Approach gelding was a three length winner at York over a mile in July off top-weight, the same handicap that Escobar took off top-weight in 2019 en-route to winning the Balmoral that season. Like Blue For You, Escobar was then winless, including beaten 3L in the Challenge Cup over 7F prior to winning to Balmoral, and Blue For You was beaten 3L there last time, faring the 3rd best of those drawn low. Tudhope jumps back on board now and he was a well fancied runner for this last season off 2lbs higher, so it’ll be no surprise should he bounce back to form just a pound above his facile victory at York. 

Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco)
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Matt Sutcliffe’s Weekend Bets


1.50 Ascot – RUN TO FREEDOM (1pt E/W three places – 25/1 generally)

2.25 Ascot – SWEET MEMORIES (1pt win – 12/1 generally)

4.25 Ascot – BLUE FOR YOU (1pt E/W five places – 20/1 generally)

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Matt Sutcliffe’s tips for Saturday 21st October 2023

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