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Matthew Sutcliffe’s Value Pointers and Punts – Saturday, 23rd December

Matthew Sutcliffe guides us through the horses to take out of last weekend’s action, before giving his value bets to back in this weekend’s racing.

Matt continues to be in superb form this season and he tipped up Fugitif in last week’s column as that star battled to glory in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham and gives us three tips for the action at Ascot on Saturday afternoon.

Published: 11:00am 19th December (Odds correct at time of publication)

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Last Week’s Pointers

11:25 Doncaster Homme D’Un Soir (3/14) – Hurricane Cat x Country Girl (Country Reel) – Trainer: Billy Aprahamian.

A year spent with at Station Yard with Charlie and Francesca Poste seemed to have proved a treat for Homme D’Un Soir, who could well be a very well handicapped horse for his new trainer Billy Aprahamian. The ex Simon Munir & Isaac Suede owned gelding bounced back to form on Friday with a good third behind the Paul Nicholls-trained favourite Rare Middleton, making the running off top-weight. He was rated 138 at his peak for Stuart Crawford just a couple of years ago so with that promising run under his belt, he’s worth keeping an eye on next time out, perhaps up in trip.

12:30 Doncaster Urban Soldier (3/7) – Soldier Of Fortune x She’s No Pet (Arcadio) – Trainer: Harry Derham.

Harry Derham is often in the winners’ enclosure with an ex Paul Nicholls inmate and Urban Soldier showed enough at Doncaster on handicap debut to suggest his turn won’t be too far away. He was let down by his jumping but given he stands at a fairly large 17hh, his future lies over the larger obstacles and is potentially well handicapped off 103 given he split 130r and 117r rivals on hurdles debut just four starts ago.

12:40 Cheltenham Grey Dawning (2/6) – Flemensfirth x Lady Wagtail (Milan) – Trainer: Dan Skelton.

Harry Skelton wasn’t as aggressive as he previously was on Grey Dawning when he beat Gaillard Du Mesnil at Haydock last month, which probably hindered this novice chaser who lost all hope when clattering two out just after mounting a challenge. He still split some smart rivals giving them 3lbs and the manner in which he regathered his stride to stay on strongly suggests we won’t see the best of this scopey grey until he’s over three miles, possibly in the G2 Hampton Novices’ Chase in January that the yard won last season.

1:15 Cheltenham In This World (5dht/12) – Saint Des Saints x Maia Royale (Muhtathir) – Trainer: Dan Skelton.

The SP and jockeys bookings likely sealed the fate of how In This World would run in a competitive renewal of the Catesby Estates Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday, but there was plenty of promise to suggest he has a good race in him off a mark of 120. He was short of room on the turn for home while the front five were able to stride on, who all jumped the last in a line. In This World was five lengths down at the last, but switched left and came home strongly to be beaten just over two lengths, suggesting a step up in trip could suit.

3:25 Cheltenham Hermino AA (3/10) – Sinndar x Acqua Łuną (Libourne) – Trainer: Gary Moore.

Novice chasing was a bust for Hermino AA in his last two starts, but he returned to form with a staying on 3rd behind Pertemps bound White Rhino and last year’s Coral Cup fifth Bold Endeavour. Niall Houlihan never really got him involved from the rear with the front pair always being prominent, giving the impression that there may be another pot in mind for him. He’s well handicapped back in this sphere off 129 given he was a length behind Howlingmadmurdock in receipt of a pound in March, with that one now a mid 140s animal with a facile victory at Carlisle on Sunday. A drop in trip could suit Hermino AA, and I’d be keen on backing him for the Lanzarote if connections send him there, particularly if it comes up soft.

Saturday 12:05 Cheltenham Balboa (2/7) – Mondialiste x Reachforthestars (Sea The Stars) – Trainer: Anthony Charlton.

Balboa was my first national hunt pointer for this column after his second to subsequent listed runner top Max Of Stars in September, and he filled that spot again behind the smart An Braden Feasa who played second fiddle to leading Triumph hope Burdett Road last time out. Balboa ran on well having initially been outpaced three out, but stuck on gamely to be beaten just four lengths and he should make his mark pay in juvenile handicaps soon enough.

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12:25 Hereford Handstands (1/14) – Getaway x Wattle Bridge (King’s Theatre) – Trainer: Ben Pauling.

In the midst of Cheltenham, you may have missed a smart performance by the aptly named Handstands at Hereford, who won by doing as his namesake suggests. The imposing son of Getaway comfortably turned over the 10/11 favourite who wasn’t beaten far in the G2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle prior to that, but couldn’t match the kick of Handstands this time. Ben Pauling won this race in 2020 with Optimise Prime who followed up in the Sidney Banks next time out, and I’d imagine that will be the target for Handstands who visually could be a very smart type for the yard.

1:15 Cheltenham Funambule Sivola (3/7) – Noroit x Little Memories (Montjeu) – Trainer: Venetia Williams.

The race looked destined for a closer finish when Funambule Sivola, Calico and Prince Escalus cut each others throats up front, and that trio eventually gave way to Madara and In Excelsios Deo two out with the former getting the better of the latter. Funambule Sivola fared best of those who forced the quick early gallop and wasn’t given a hard time up the straight by Charlie Deutsch once his chance had gone, though did keep on all the way to the line giving 17lbs and 20lbs to the two in front. While he may be feeling the effects of being exclusively (bar two races) campaigned in Graded contests since April 2021, his lowering mark is tilting him into a very well handicapped horse on the basis of his back-class, and he can pick up a competitive premier handicap soon enough, or perhaps the Grand Annual in March.

1:35 Hereford Call Me Lord (1/5) – Slickly x Sosa (Cape Cross) -Trainer: Nicky Henderson.

The sharp nature of Hereford can favour those slick jumpers from the front and that was the case on Saturday, where the description of the winners read ‘Disputed lead’, ‘prominent’, ‘in touch with leaders’, ‘in rear’, ‘made all’, ‘made virtually all’, ‘made all’. The obviously anomaly came in the 1:35 won by the ten-year-old Call me Lord off top-weight, whose performance can be upgraded on the basis of his initial track position throughout. Despite being around 25L behind the leaders on the turn for home and off the bridle throughout, he stuck on gamely and capitalised on the drop in grade and despite the inevitable rise from the handicapper, he’d be interesting if given another shot in the G3 Pertemps Qualifier at Sandown in February that he was second in last season.

3:35 Cheltenham Ilovethenightlife (5/10) – Walk In The Park x Belle De Londres (King’s Theatre) – Trainer: Joe Tizzard.

Ilovethenigthlife was outpaced throughout the contest in the last at Cheltenham on Saturday but despite being several lengths off the leaders on the turn for home and hampered by a loose horse, she flew into top gear and rattled home for a four lengths fifth, clocking the quickest overall last four furlongs. The Tizzard’s are in poor form (1/24) so any of theirs that run well are to be noted, and she’ll be of interest next time out, particularly if up in trip.

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Weekend Punts

There’s some top notch National Hunt action at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday afternoon and there are some that have caught my eye and are worth backing.


15:00 Ascot Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)

VICTTORINO 13/2 1pt WIN + LARRY 16/1 (generally) 0.5pt EW (3 places)

Blackjack Magic was a welcome winner for us last time out in the Badger Beers and has been well found at the top of the market at this stage, but at 3/1 he makes little appeal from a value perspective and I’m keen to take him on with Victtorino, who was a pointer for the column when landing the Sodexo Gold Cup over course and distance in November, and Larry for the Gary Moore yard, who gave us a lovely winner with Le Patron two weeks back.
I’ll begin with Victtorino who was seriously impressive at the beginning of last month when taking the G3 57k Sodexo Gold Cup by a cosy six lengths. I noted after he won that he reminded me of L’Homme Presse (who won the Graduation Chase on this card in 2021), in the sense that he’s a quick, low jumper who travels with plenty of zest. Despite being keen and wide throughout, and briefly headed by a few just before the turn for home after pulling his way into third, he caught the eye always travelling strongly and jumped three out nearly in front, taking the lead on the turn for home. He was the last off the bridle while all the others were hard at work and won with any amount in hand. I’m shocked he was only given a 4lbs rise for that success and the form has worked out in places with the 5th (Beauport) beaten just over a length in the London National next time out, and the third (Eldorado Allen) subsequently finishing a gallant 4th in the G3 Coral Gold Cup. That was his first run over fences on these shores and he became the only five year old to win the race so his effort can be marked up. Venetia Williams won that race with Houblon Des Obleaux in 2013, who subsequently took the Silver Cup, so it’s no surprise that they come here with Victtorino in a bid to repeat that feat who I believe could make up into a Grade One chaser in time.
If my initial thoughts regarding the ability off Victtorino are too ambitious, then the winner of this contest could come with an outsider in the form of Larry, who coincidentally was withdrawn at the start of the Sodexo on Vets advice. Now, you’d have to go all the way back to 1973 to find the last ten-year-old winner of this contest, although course specialist Regal Encore won it as an eleven-year-old in 2019, so I’m not too concerned about the age trend. While Larry will undoubtedly have to improve for his 4th in Veterans company last time out, I don’t think this is the deepest of renewals given nine of the last eleven winners were rated 142+, which is what the top-weight (Victtorino) will carry in here if declared. Larry shaped as if needing the run last time out, having made good headway into second jumping the second last, before weakening up the straight. Prior to that, he was beaten six lengths by Two For Gold over C&D in April off a 3lbs higher mark, which would suggest he doesn’t have much at all to find with Victtorino on collateral form. It often pays to follow those with course form in this contest, and Larry’s record here reads 4013513, with both of his C&D wins coming off just a pound higher including the G3 London Gold Cup in 2021.

Howden Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race)

3:35 Ascot Betfair Exchange Trophy (A Handicap Hurdle) (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)

LOOKAWAY 8/1 (generally, 10/1 William Hill) 1pt EW 4 places

Neil King’s improving son of Ask featured in my GG Top Ten To Follow at the start of the National Hunt season and although I misjudged the suggestion of him going chasing this year, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with his progress over hurdles and he can still fare better than a mark of 136 this weekend. He made a winning seasonal debut when making all in the G2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in October, beating the subsequent G2 Newton Novices’ winner Kamsinas by two lengths. He was then sent off at 12/1 in a highly competitive renewal of the Greatwood last month, again making all and only just being collared in the last half furlong by Iberico Lord, who tops the market (current time of writing) for this contest at 7/2. While Iberico Lord no doubt has the potential to be a classy animal himself, he benefitted from the slight keenness of Lookaway and was able to pick him off after he set a good gallop. I’m struggling to see how Lookaway is priced up a few points higher than Iberico Lord as I’ve no doubt he’ll be able to reverse that form with a 4lbs swing in the weights for a 2 1/2L gap. As he does have a tendency to be keen, the likelihood of him taking a lead will suit this time and going right handed shouldn’t be an issue given he edged that way up the straight last time out, and won his P2P that way around at Kilderry. I’m hoping our fingers aren’t burnt before the off as connections spoke about the old Tolworth as a potential next step for Lookaway, but given this contest is more valuable in terms of prize money, I’m hoping they see sense and utilise his lenient mark of 136 in here, especially given the forecast suggests we may have his favourable good ground come Saturday.

Betfair Exchange Trophy (A Handicap Hurdle) (Premier Handicap) (GBB Race)

1:30 Haydock Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (4YO+)

BURROWS DIAMOND 14/1 (generally) 1pt EW 3 places

Firstly, I wouldn’t call this a vintage renewal of the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase.  For all he’s probably the right favourite in that he’s a progressive young  stayer, I thought Famous Bridge was a tad flattered last time out as Eleanor  Bob had set a good gallop up top, and was entitled to retreat to the field given  she’d been off for 626 days prior. Eleanor Bob would be interesting off the  back of that, but the bounce factor is a concern and she’s 0-15 outside of  mares company. Credo has a 3lbs swing in the weights with Famous Bridge  on that run and Sam Twiston-Davies retains the partnership, but she seemed  to be all out there and I’d be surprised should she win this off a career high  mark. Enqarde should prove popular as the last winner of this contest, and he  bounced back to form last time out with a head win, rising to just a pound  below that win in 2021. However, he was all out there and the 2nd has been  beaten 26L since behind Famous Bridge, and the 3rd was beaten 33L next  time out too. Top-weight Bill Baxter is yet to win over three miles (0-3) and  although he’ll enjoy the soft/heavy conditions, I’d be concerned about him  truly staying this trip especially carrying tops. The Grand Sefton has found  winners of this race in recent years so Coopers Cross would be feared, but  he’s often been kept to better ground (wins on gd, gs, gs, gd) so this will likely  prove too soft for him. Dr Kananga is a horse I like a lot, but I’d have  preferred him to have had a run prior to this and its rare you see one taking  this on seasonal reappearance (0/10). Conkwell Legend is potentially a  spanner in the works as for all he’s 0-3 over fences and beaten 33L/34L the  last twice, they were won by some smart, graded novices. 

With all that in mind, the one I’ve sided with is Burrows Diamond for the in form Sue Smith. While backing a mare in this contest wouldn’t be an obvious  angle, 30% of the field are mares with the least negatives about them so  there’s a chance a winner comes from one. Burrows Diamond has a 50% win/ place rate over fences and saves her best form over the larger obstacles for  this time of year, with her form figures in Decemebr-January reading 221114.  She impressed me last time out in listed company at Aintree when travelling  well upsides the well backed favourite Zambella two out, thoughts entitled to  be left behind by her given she was likely laid out for the contest (won the  previous two renewals) and was 6lbs better of at the weight with Burrows  Diamond. Burrows Diamond took her record in listed company to 0-4 there  but and while I was slightly concerned about whether that gruelling ground  might have left a mark on her for this race, the two in behind have both won  since, including one in listed company. She’s a winner over three miles on 

soft ground at Wetherby so the trip shouldn’t be an issue, and she wasn’t  disgraced (131 RPR) first time up this season in the Edinburgh Gin Chase at  Kelso when a 14L third to Elvis Mail, with subsequent Peter Marsh 3rd behind  her. Smith is 8-3-2 (£12.88+) with Scholfield this season and can hopefully  record her first win in this contest since Chives in 2004.

Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (GBB Race)

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Matt Sutcliffe’s Weekend Bets


3.00 Ascot – VICTTORINO (1pt win – 13/2 generally)

3.00 Ascot – LARRY (0.5 ew – 16/1 generally)

3.35 Ascot – LOOKAWAY (1pt ew – 10/1 William Hill, 8/1 generally)

1.30 Haydock – BURROWS DIAMOND (1pt ew – 14/1 generally)

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