The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury is the big race on Saturday and along with a 20/1 selection for that, Kevin O’Malley has three other early weekend fancies...
The 1.50pm at Newbury on Saturday is a 3m handicap hurdle, where I am hopeful Colin Tizzard will see fit to step his 6yo Shoal Bay up in trip, because to my eye it looks to be what he is crying out for. On Racing Post Ratings, he has improved with each run this season and his run behind Jolly's Cracked It at Ascot in November suggested he is approaching the form required to land a win off his current mark of 124, which has fallen from 135 since this time last year. Shoal Bay has only won one of his eight hurdle starts but is still only six, he gives the impression further will suit and most of Colin Tizzard’s tend to improve the further they go.
Clan Des Obeaux has the best form and is tempting at odds against in the Grade 2 Denman Chase. All due respect to Native River, he’s done nothing outlandishly wrong this season, but he has regressed in the form ratings since the Gold Cup and needs to show the race hasn’t taken the edge off him. It is a shot in the dark, but in a likely small field, Nicky Henderson may see fit to run recent runaway Cheltenham winner Beware The Bear, who pulverised a half decent field in a good time over the 3m2f trip on New Year’s Day. The 9yo ran to an RPR of 159 and a Topspeed figure of 140 in the process, marking himself down as a major Grand National candidate. But if connections did see fit to have a pop at this valuable prize, their charge would be arriving on the back of a career best and would look a big price at 20/1.
I have a vested interest in Al Dancer winning the Betfair Hurdle, as I fancy him for the Supreme. But he is short enough in the betting, could get beaten here and still be a major contender for an open looking Festival opener. Getaway Trump is a lovely prospect and I also find Countister very interesting here. The horse with a touch of class who could turn a corner with a big run though is Dan Skelton’s 8yo Ch’tibello, available to back at 20/1 in a few places. This horse has been running against the best for several seasons now, but has seen his BHA rating drop from a high of 157 in 2017, to 146 now. The downside in this race is he has to shoulder 11st 9lb against a heap of unexposed horses. The potential upside is, if they turn out to be not that good and he is on a going day, he gets to compete off a very favourable mark given his experience and proven class. Himself and the progressive Midnight Shadow came well clear of the 3rd at Aintree last time out, which was much more like it from the selection, while the drop back to two miles in a fast-paced contest will also suit.
Up in Warwick for the 3.15pm novices handicap chase, I’m really keen on Springtown Lake going close if he takes his chance for Philip Hobbs. This 7yo is an excellent jumper with a willing attitude when on song, which he wasn’t last time out at Kempton when throwing away his chance by jumping out to the left. He is better judged on earlier efforts at Sandown, and first time out at Haydock, though, and looks really nicely handicapped off 141 on Saturday. Warwick is a demanding chase track but I think he can take well to it and at 12/1, he is worth throwing a few quid at on the nose.
You can get in touch with me via email: Kevin.OMalley@GG.CO.UK OR by finding me on Twitter: @KOM_GGRacing
With Cheltenham festival approaching, make sure to look at the Cheltenham 2019 tips provided by our experts.
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