Racing on Saturday afternoon features a host of varying formats from flat on both the turf at Musselburgh and polytrack at Kempton, with the added luxury of a fairly intriguing card over the sticks at Haydock, to keep National Hunt enthusiasts glued to the action once more.
I am always quite restricted with my confidence behind a selection at this time of year as it is difficult to gauge what condition exactly many horses are in. On the flat many horses desperately need the run but without having the comfort of being able to see them in the paddock we are guilty as punters of taking a risk by betting early. With the National Hunt scene coming to an end, any horse that is not on his way to Aintree later this week has probably had enough and several running this afternoon at Haydock will quite likely not be in the mood and too tired to race.
The first interest of the day comes from the all weather at Kempton where 14 runners line up to contest the 2.05 Betfred Goals Galore Handicap (London Mile Qualifier) (CLASS 2). There are a brigade of quite useful horses lined up but a fair few have little in hand of the handicapper one would have thought, whilst a few are possibly here to get ready for the flat turf season. One horse that has been tipped up by the leading lights is Fantasy Gladiator who has a decidedly handsome record on the Kempton polytrack having never been outside the FIRST 3 from his six visits.
My feeling though is that as decent as that horse is, and quite rightly he was arguably overpriced initially, his value has now gone and one horse who I feel is more useful is CHAPTER AND VERSE. The booking of the talented Ryan Moore suggests connections of the horse feel there is a chance of this horse landing the spoils this afternoon and I cannot disagree.
Last season was a bit of a nightmare for a horse who was battling a heavy handed rating on the artificial surfaces. Having always been an improved performer on polytrack it does appear the 9lb drop he suffered last year on the surface has made him a potential scorer to win a good race this year.
One piece of form from September 2010 catches the eye when the selection was able to win the final of this series over C&D with an impressive performance. He carried 9st 8lb that day and recorded a time only 0.26 slower than RP standard. He was then able to improve upon that form by finishing a close fourth in a Listed contest here at the end of that season, recording an effort which saw him finish closely behind three horses rated 105, 105 and 108.
A repeat of either of these two efforts from today's mark of 90 will see Chapter And Verse finish with a flourish this afternoon and quite possibly win at rewarding odds of 11-1 (Betfair).
The highlight of the Kempton All Weather card comes in the following race where fillies and mares contest the 2.40 Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes (Listed Race). The betting markets have organised this race into a two horse event with old rivals Law Of The Range and Sooraah set to do battle for the third time. Night Lily is the only alternative I can offer at a price, who I feel is capable of splitting these rivals if putting up a career best effort.
Whilst Law Of The Range has come out on top ahead of her rival Sooraah on both of the previous occasions they have met, finally it seems there is a chance for SOORAAH to turn the tables in this. The selection is not only proven on polytrack but she is also race fit having ran recently in the Winter Derby after a spell in Dubai.
It also has to be noted that this will be the first time Sooraah has had the better jockey on board with Ryan Moore selected to do the steering on this occasion. This could easily boil down as to whether Sooraah is able to negate her outside stall from the start, which is the potential failing of her race from such a short price. However I feel the correct odds of her winning are 7-4 so the 11-4 that is available with Betfred is worth a chunky bet.
Back over at Haydock I have two interests running in high prize money races. The first race I am intrigued by splits the two Kempton races and is the 2.25 Betfair Chase Series Final (CLASS 2). The 2m 6f contest looks the ideal event for ETXALAR to put his best foot forward in, now that he appears at a venue he likes off a mark he is capable of scoring from.
With a willing attitude to racing and with a trainer in Lucina Russell who is in flying form at present, this horse has all the makings of a potential winner of this lucrative prize. The one cautious note has to be given to the fact all the horses career wins have come when fresh and an outing only 20 days ago would have to be considered a negative. However having placed several times following a recent outing I am still willing to give the selection an each way opportunity to score.
My next interest runs in the 2.55 Betfair Series Hurdle Final (CLASS 2) where a large field gather to try and claim the decent £32k prize. The one I take out of the field is a risky proposition but there can be no denying that PRESENTING ACE is not attractively priced at 19-1 on the exchanges.
This horse was kept to the minimum trip prior to his handicap debut where he was stepped up to this 2m 4f distance for a tilt at the Grade 3 prize on offer in a race at Sandown. He was well supported that day but clearly failed to run his race and was turned out quite quickly with cheekpieces tried for an event 11 days ago at Market Rasen. It was a fairly useful effort but he appeared to hang left at times and is now tried on what I see as the most suitable track for him to show his true colours.
Today running left handed, carrying a nice racing weight of 10st 6lb and with first time blinkers applied I see no reason why Presenting Ace cannot be judged a viable alternative at decent odds to some of the more favoured horses in the market.
I finish my compendium of bets off with a hopeful tilt at the final terrestrial televised contest of the day at Musselburgh on the flat turf. The 3.55 Betfred Royal Mile (CLASS 2) looks to be a useful early season flat handicap with all the runners rated 80 or above up to Switzerland's mark of 95.
With a doubt about whether the top weight can show the same level of form on turf as he did when last running on the polytrack it gives us an opportunity to look for value. Shabora is a healthier price but the same difficulties surround that filly as she is once more a recruit to racing that still needs to prove herself on turf.
Reading the descriptions it appears Bronze Angel is quite a sizeable horse and this track can play against those types coming out on top. The sharp bends suit a more speedy type of horse with a less cumbersome frame and it is that rivals half brother GABRIAL who I can see snatching the win here.
He only appeared as a 2yo on three occasions last season where he evidently had speed to win over the minimum trip at both Chester and Beverley. However it was at the latter venue where he seemed to be crying out for further, despite his successful run. There is no doubt that on his final start over 6f at Ascot he was running in company that was too hot and that effort can have a line drawn through it quite easily.
The fact connections though were easily willing to stump up the cash to enter him in a Group 2 however shows the high regard in which he is held. A sharp mile could be the making of him this season now he has matured and there is every chance he could step up and gain some black type before the season is over after he wins here. The 13-2 offered by Bet365 seems a fair price considering his potential.
Enjoy the day!