There is a plethora of meetings this weekend including of course a few re-arranged races with a number of star names on show. The weather is set to be unseasonably fair so get your daily exercise walk to the off licence in nice and early then settle down with a drop of your favourite brew in front of the TV for horse racing galore. As well as Sky Racing and Racing UK, ITV Racing broadcast on Saturday and Sunday with races from Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton on ITV Saturday plus Newbury, Market Rasen and Navan on ITV4 Sunday.
My fancies for the weekend with the best early prices as a guide follow.
Best bets for the Horse racing from Ascot Saturday 20th February
It is a very competitive card in Berkshire with some real puzzles for punters to try and solve. Race of the day, class wise at least, is the 2m5f Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase at 3.35. Just the five line-up and in theory winner of the race in 2019 Cyrname, rated fully 13lb at least above the rest, should win hard held. The same could have been said last year though but he fell when odds-on, and he was of course pulled-up last time in the King George VI Chase. He is too short for my liking and I am planning on watching the race rather than betting.
I am taking a chance on one though in the opener at 1.15 the Greatbritishstallionshowcase.Co.UK Novices' Hurdle over 2m3½f. Gallyhill will be jolly having won at Newbury last month on his debut under rules. He showed some fighting spirit but did not win like an odds-on shot should. The Olympian had just the three runs on the Turf, two seconds and finally a win, in what turned out a fair maiden back in the summer of 2018, getting-up late over 1m2f at HQ. Purchased by J P McManus in September 2019 he stayed in training with Alan King and makes his debut over obstacles here rather than going to Newbury Sunday. This looks the tougher of the two entries he had this weekend which suggests connections think the chestnut gelding has something about him. At around 15-2 he is worth a speculative punt.
Best bets for the Horse racing from Lingfield Park Saturday 20th February
Anybody that knows me won’t be surprised that there are bets to be had at Lingfield on the All-Weather.
The first race I have an interest in is the 12.15 the 1m4f Betway Handicap. Cardano won over track and trip last time, first run here, and the 4lb rise in the ratings might not stop him just yet. Prominent style of running no bad thing here, stall one gives Richard Kingscote the ideal opportunity to get him at the pointed end from the off and I think the five-year-old will have too much in the tank for this field. It will require a career best effort but they have may have found his perfect trip and surface on the Polytrack; 3-1 is the best early.
My other fancy at Lingfield runs in the 1.26 the one-mile Get Your Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boost Novice Stakes. Silent Film couldn't live with his fancied stablemate on debut at Kempton last month but despite greenness ran on into a clear second and the chestnut gelding has a great opportunity to get off the mark at the second attempt here. Adam Kirby being in the saddle is seen as a plus and at 2-1should be backed.
Best bets for the Horse racing from Newbury Sunday 21st February
At 2.25 in the 2m7f Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase my old mate Clan Des Obeaux looks a solid option. I am a big fan, admittedly resigned to the fact he won’t win a Gold Cup now, and I wouldn’t be taking him on over this lovely flat galloping track; he won here over hurdles and as a Novice Chaser in his previous two visits. A shade odds-on since Thursday I couldn’t resist and took a bit of the 10-11 on Friday afternoon. I am a fan of Kalashnikov and he can grab a place but I think this is a couple of furlongs too far for him ideally whilst Lostintranslation has something to prove at the moment for me and there is no reason to think he can turn around recent form with the selection - half the track behind in the Betfair Chase and pulled-up in the King George.
Champ now runs in the two-mile Grade Two Betfair Game Spirit Chase at 3.00. He hasn’t run over this short a distance since his Bumper days in 2017 and it does look little more than a public gallop to get him straight for the Festival. I have resisted the urge to back him as surely the two-milers will have too much speed for him and simply hope all goes well with Cheltenham in mind as I am on for the Gold Cup ante-post. Nicky Henderson explained the change in plan earlier this week "He hasn't run for a year so we could be in danger that three miles may be slightly too far for his first run of the season. He is a fresh horse and can be quite free in his races so it would be harder to curtail enthusiasm and you're never going to take as much out over two miles as you are over three. He could be keen and do too much, so in the interest of the Gold Cup being his ultimate goal it is preferable to run over a shorter distance which could stop him having a harder race than necessary and also help eliminate the risk of the bounce factor. He was a very useful horse over two and a half miles last season and I think that the Game Spirit could suit him well, both in the short term and the long term." All being well he will come through unscathed, blow away the cobwebs, and it’s on to the Gold Cup.Be lucky