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Saturday bets bets and tips

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Our columnist has her bets from Saturday’s meetings at Southwell, Newcastle and Kempton.

As I sit here early on Friday morning it feels like it’s never going to stop raining. Sunday’s visit to Fontwell has already been scrapped as the meeting failed an inspection on Thursday and we are keeping everything crossed that the remaining turf fixtures haven’t had such a deluge. I wonder if in the distant future racing will be entirely on artificial surfaces. It could well head that way, albeit not in our lifetimes hopefully.

Speaking of artificial surfaces, this year the Group Three BetUK Winter Derby has been relocated to Southwell and I think that will turn out to be a positive move. It’s a wonderful track and the configuration gets plenty of praise and it fully deserves a race of this calibre. As a result, this year’s renewal has attracted some smart horses.

Not to say they wouldn’t have rocked up at Lingfield because ante-post favourite Lord North is back in this race having beaten reopposing Tyrrhenian Sea 12 months ago, and Military Order is one from one at Lingfield, but Eydon is an intriguing runner for Andrew Balding, and Royal Ascot winner Claymore has just his second start on the all-weather with his only other try coming at the Nottinghamshire track in the Winter Derby Trial last month.

So, a strong line-up for the race but the fact of the matter is that Lord North is rated far superior to his rivals and the weights are skewed massively in his favour. He’s Sky Bet’s 6/4 favourite and rightly so. The opponent that intrigues me most is Eydon. He’s 5/1 to win on his first start since finishing fourth behind Coroeobus in the 2022 2000 Guineas.

That’s not enough of a temptation but I can’t wait to see how he fares on his first start for the Kingsclere trainer having been switched from Roger Varian. It’s an important day for Kevin Stott too as he gets called up for the ride. He’s only had four spins for Balding in the past with no winners coming from that quartet, so this could be an important horse for him this year. Eydon steps up to this 1m 3f trip for the first time, but I don’t expect that to be a problem given his pedigree. The sire has produced some stout stayers, and the dam is a daughter of Frankel, himself an influence for stamina.

The meeting starts with a flourish as the first race is the BetUK Hever Sprint Stakes, a listed race over five furlongs. On ratings even money favourite Clarendon House should win this as he gets weight from his closest market rival Diligent Harry. Clarendon House is rated 4lbs superior to 3/1 second favourite Diligent Harry, yet he gets 3lbs from him owing to the latter winning the listed Kachy Stakes at Lingfield earlier this month and therefore picking up a penalty. However, Clive Cox has his team in superb form and Diligent Harry thrives on an artificial surface and at 3/1 with Sky Bet, he’ll do for me.

Elsewhere, we have the Betting.Bet Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle and Sandy Thomson is a trainer to have on side here with his horses running out of their skins currently. He’s operating at a 31% strike rate, so his runner Flower of Scotland makes my shortlist, but not purely on that basis. The mare is proven over a similar trip having won the Borders National at Kelso in December 2022, and she’s only had three runs since then. That includes her first start for almost eight months when she returned to action at Carlisle back in November. She failed to sparkle that day but she’s stepping back up to this trip, on ground that shouldn’t worry her, and with 10 stone 8 lbs to carry she has a handy weight for this type of race. There’s lots to like. She’s a 7/1 shot with Sky Bet, with the firm paying five places.

Over at Kempton I like the look of Sea Invasion in the Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle, he’s a 5/1 shot, and with Sky Bet offering money back as cash if you’re 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, I’ll be all in on him. He moves into handicap company for the first time and steps up in trip, which should suit as he has a stamina laden pedigree and showed up well in a point to point over three-miles The winner of that Irish point has gone on to graded success and this lad looks a likely improver himself. He’s trained by Chris Gordon who has hit top form recently and with just 10 stone 2lbs on his back I hope he runs very well.

There’s a competitive handicap chase on the card, the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase, over three-miles. With £150,000 on offer it’s a hot little race with the weights headed jointly by Sam Brown and Al Dancer. The weight may be a bridge too far for the Anthony Honeyball trained Sam Brown in the veteran stage of his career, and Sam Thomas has chosen to put claimer Dylan Johnston on Al Dancer to take 5lbs off his back. Honeyball also saddles Forward Plan in the race, and he has put up Ben Godfrey who claims 3lbs off his back.

That makes him very attractively weighted and at 6/1 he looks one to keep on side. However, that comes with a caveat as I’m not sure the ground will be ideal for him. At the time of writing, it’s described as soft, heavy in places, and that tempers my enthusiasm a little. He ran a stormer to be a close second in the Great Yorkshire Chase last time out and comes here in top form. The ground won’t be an issue for Bowtogreatness and if confidence is required for victory, then trainer Ben Pauling and jockey Ben Jones won’t be lacking any of that. The eight year old is still a novice as he hasn’t won in eight starts over fences, but he’s run well off a similar handicap mark in the past and he could well break his chasing duck here. He’s 7/1 with Sky Bet.


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