No early-closing races on a relatively low-key weekend means bookmakers and punters are starting from scratch on Saturday.

What the racing lacks for in quality – there are only seven entries for the Grade 2 chase at Kempton, and the same number for the similar level of race in the novices’ chase at Warwick – ITV are certainly making up for in quantity as they are set to broadcast nine races from those tracks, but selectivity is surely the key on such a weekend.

Well, that was the plan before I started to look, anyway. All nine are priced up on the Betfair Sportsbook.

On a side point, I was again wondering should the sport consider scrapping races that don’t meet a certain threshold of entries at the five-day stage, for all it would obviously penalise connections of those set to run?

That Kempton race is worth £80k, and the Warwick contest £55k, and the tracks and sponsors deserve better.

Of course, it could be the simple fact that we don’t have the horses to service these races – too many entries at the five-day stage aren’t even surpassing maximum field overnight levels, and the numbers aren’t bolstered by Irish entries in the Graded races this week – but I suppose that is a separate argument altogether.

And an altogether more depressing one.

Champagne of interest for in-form yard

I am going to take in all nine ITV races here, albeit in varying detail and depth, and I will start with Kempton – by the way, it is currently soft here but I am working on the basis of good to soft on Saturday such is the predominantly dry forecast (it is currently soft, good to soft in places) – where the 2m4f110yd handicap chase at 1.32pm kicks off terrestrial proceedings.

Six of the 16 have other weekend entries, so that rules out Across The Bay, Barbados Blue, Frenchy Du Large, Hollywoodien, Mac Tottie and last year’s winner Smarty Wild for punting purposes at this stage. And a few of those are very prominent in the market.

And, as with a few Irish handicap entrants this weekend, it could be that Gordon Elliott’s Glenloe has been put in here to see what mark the UK assessor gives him. So be careful on the Irish front, ante-post.

Champagne Court interested me most in here at 8/1, having been in good form over hurdles, and he went up 4lb for his Exeter win last time.

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That still makes him competitively weighted on his return to fences off a mark of 130 – he was rated 143 at his peak in 2020 – and I see Lorcan Williams is already jocked up. And, of course, the Jeremy Scott yard is in very good form.

I will leave the seven-runner Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at 2.05pm with you, but one thing is for certain and that is upping the prize money from £60k to £80k this year has not worked out.

I vehemently disagree with this top-end approach from the sport and sponsors, when the lower tiers are struggling to make ends meet, especially when we plainly don’t have the quality horse numbers to support these races.

It is a highbrow, short-sighted, tone deaf, bad look.

One final word on the race, though. It sounds as if Scott has not ruled out Dashel Drasher, a 3/1 chance, of running at Lingfield a week on Saturday, instead of coming here, so bear that in mind. And Paul Nicholls reported on Tuesday morning that Master Tommytucker will be doing just that, so don’t back him.

Play the waiting game in Lanzarote Hurdle

Whether or not upping the Lanzarote Hurdle to £100k is responsible for the very healthy 31 entries I am not sure, but if can’t have harmed – the winner only got shy of £16k last year – and, in any case, it gives the smaller trainers and owners a shot at a good prize, so I am all for it.

Just five of the 31 have alternative engagements (Brief Times, Cabot Cliffs, Cobblers Dream, Gelino Bello and U For Parol) so I am not sure there is much to be had for getting involved now, given we are likely to hit a maximum field of 20 on Saturday and that will bring with enhanced place terms and perhaps more competitive prices.

The three that I took against the field at this stage are Ch’tibello (16/1), Dans Le Vent (14s) and Green Book (8s), but I will hold fire.

It really is a ridiculously competitive-looking handicap, so I want all the facts in my possession before tipping after the decs on Thursday.

The Emmet Mullins pair of Rightplacerightime and Winter Fog head the betting at 5s and 6s respectively, but will they both come? I am not so sure.

Boy and Phil look interesting

The 3m handicap chase at 3:15pm has attracted 17 entries and five of those could race elsewhere this weekend. These are Ami Desbois, Mac Tottie, Mister Whitaker, Mr Muldoon and Smarty Wild.

Despite this, Smarty Wild (5/1) and Mister Whitaker (11/2) are towards the top of the betting and, with Elliott’s Braeside (6s), fellow Irish entry Enjoy D’Allen (6s) and Demachine (8s) all prominent , too – the latter unseated at the first at Ludlow on Monday – also far from sure to run, I reckon this race has the potential to cut up a lot.

I am not sure he is going to run but I think the Sportsbook’s 8/1 about Caribean Boy looks a touch too big to me, with the above in mind.

He is another horse who didn’t get past the first last time, as I know to my cost as I backed him at Ascot, but he is very well handicapped off 145 if he can put it altogether. That Newbury defeat of Fiddlerontheroof was back in November 2020 though, and his CV is becoming patchier by the run.

A Toi Phil ran a bit better than the handicapper would have you believe on his return over 2m4f at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, so I think the assessor dropping him 6lb to a mark of 130 in one fell swoop is very hasty, and the 12yo did look ready for a step up to this 3m last time.

The initial 25s with the Sportsbook didn’t last beyond Thursday morning though, so I can take another watching brief, especially given his lightly-raced profile, which means he declines more engagements than he takes up.

No interest yet in first three ITV races at Warwick

The following are double entered in the following ITV races at Warwick, and I hope you appreciate this double-entry watch for both meetings as I do these manually and they take me ages!. Mind you, I didn’t have the weekend decs in Ireland when I made this list (or for those at Kempton, too, obviously).

1:18pm: Destined To Shine, Hollywoodien, Tokey Dokey.
1:50pm: Corach Rambler.
2:25pm: Brief Times, Charles Ritz. Gelino Bello, Gentlemen At Arms, Mr Fred Rogers, Picanha, Raffle Ticket, Viva Lavilla
3:00pm: Big River, Corach Rambler.
3:35pm: Mr Fred Rogers.

Right, that is the housekeeping out of the way, so do any of the races interest me from a betting point of view?

There is a real dearth of quality 2m chasers in this country and we have another valuable handicap over this trip attracting just eight entries in the 1.18pm at Warwick, and three of those (Destined To Shine, Hollywoodien and Tokey Dokey) are entered elsewhere, while Sky Pirate could wait for the Clarence House next Saturday. Make of that what you will.

As stated above, there are just seven in the Grade 2 novices’ chase at 1.50pm, and the most important point to make here is that the 5/2 second favourite Corach Rambler is also an 11/2 chance for the 3m5f handicap chase later in the card.

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A whopping seven are double-entered in the 14-strong Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at 2.25pm, but I don’t have anything helpful to say on this race, given it is full of unexposed winners with little to separate them form-wise and on the clock.

I should touch upon the ground at Warwick. A dry week is forecast, but I think the current description of soft is unlikely to change much, if at all.

Not a chance of an early bet in the Classic Chase

There 3m5f Classic Chase at 3pm can handle a maximum field of 20, so it is disappointing to see just 18 five-day entries for such a valuable race, though only two could run elsewhere.

They are Lucinda Russell’s pair of Corach Rambler and Big River, and the former made a big impression at Cheltenham last time, but not least on the handicapper who upped him 8lb for the 2-length win. He was dossing though, so he was value for much more, but 8lb was probably the most he could have got. He got improver stamped all over him though, and to be feared wherever he rocks up.

I like all three at the top of the market, but not necessarily their prices – these are Gericault Roque (short enough at 4s), Corach Ramber and Commodore – and the same applies to Notachance at 9/1.

I was hoping for a lot bigger price about last year’s winner (Notachance), after a couple of modest efforts this season, but I suppose Alan King (in his excellent Weekender column) has made no secret this race has been the plan for a while and he has somehow got him here on the same mark as for last season’s ½ length defeat of Achille.

However, the other thing that slightly puts me off at 9s is the fact that King has been winless for a while, going into Tuesday’s racing, and his horses could be running better, though against that he has had plenty placed and knocking on the door, so maybe that is something and nothing.

No, this is another race where I didn’t find a bet. It would be easy for me to stick up Notachance each-way at an industry-best 9/1 with the Sportsbook, but I am not betting myself, so I simply won’t tip him.

Risk attached to backing Elliott entries

Gordon Elliott is responsible for nine of the 19 entries, and Ronan McNally two, in the Pertemps Qualifier at 3:35pm, so the layers are brave in pricing this one up.

The Sportsbook make Ardhill their 11/4 favourite but backing any of the Elliott horses ante-post clearly comes with a massive risk attached.

That’s me done, then.

I make no apologies for not putting up a bet here, as I am not punting myself – Champagne Court and Caribean Boy came closest – and responsible gambling and tipping is all about being true to yourself and others, and not just using it a throwaway tick-box line.

Anyway, I am off before I got even more nauseatingly pious!

Go well, and back later in the week after the final decs.





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