Neil Morrice brings us all of his best bets and tips for Saturday’s racing coming your way from Sandown Park, Musselburgh, Lingfield Park and Wetherby.
Race 1 No2 CARIBEAN BOY (Nap)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson – Jockey: Daryl Jacob
Former French-based CARIBEAN BOY is on a recovery mission after being turned over when odds-on at Ascot before Christmas. He looked the real deal when landing a Grade 2 novice chase at Newbury in November but seemed ill at ease on his latest start, finishing last of three behind Dashel Drasher. Two things to consider regarding today’s task is that he was found to have an issue after Ascot, while that form was boosted by the winner’s subsequent win in a competitive handicap back there.
Race 2 VIRGIN BET SCILLY ISLES NOVICES’ CHASE ( Grade 1)
No1 MESSIRE DES OBEAUX
Trainer: Alan King – Jockey: Daryl Jacob
This is the best novice chase run in England so far this season, bringing together a dream line-up for the sponsors. SHAN BLUE and DAME DE COMPAGNIE are trying to extend their winning sequences to four, while HITMAN excelled in some work on Thursday as he attempts to turn round a defeat here in December. However, the one that could produce the wow factor is MESSIRE DES OBEAUX who has looked very smart in back-to-back triumphs at Wincanton. His wide-margin defeat of Protektorat last month was visually impressive and his slick jumping should stand him in good stead over these tricky fences. He’s always been the apple of his trainer’s eye, and can confirm his status as an Aintree prospect, as his trainer doesn’t plan to take him to the Cheltenham Festival.
Race 3 VIRGIN BET COTSWOLD CHASE (Grade 2)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson – Jockey: Aidan Coleman
This important trial for the Gold Cup can see old rivals BRISTOL DE MAI and SANTINI fighting it out up the final hill. In a race transferred from Cheltenham, Bristol De Mai looks set to head the market on the back of his success in Haydock’s Betfair Chase. He will be kept company for the lead by NATIVE RIVER and SANT CALVADOS but the good pace that seems likely is just the ticKet for Santini, whose staying qualities manifested themselves in this race 12 months ago. He is better than his run in the King George indicates, and with a new jockey in the irons can prove strongest at the business end.
Prediction: 1st SANTINI, 2nd Bristol De Mai, 3rd SaintCalvados, 4th Native River
Race 4 No2 CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY
Trainer: Nicky Henderson – Jockey: Nico de Boinville
Consistency was the hallmark of CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY before he pulled up in one of the big novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival. He underwent a wind operation in the close season and fell on his return in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at the same course. He’s enjoyed a freshening break and can make his mark in an admittedly competitive race.
Race 3 No6 MALPAS
Trainer: Donald McCain Jr – Jockey: Sean Quinlan
MALPAS is a lightly-raced individual that won’t need to be all that good to take out a weak novices’ hurdle. A faller on his seasonal return, he missed out when his intended race was called off last week, but this looks easier.
Race 6 No1 WITNESS PROTECTION (Nap)
Trainer: Martin Keightley – Jockey: James Best
WITNESS PROTECTION also had to forego a good opportunity at abandoned Catterick last week. He revers here with strong claims to notch a third win from four outings this season. A strong galloper who likes to be handy, he bolted up at Chepstow, and that form has held up well.
Race 3 No6 TORIGNI
Trainer: Harry Whittington – Jockey: Jack Quinlan
This stable is ready to emerge from a quiet spell, in which its horses haven’t been quite right. The selection is a lightly-raced improver who can compliment his Kempton conqueror Cadzand and give that horse’s Betfair Hurdle claims a boost.
Race 7 No1 ALCALA (Nap)
Trainer: Paul Nicholls – Jockey: Angus Cheleda
Nicholls struck in the Hunter-chase at Wincanton on Thursday and should also bag this similar contest with ALCALA, whose chasing form under Rules make him the one that prolific point-to-point scorer Salvatore has to beat.
Race 4 No2 FELIX
Trainer: Marco Botti – Jockey: Richard Kingscote
This trial for the Winter Derby can see FELIX upsetting hot favourite Bangkok. The selection nodded out his rival Wolverhampton and on similar terms can show it was no fluke.
Race 5 No1 SYMBOLIC POWER (Nap)
Trainer: Charlie Appleby – Jockey: Adam Kirby
A costly favourite over course and distance last time, SYMBOLIC POWER can take his revenge on Swindon Noon courtesy of additional blinkers. The headgear can play its part in him ending a run of four earning runs without managing to get his head in front.
Race 7 No4 WALDFABEL
Trainer: John Gosden – Jockey: Rab Havlin
Frankel filly WALDFABEL stylishly opened her account at Kempton before Christmas and should be too good for Longsider. The latter returns from more than a year off on debut for his stable and may well struggle to give the selection 5lb.