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ITV Racing are covering races at Ascot, Haydock and Lingfield on Saturday in a cracking day of racing. Cheltenham Festival favourites Constitution Hill and A Plus Tard are both hoping to kickstart their seasons with victories in the Coral Hurdle and Betfair Chase respectively before going on to bigger and better meetings.
The ITV7 jackpot certainly looks winnable this weekend with several short-priced favourites running in the competition. Though if viewers are to land themselves the £50,000 winnings then they will need to work their way through some tricky handicaps. Express Sport shares their picks…
It would be incredibly brave not to forgive L’HOMME PRESSE (4/7) for his sub-par run at Aintree at the end of last season. If Venetia Williams’ gelding is able to make his seasonal reappearance at anywhere close to his best at Ascot then he should come home in front with relative ease. Hitman will probably head to Haydock, leaving Saint Calvados as Paul Nicholls’ hope in the race, who will have to settle for second.
The Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle could knock a significant chunk of ITV7 entrants out of the running. The market principles of Run For Oscar and Might I both hold strong chances, as well as Good Risk At All, who comfortably beat Wholestole last time out. But despite that, we will side with COMPLETE UNKNOWN (9/1). The Nicholls yard are in flying form and the 3m trip looked to suit last time out, he could be an unpopular selection in the competition too.
Although Nicky Henderson wasn’t overly hopeful about his Champion Hurdle hope running this weekend, the rain did arrive and CONSTITUTION HILL (1/2) lines up in the Coral Hurdle. The five-year-old was unbelievable last season and will be hoping to head to Cheltenham in March unbeaten, racking up his first victory here. Fans’ favourite Goshen will be hoping to follow him home after making a swift return to hurdles following his underwhelming chasing debut last month.
GOLDEN CHAIN showed signs of improvement at Sandown in September and should be able to win the first race of her career on Saturday. She pushed a subsequent winner all the way to the line last time out and could have been found a good opening here by Ralph Beckett. It’s A Love Thing could be a solid each-way play though the handicapper isn’t being forgiving with him.
Henry de Bromhead’s A PLUS TARD (4/7) won this race last year and should do it again this time around. He was incredibly impressive at the Gold Cup earlier this year with a 22-length victory over Minella Indo and is capable of coming home in front by a healthy margin on Saturday.
In an incredibly competitive handicap chase, the eye is drawn to Arkle winner Edwardstone heading the market. He could be a class above these but he is carrying a whopping 12stone and it will take an almighty effort for him to win with that in mind. Alan King has never shied away from running his best horses in handicaps, though his Cheltenham winner is one to take on at the prices. THYME HILL (11/2) looks the smart play after his impressive win last month at this venue which will set him up well for this race with Lorcan Williams doing the steering.
The final race of the ITV7 can go to Richard Hobson’s LORD DU MESNIL (6/1). The nine-year-old looked to have found his form of old at Bangor earlier this month when finishing second at odds of 33/1 and could go one better here. The low-mileage Houston Texas could make it two wins from two this season and take this step up in class in his stride, though whether this step back from 3m2f to 3m suits remains to be seen.
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