Saturday 3rd Feb - LIVE Racing, ITV3
TEN superb contests will be covered LIVE by the ITV cameras on Saturday. Five from Sandown, three from north of the border in Musselburgh, and a couple from the Dublin Racing Festival in Ireland (Leopardstown, pictured above).
Quality wherever you look - here's exactly what we can expect on a stellar afternoon for our sport.
13.25 Virgin Daily Price Boosts Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f
14.00 VirginBet Handicap Chase 2m
14.35 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices' Chase Grade 1 2m 4f
15.10 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 2m 7 1/2f
15.45 Virgin Bet Masters' Handicap Chase 3m
13.40 Frodon Novices' Handicap Chase 2m 4f
14.15 Bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase 3m 7f
14.50 Bet365 Scottish County Hurdle Handicap 2m
15.00 Glencullen Handicap Hurdle 3m
15.35 Irish Gold Cup Grade 1 3m
13.25 Sandown - Onethreefivenotout @ 4/1
A Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden novice hurdler, racing in the famous colours of the Stewart family.
Won a Worcester bumper on debut in Oct '21, then a massive 741-day break. In three hurdle races since resuming in Oct of last year the now-eight-yr-old gelding has run progressively, being narrowly pipped in the last two.
So - his career path is rather an interrupted one, there must have been issues, but he's in the very best of hands. Nicely bred too, by Milan out of a Bob Back mare. Has run well on soft and heavy, so stamina should be a strength here up that punishing hill to home.
Fascinating little heat.
13.40 Musselburgh - Jackpot de Choisel @ 9/2
The selection is a raider from the County Meath yard of John McConnell.
A typically precocious French-bred youngster, still only 5, and a winner here in the grade last time around a month ago. Is up 5lb for that last narrow success, but will doubtless continue to improve.
Lightly-campaigned, and gets on well with claiming rider Ben Harvey. A Nicholls raider heads the weights and our choice carries an agreeable 10st 11lb. Another little gem of a race.
14.00 Sandown - Saint Segal @ 9/4
Small group of very decent handicap chasers looking to snap up a good £26k+ pot.
The selection runs in the colours of the Culverhill Racing Club and is trained by Jane Williams in Devon. Cracking effort last time at Lingers in a similar contest on soft ground, and was in the process of running a blinder when tipping up late on against the brilliant Boothill at Ascot in November.
The progressive 6-yr-old French-bred Saint Segal should still have bags of improvement to come and rates an exciting addition to Saturday's field in my book.
14.15 Musselburgh - Inis Oirr each-way @ 13/2
The great Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell saddles this 7-yr-old chaser for another stamina-testing affair - the 3m 7f+ Edinburgh National.
Nice racing weight of 10st 8lb, this one ran well in the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen on Boxing Day and connections evidently feel that extreme distances are his thing.
He's in the foothills of his chasing career and it's mainly about promise at present - but we know the excellence of the trainer, and that he stays. A small stakes, each-way tickle only - won a hurdle here this time last year, too.
14.35 Sandown - Le Patron @ 7/2
Famous contest - the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase - and won by some proper tools in the past (among them Young Hustler, L'Homme Presse, Bristol De Mai, and a certain three-time Gold Cup hero Best Mate).
Le Patron is a 6-yr-old gelding trained by Gary Moore who really made us sit up and take notice last time, here at Sandown. He took the Henry VIII at a big price in a career-best, with the second and third that day both coming out and winning subsequently.
He's in the Turners at the Festival and though he might prefer it even softer I've got to give him a chance to back up that marvellous last effort. Being handy around here with the quirky fences and tough old finish is priceless, and at 6 he's absolutely blooming right now.
14.50 Musselburgh - Afadil @ 11/2
Another Paul Nicholls raider, with claimer-of-the-moment Freddie Gingell in the plate.
Afadil was third here on New Year's Day in a similar race and his conqueror, Benson, re-opposes carrying a 3lb penalty. He's another French-bred youngster, just 5, and a gelded son of Epsom Derby hero Camelot no less.
He's already got plenty of experience under his belt and took the Scottish Triumph Hurdle here at this time last year, quite emphatically.
Evidently enjoys the air north of the border and connections will be hoping for a fruitful season to come, albeit for now he's seemingly well down the Ditcheat pecking order. Plenty of time for that to change.
15.00 Leopardstown - Fine Margin @ 4/1
Fine Margin is one of a couple of Willie Mullins entries, and though his price isn't perhaps what one would look for ideally in win/place terms, we are paying SIX places each-way, so kindly bear that in mind.
Ever-dependable Brian Hayes is in the saddle - the other half in life of the mighty Rachael Blackmore. He gets lots of rides for Willie, and he's a fair judge, right?
On seasonal reappearance Fine Margin ran a blinder at Haydock in a Grade 3, giving best only to compatriot Slate Lane, who has a very tall reputation.
He still holds an Albert Bartlett entry and with 11st 2lb here I can see him getting extremely involved at the business end, fingers crossed.
15.10 Sandown - Wonderwall each-way @ 16/1
An ultra-trappy staying handicap hurdle for a lovely prize of £56k - and I'll be thrilled and astonished in equal measure if I can find the winner!
Each-way has to be the sensible shout, and to very modest stakes. Wonderwall is with the very shrewd Peter Bowen, talented son James rides, and this offspring of superstar stayer Yeats is all about promise and possibility.
Bowen's only just taken him to Wales from Richard Spencer's Newmarket yard and for an 8-yr-old he's had a very stop-start time of it so far. James has ridden the horse many times in the past as it goes for owners Rebel Jumping II, and connections must feel it's all a cause worth pursuing.
This one I'm putting more under 'gut feeling' than scientific form analysis.
15.35 Leopardstown - Galopin Des Champs @ 2/5
This is the very warm favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, who will soon be bidding to repeat his fantastic Cheltenham triumph of 12 months ago. This prestigious affair should therefore prove to be well within compass, though the price of course represents his implied superiority.
He's still only 8, handled by the genius that is Willie Mullins, ridden with matchless aplomb by Paul Townend, and frankly is every inch a champion. Defeat would be a shock, but I recall writing similar about Jonbon around this time last week. Sport, eh?
15.45 Sandown - Blackjack Magic @ 3/1
Three-mile Class 2 handicap chase, with another good purse.
Blackjack Magic must carry the steadier of 12st, but has earned it. Ran a stormer in the Grade 3 Howden Silver Cup last time at Ascot, another super-stiff test, and previously won a similar affair at Wincanton with authority.
He's in Kempton's Coral Trophy at the end of the month and is in the form of his life right now. Trainer Anthony Honeyball is having winners and jockey Rex Dingle is proving to be a very effective partner for the bay gelding.
Superb thought - the anticipated ten runners galloping towards those iconic Railway fences. Bring it on ..
ITV Racing tips, from Betfred Insights.