Racing tips

Three tips for the big weekend handicaps

The two big handicaps tomorrow are the bet365 Bunbury Cup at Newmarket and the John Smith’s Cup at York. Both are early closing races in which the weights were framed by the official handicapper several weeks ago. This means several horses in both races are ‘well in’, in that if the handicapper was in a position to evaluate their most recent runs – after he set the weights – they would be carrying several pounds more tomorrow. However, the most difficult issue to factor into which horses to tip today is undoubtedly the weather: both Newmarket and York are forecast to have large amounts of rain which could make the

A 6-1 tip for the Temple Stakes

James Tate is an accomplished young trainer who has won several top races in his time but landing a Group 1 contest is still missing from his CV. That will undoubtedly change at some point and the horse currently in his care most likely to achieve it for him is ROYAL ACCLAIM. Aged four, this likeable filly has only had five races in her career, which means there is still plenty of scope for improvement – particularly as the Newmarket handler has been patient with her to date. Tomorrow (Haydock 3.30 p.m.) Royal Acclaim will line up for the competitive Group 2 Betfred Temple Stakes. I am usually loath to tip horses which

A 17/2 tip for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket

Master trainer Aidan O’Brien provides a quandary for punters by sending over two very different horses from Ireland to contest tomorrow’s Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes. Little Big Bear is officially the highest rated horse in the race (Newmarket 4.40 p.m.) after four impressive wins last season but he has never raced over further than six and a half furlongs. He may well not stay the one-mile distance of tomorrow’s contest over Newmarket’s demanding straight course. Auguste Rodin, on the other hand, is already tried and tested over a mile with two of his three wins last season coming over that trip, one on soft ground and the other on heavy.

A 100-1 shot for the Grand National

My late father, who was the kindest man I have ever encountered, introduced me to horse racing when I was a small boy. Although he died all of 33 years ago, I still remember his advice to me when betting on the world’s most famous horse race: ‘The best form for the Grand National is… the Grand National.’ He was convinced that very few horses were capable of both jumping the unique Aintree brush fences and truly staying the marathon trip, which is now 4 miles 2 and a half furlongs. So he concentrated his bets on horses that had done well in the race the year before. A few

A 16-1 wager for the Irish Grand National

The new flat season and the Pertemps Network Lincoln at Doncaster (tomorrow 3.35 p.m.) will dominate the racing pages this weekend, and rightly so. The bookmakers have the correct horses at the head of the market for the Lincoln: two improving four-year-olds, Al Mubhir and Awaal, but both at cramped odds. I largely stay clear of betting on the flat for the first month of the season because it is hard to know which horses are fit and which are not after their winter break. If I was forced to have a bet, it would be an each-way play, many places, on Charlie Fellowes’s Atrium, another four-year-old improver who has

A 14-1 tip for a handicap on day two of the Cheltenham Festival

The big race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival tomorrow is the Grade 1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30pm). This will decide which horse in Britain and Ireland is the best chaser over a distance of two miles.  The first three home in the Albert Bartlett Clarence House Chase, run at Cheltenham in January,reoppose each other tomorrow. Editeur du Gite caused something of an upset that day, winning from Edwardstone and Energumene. Yet, I can’t believe the Willie Mullins horse, Energumene, was at his best on that occasion and I’d fancy him to win tomorrow if he shows his best form. However, especially as there are four other runners with chances, odds of around 7/4 are easy to resist. Instead, I am happy just to watch an enjoy

A 22-1 tip for day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Few people enjoy the thrill of a winning punt more than me but there are times when betting becomes (almost) irrelevant. Tomorrow at 3.30 p.m. will be one of them. That’s when seven runners will line up for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, the first championship race of this week’s four-day Cheltenham Festival. I will be at the course to see what I expect to be a hurdling masterclass from Constitution Hill, Nicky Henderson’s vastly-talented six-year-old gelding and the odds-on favourite for the Grade 1 showpiece. To date his racecourse record is flawless: five wins from five races including victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting a

One more to back at Cheltenham – and three other big-priced tips after a 16-1 winner

With the start of the Cheltenham Festival just four days away, I am pleased to say that this column’s antepost book for the meeting is looking decidedly healthy. It can all go badly wrong, of course, over the space of four days but, for now at least, let’s live in hope. Over the past couple of months, I have put up 12 Festival bets and, particularly for the first two days, most of those horses are now being offered at significantly shorter odds by all bookmakers. With more rain falling than was expected this week – and with more to come – this will inevitably suit some horses that I

A tip for Kelso – and one more for Cheltenham

Trainer Sandy Thomson has long had a knack of improving experienced horses that are moved to his yard. A combination of the healthy Scottish Borders air and a new regime have done wonders for several veteran chasers over the years, including Harry The Viking, Yorkhill and Dingo Dollar. The secret? ‘Individual care. It’s all about trying to work out as quickly as possible what each horse wants. Every horse is different,’ the genial Thomson told me last year. This season a stay at Thomson’s yard has led to a marked improvement in the form of BENSON, a hurdler with plenty of miles on the clock when connections paid just £7,000

Three big-priced tips as Cheltenham gets closer

If there is one trainer I think might have a memorable Cheltenham for the ‘home team’ in the face of stiff competition from Ireland, it is Harry Fry. The Dorset handler looks as if he has kept some of his best horses fresh and well with the hope of landing a couple of big prizes next month. If the betting market is a guide, then Fry’s best hope of a winner comes in the shape of Love Envoi, who will try to win Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day. This seven-year-old mare is a course specialist having won the 19-runner Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival last

A tip for Ascot tomorrow and two more for the Cheltenham Festival

Friends Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero have made a flying start to their new training partnership this season. Both names are on the licence but they have different roles: Greenall is the face of the duo at the racetrack, entertaining owners including several from the many syndicates that are linked to the yard, while Guerriero prefers to concentrate on training the horses and planning where they will run. It is a case of so far so good for the Cheshire stable as they have had 46 winners this season from 250 runners at a strike rate of 18 per cent (that’s before this afternoon’s racing). Their record for the past

Two tips at double figure prices for handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival

I make no apologies for the fact that over the next month I will spend a lot of time looking forward to what I regard as Britain’s finest annual sporting event: the Cheltenham Festival. Yes, there will be groans from racegoers that Guinness is a rip-off at £7.50 a pint; yes, it can get overcrowded even if you pay more than £100 for a club enclosure ticket; yes, the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott-trained horses will win more than their ‘fair share’ of the big races. But the sheer quality of the racing, the exhilarating atmosphere and the beautiful setting of the course nestled beneath Cleeve Hill are all a

How a Spectator Life reader put me on to a 20-1 shot for a Festival handicap

One of the nicest parts about writing this weekly column for Spectator Life is the informed comments that greet it each week from readers. I am thinking specifically about people such as ‘Simian Leer’, ‘Oswald Grimes’ and ‘Simon’. This week my thanks go to ‘Simian’, who in late December highlighted the chances of NASSALAM in the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase. Nassalam finished a staying-on third that day and ‘Simian’ later posted a second comment asking whether the Ultima Handicap Chase might be a good Festival target for Gary Moore’s six-year-old gelding. The astute reader seemed convinced a step up in trip to more than three miles would

Tips for two weekend handicaps at Doncaster and Cheltenham

Many of my best bets over the years have been placed after watching replays of past races, looking out for horses that fared well despite bad luck in running. I have rewatched last year’s Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase several times and there is no doubt that MISTER COFFEY was a desperately unlucky loser at the Cheltenham Festival. The gelding lost several lengths when he was badly hampered by a faller as early as the second fence. He lost all momentum and position so, all in all, he did superbly under a lovely ride from Sam Waley-Cohen, to be second to Chambard, beaten just two and a

Why an £800 horse can win the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Irish trainer John ‘Shark’ Hanlon recently asked whether he was mad to think his horse Hewick could win the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. Since the colourful Irishman has never had a runner in the Gold Cup and since the horse in question cost around £800, there was almost certainly a resounding reply from both sides of the Irish Sea: ‘Yes, you are totally bonkers.’ I would be very surprised if the likes of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead and Paul Nicholls are quaking in their boots at the prospect of taking on Hanlon’s improving handicapper on St Patrick’s Day (17 March). But I am not so sure that

Back two mudlarks in the big weekend handicaps

Ground conditions at both Warwick and Kempton Park are likely to decide the winners of the two big weekend handicaps tomorrow. A month ago, clerks of the course and groundsmen up and down the country feared it might never rain again. Now it seems to pour almost every day and, as a result, it is essential to back horses that revel in the mud. The big race at Warwick tomorrow is the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase (3 p.m.) over a marathon trip of 3 miles 5 furlongs. With the going already ‘heavy, soft in places’ and with more rain forecast, only gritty battlers who can handle the ground are

A long shot for the veterans’ chase final at Sandown

Whoever invented veterans’ chase handicaps – for horses aged ten and above – please take a bow. I love them and I have yet to come across anyone in the sport who doesn’t relish the prospect of these old warriors running against each other in their twilight racing years. Inevitably, horses of this age will be past their prime so it makes sense to have them competing on a level playing field, insofar as they race against rivals broadly their own age. Usually I am happy just to watch such contests without having a bet – but I will make an exception tomorrow for the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at

My picks for the Grand National

The Randox Grand National at Aintree is more than three months away but I can’t resist a couple of bets on the race now. At this stage, it is important to bet on a horse that is being targeted at the race but that will not go up in the ratings/weights significantly between now and the spring, thereby hampering its chances of winning. You also need a strong stayer and a sound jumper, ideally one that has run well over the Aintree fences before. Like all antepost bets, it’s best to have a horse too that is not ground dependent so it can handle whatever the going is on the

Two 20-1 shots for the festive period

The likeable Joe Tizzard was a talented jockey and he is proving equally adept as a trainer. His father, Colin Tizzard, retired at the end of last season after a hugely successful training career so this is Tizzard Jnr’s first season with only his name on the licence. Tizzard has already trained 32 winners this season, with an admirable 17 per cent first-past-the-post strike rate. However, he would love a big-race winner over the Christmas period to boost his CV and he has a couple of good chances of doing just that. ELDORADO ALLEN is a relatively lightly-raced eight-year-old gelding who has run some big races over the past two