RACING TIPS: Where to Watch Racing this Weekend

October 20, 2017

- Grant Whittington

This weekend will see a bumper selection of races take place up and down the country, with jump meetings dominating the calendar.

This is indicative of the time of year, with eight out of this weekend’s 13 meetings either hurdle or steeplechase races. With the going also likely to be soft given the inclement weather, we should see some exciting and unpredictable races where only the best runners and riders will succeed.

So, let’s take a look at the most promising meetings this weekend, and appraise the likely contenders.

Fakenham, Friday 20th

This afternoon sees an extremely exciting event at Fakenham in Norfolk, with six races scheduled to take place between two and five o’clock.

The pick of these is the Visit Handicap Chase, which is a class three meeting with genuine pedigree. With a total prize fund of just under £13,000 (and a winner’s cheque of £8,133), the race is likely to be keenly contested across the length and breadth of the three mile course.

According to the early prices, Actinpieces is the initial front-runner with odds of 6/4. This six year old mare has been in fair form during 2017, and despite falling last time out managed to record an extremely impressive victory at Catterick in February. In fact, this Pam Sly-trained contender has placed in the top three in his last four outings, and despite giving weight away is expected to be there or thereabouts once again.

In fairness, this meeting is likely to be far more challenging than the jump race at Catterick, which is why some pundits have suggested that the five-year old gelding Catamaran Du Seuil may offer a better proposition. Priced at 15/8 in a field of five, he has the pedigree to win here despite finishing seventh last time out at Market Rasen and has been well trained by Dr. Richard Newand. This horse also won impressively over the hurdles in Carlisle in February, so he definitely offers excellent value here.

Earlier in the day, there is another class three meeting in the form of the At The Races Sky 415 Novices’ Chase. The winner here can claim £7,798, while a relatively small field of four should prove extremely enticing to punters. The Paul Nicholls-trained Bagad Bihoue is the overwhelming favourite here at 5/4, with the six-year old gelding having won four consecutive races between May and July. He placed second at Newton Abbot last month, and despite finishing last at Cartmel in August he should have too much for the field here.

Ascot, Saturday 21th

We now turn attention to flat racing on Saturday, with the truly stellar ‘Champions Day’ meeting at Ascot. There are six races scheduled to take place here, including a number of extremely thrilling and evenly-matched group one meetings in one of the most hotly-anticipated events of the year.

The standout event is undoubtedly the Qipco Champion Stakes, which is a class one meeting that is scheduled to take place over one mile and one furlong. The first prize is a truly impressive 737,230, with 10 runners set to compete for this huge financial prize.

All eyes will be on trainer Aidan O’Brien, however, as he closes in on the late Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 group one wins in a year. After securing a superb 1,2,3,4 at the Dewhurst Stakes last week, O’Brien moved onto 24 group one wins and will look to draw level with one his two runners in the Qipco Champion Stakes.

These include the competitive Highland Reel (8/1), who last won win a superb showing at Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales Stakes on soft ground back in June. O’Brien’s second runner is the fancied Cliffs of Moher (7/1), who despite not winning since a meeting at Chester in May remains a genuine contender.

O’Brien may have his work cut out to make history here, however, with Richard Hannon’s 7/2 shot Barney Roy the early favourite. The three-year old colt has never placed outside of the top three since his debut in 2016, while he also won impressively at Royal Ascot in June and came a close second at Sandown the following month.

It may be a similar story in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, which is another group one race (and one that carries a winners prize of £623,810). While O’Brien has another three runners competing here, the early favourite is the Richard Hannon-trained Ribchester (available at a price of 7/4). The four-year old colt has powered to three wins in his last four outings, including a superb triumph at Chantilly in September.

With that being said, O’Brien won here with Minding last year, and with his 7/2 shot Churchill in relatively good form few would be surprised if he was to achieve another group one win here.

Kempton, Sunday 22nd October

Sunday is a much quieter day, but there is at least a seven race jump meeting to look forward to at the iconic Kempton Park.

This schedule includes a couple of class one races, including the Matchbook VIP Hurdle. Seven runners will compete here, with the lucky winner staking their claim for a £17,085 winners’ prize.

While the odds have yet to published, the early front-runner is undoubtedly the Paul Nicholls-trained San Benedeto. Despite placing third in a field of four at Sandown last time out, this six-year old gelding won four consecutive races between February and May and was particularly impressive at Aintree in April.

Jeremy Scott’s Unison is also a contender over the hurdles, with the seven-year old only held back by his inconsistency. He romped home in similar conditions at Wincanton back in March, for example, and his patchy recent form must be put into context by saying that he is not as comfortable when performing on the flat.

These events should provide tremendous value for both fans and punters alike, with Champions Day in particular one of the best meetings in the horse racing calendar. There is certainly a huge amount of money to compete for at Ascot and other meetings across the country, while spectators will also be keen to make hay while the sun shines.

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