Where to watch the horses this weekend… PLUS betting tips

It’s incredible to think that January is already at an end, as 2018 is now finally underway in earnest!

Regardless of the time of year, however, the horse racing season continues to go from strength to strength. This weekend is no exception, with 11 jump and flat race meetings scheduled to take place nationwide between Friday and Sunday.

So, without further ado, here’s our summary of this weekend best races and the most likely runners and riders.

Lingfield, Friday 2nd February

We start in Lingfield on Friday, where six flat races are scheduled to take place in an afternoon meeting.

The pick of these races is the Betway Conditions Stakes, which is a Class II event in which six runners will compete for a winners’ cheque of £11,972.

The odds-on, 4/7 favourite here is Watersmeet, who is a seven-year old gelding trained by Mark Johnston. This talented runner has placed in each of his last three outings, while he won impressively at Wolverhampton on 15th January when comfortably vanquishing a field of 11.

Watersmeet is known to perform better over a slightly longer course, however, with the race at Wolverhampton being run over two miles and 120 yards. This means that the 4/1 shot Sandro Botticelli may represent slightly better value from a punter’s perspective, despite his recent patchy form and failure to win since July 2017.

Still, Alexandra Dunn’s 6-year old gelding performs well over shorter distances, so could well prevail across the 1 mile, seven furlong course at Lingfield.

Lingfield, Saturday 3rd February

 Lingfield also hosts a seven-race flat meeting the following day, in the form of the hotly-anticipated Winter Derby Trials.

Unsurprisingly, the standout race here is the Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes, which is a Class I event that will see 15 runners compete for a first prize of £25,520. This race will take place over one mile and two furlongs, while some outstanding runners will compete for a first prize of £25,520.

We immediately like the look of Petite Jack here, with this five-year old gelding set to enter the race in exceptional form. He recorded consecutive top-two finishes in December, for example, with both of these coming at the famed Lingfield course. His last performance here actually saw him romp away from a competitive field of eight, so he’s clearly well suited to both the course and the forecast conditions.

Tom Dascombe’s Arcanada is another is another runner who likes Lingfield, with this five-year old gelding having won two consecutive outings at the venue in December. He also boasts a largely impressive winning record, while he seems to excel over distances of just over a mile.

Saturday will also see Lingfield host the Class I, Betway Cleves Stakes, which is set to provide a genuinely exciting spectacle. This sprint will cover just six furlongs, but the 20 runners can compete for a total prize fund in excess of £40,000.

Another Tom Dascombe trained runner could be in contention here, with Kachy having won impressively at Lingfield on the 19th January over an identical distance. He also placed second at Leicester over five furlongs in September, so we’d expect him to be competitive here.

It’s also hard to look beyond the four-year old Gulliver, who is trained by Hugo Palmer and has placed in five of his last six outing. This superb run included consecutive wins at Wolverhampton, Lingfield and Kempton between October and November, while he also finished second in a field of eight last time out.

Still, he also struggled during his last outing at Lingfield, finishing last in a field of seven over seven furlongs at the end of November. This has muddied the waters slightly, and suggests that we may be in for close and hard-to-call race.

Leopardstown, Sunday 4th February

Sunday will see the second and final day of the prestigious Dublin Racing Festival, with a number of exciting, Class I races available to entertain fans and punters alike.

The headline act here is the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, which will see 10 stellar runners compete for an outstanding winners’ prize of €113,000.

The horse to watch here is Willie Mullins’ Killultagh Vic, with this nine-year old gelding set to continue his comeback after an enforced hiatus over nearly two years. This former Grade II novice suffered a cracked pelvis despite somehow winning at Leopardstown in January 2016, only to return with a superb win at Punchestown on New Years’ Eve. Overall, this talented runner has won his last five hurdle and steeplechase outings dating back to March 2015, and he’ll fancy his chances of competing here.

Mrs. J Harrington’s Our Duke may also be a potential contender here, despite a relatively disappointing seventh place finish (from a field of eight) last time out at Down Royal. Before then, however, this eight-year old gelding had won three of his previous four races, including a superb win at Leopardstown in similar conditions in December 2016.

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