Our team unveil their fancies for Saturday's sport, including Matt Brocklebank's best bet at Ascot and a speculative 66/1 chance from the world of golf.
Racing - Matt Brockelbank
If MISTER WHITAKER is to start fulfilling his potential as a Graded performer then he’s got to be seriously competitive from a mark of 152 in Saturday’s bet365 Handicap Chase at Ascot. The Grade One Ascot Chase over this same course and distance has been mentioned as a potential route prior to the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March, for which he's my antepost fancy, and he should in theory be suited by this demanding two miles, five furlongs.
A Festival winner last March, he made a good start to his season in open company when winning at Carlisle and probably wasn’t seen to best effect when held up for a late run in the BetVictor Gold Cup, which was ultimately dominated by those who raced prominently. He still managed to run on well to claim fourth and looks poised to improve on that effort now granted a slightly stiffer test of stamina. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards for Mick Channon’s fine-looking seven-year-old.
Patience is a virtue and Saturday’s best bet runs in the finale at Lingfield. Things haven’t dropped right for MIRACLE WORKS but connections have now found his best trip and all he needs is luck in running to go very close in the Betway Handicap.
He’s still a maiden after nine races but having finished strongly over five, and not getting home at seven furlongs, he was returned to six at Kempton last time. He might have won too, travelling strongly and coming with a threatening run until running into a wall of horses at the furlong pole.
The handicapper has dropped him a pound for that which means he’s now three bellow the mark from which he was second at Kempton on his handicap debut in July. He’s capable of winning races and providing he doesn’t encounter traffic problems again, looks sure to run a big race.
MISTER FISHER was an impressive winner at Kempton on Boxing Day and looks one of the leading British novice hurdlers this season. He could prove a cut above these rivals and is expected to book his place in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with a smooth win.
Arsenal's lengthy unbeaten run has fallen apart with just two wins in their last six as their defensive ineptitude has finally caught up with them - but the question is can Chelsea exploit that with basically just Eden Hazard as their main goal threat?
The answer is probably yes, especially as Arsenal's creaky defence may serve up chances to all kinds of opposition players, and at odds-against Chelsea look a solid bet to confirm that they're just that bit better than Saturday's opponents.
Brighton stunned Manchester United 3-2 in the reverse fixture in August, but a repeat result is a long shot at Old Trafford on Saturday. One man Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is getting the best out of is Marcus Rashford, who has been trusted in the number nine role for the Red Devils. The England man has four goals in his last six appearances, including in the win at Spurs last week, and finally looks to be fulfilling his potential. Expected to play through the middle here, it's worth taking the 6/4 that he scores in a home win.
Golf - Ben Coley
This is a wildly speculative wager at 66/1 but there's definitely mileage in taking a few chances if you're looking for a bet ahead of the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Chiefly, this is down to the wind, set to double in intensity from Friday - when still strong enough to cause problems for various players and force the scoring average down.
With fairly penal rough, water everywhere and greens which are getting quicker, strong wind could cause carnage on the leaderboard and those out early have the opportunity to turn a bad week into a good one by getting into the clubhouse before it really whips up around lunchtime.
That leads me to Perez, a wonderful ball-striker with a bright future on the circuit. He's last of the four Frenchmen to have made the cut, but only two behind Alex Levy and four adrift of the veteran Raphael Jacquelin. The issue, then, is that he has eight shots to find on Benjamin Hebert, who is accordingly a 1/5 favourite.
But with Perez set to finish his round just after Hebert tees off, it's possible they face very different conditions and we may not need all that much to go wrong for the latter to be in with a sniff. If Perez can find his game and shoot something in the region of 66, suddenly he may have set a target which is not straightforward to beat. It's a very small-stakes bet, but one perhaps worth having.
The Saints are rightly favourites to beat LA Rams, and in another shootout you’d have to back all-time passing leader Drew Brees to outscore Jared Goff, but controlling the ball is golden in the play-offs and the Rams are equipped to do just that.
In a more low-scoring running contest LA can spring the upset and get back into the big game, where they could meet the Chiefs, who are fancied to add to the Patriots' poor record on the road.
Again it’s fine margins, and there’s the added imponderable of how the Chiefs, and Patrick Mahomes in particular, will handle the pressure of playing for a place in the Super Bowl, but they can find the required answers and justify favouritism.