Our form expert Ben Linfoot has three bets for Aintree and Sandown in the ITV races on Saturday afternoon.
1pt win Iceo in 1.50 Sandown at 9/2 (William Hill, 4/1 General)
1pt win Undersupervision in 2.05 Aintree at 11/1 (General)
1pt e.w. Rafferty’s Return in 3.15 Aintree at 18/1 (Non Runner)
With significant rain forecast from the early hours an early-morning inspection has been called at Sandown and even if it gets the green light conditions are going to be really testing.
Constitution Hill might not even turn up, so betting in the rescheduled Fighting Fifth doesn’t really appeal with the heftiest of Rule 4s potentially lying in wait and in the Tingle Creek the most viable alternative to Jonbon, Edwardstone, might be a non-runner given he has the option of the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday (if, indeed, that meeting survives the weather).
There is another Grade 1 on the card worthy of attention, though, the Betfair Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at 1.50, and JPR One is a hot favourite here after capsizing at the last at Cheltenham last time following an otherwise excellent display.
He should go well, but he’s in against some equally-promising novice chasers and his old rival ICEO looks a spot of value against him at 9/2.
Paul Nicholls’ horse looked a novice chaser to follow when he bolted up at Newton Abbot on October 2 and he was subsequently sent off 4/6 to give JPR One over a stone and a beating at the same track less than three weeks later.
He couldn’t do it and he was eased down late on when his chance had gone, but JPR One’s next start at Cheltenham highlighted the very tough task Iceo had on just his second fencing start and it’s significant Nicholls is prepared to take him on again here off level weights.
The Ditcheat handler isn’t convinced Iceo was in the best of shape last time out, possibly because of the fairly quick turnaround from his first fencing win, but this race has always been his first big target of the season and I suspect we’ll see a different horse on Saturday.
That’s because Iceo was very impressive at this track when winning the Imperial Cup on heavy ground over hurdles here back in March, a race in which he beat subsequent Ascot winner Knickerbockerglory with something to spare, and you can bet Nicholls has been planning for this race with this horse ever since.
With his Newton Abbot win boosted by the second, Mount Tempest, at Sandown on Friday, he looks the best bet on the card and I'll leave it at that at Sandown, as nothing really appeals in the handicaps at the prices.
Saturday morning showers are set to hit Aintree as well and it could be a gruelling renewal of the Boylesports Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences.
That puts me off last year’s winner Ashtown Lad at relatively short prices and I want a strong stayer on my side, which is one of the reasons for backing UNDERSUPERVISION at 11/1. I do think he'll love this stamina test.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' horse is all staying power, which is why he was pointed at the Scottish Grand National in April, and while that didn’t work out he did look to get back on track with a good third in an amateur riders event at Cheltenham last time.
He stayed on there over 3m1f after being outpaced and all the evidence points to Cheltenham not being his track, unlike the flat and left-handed Doncaster where he has produced his best form.
Aintree has a similar configuration and Twiston-Davies knows just what sort of horse is required to win a Becher Chase having won it six times in the past - including twice with son Sam on board Hello Bud.
The father and son duo team up again here and a bold run is expected from Undersupervision, the fact he is 2lb out of the weights of little concern given they’re likely to be strung out all over Liverpool after this.
Finally, Rebecca Menzies’ RAFFERTY’S RETURN is worth an each-way bet at 18/1 in the closing Boylesports Extra Place Races Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f at Aintree.
He is another one that should be suited by this track considering his strong batch of form at the flat and left-handed Wetherby, where he has done most of his racing in the last few years.
His two runs so far this season also came at Wetherby in November, when Menzies was struggling for winners, and he came on considerably from first to second start when running well in third behind Bashers Reflection last time.
The winner reopposes here and while he travelled convincingly last time, he didn’t do an awful lot in front and Rafferty’s Return has a good chance of reversing the form considering his 8lb pull at the weights.
On top of that he should strip even fitter here and the Menzies yard is in much better nick now, winning with three of their five jumps horses so far this month, finishing second with the other two.
Preview posted at 1455 GMT on 08/12/23
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