Simon Holt's free horse racing tips for Saturday

First Assignment (nearside) - winning at Cheltenham
First Assignment (nearside) - winning at Cheltenham

Racing commentator Simon Holt has three selections for Saturday's racing as he bids to continue an excellent run of form.

Paul Nicholls, who currently leads the jumps trainer's championship, has a happy habit of winning valuable races on Saturdays, and may add another with DARLING MALTAIX in the Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday.

The six-year-old has been a bit frustrating in the past, often pulling too hard in the early stages, but he was given a peach of a ride by Lorcan Williams when cruising effortlessly through from the back of the field at Ascot last time and he appears to have serious ability.

Darling Maltaix has gone up 12lb for that defeat of the re-opposing Milrow but Williams can take off 5lb here as opposed to 3lb on that occasion in a race restricted to conditional jockeys.

This weaker-than-average renewal could well be run to suit the selection, who seems ground versatile, with the likes of And The New and Erick Le Rouge likely to set a decent pace. A steady run through the pack, as at Ascot, is anticipated.

The well-backed ante-post favourite Kloud Gate could certainly be well-handicapped as his hurdles mark is still only 30lb higher than his Flat rating (when the difference between the two codes is probably about 40lb).

However, his two odds-on victories at Leicester and Doncaster came in races that took little winning and this demands a bit more.

Indeed, the aforementioned Erick Le Rouge could be a bigger threat and may have had more in hand than his winning margin suggested over Mellow Ben here on Boxing Day given how well he jumped the last two flights.

The five-year-old is rising up the weights but Chester Williams again takes off 7lb.

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Nicholls could also have leading chances in Warwick's McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase in which his novice Ibis Du Rheu ought to relish the stamina test over three miles and five furlongs.

However, his jumping became sketchy behind The Worlds End at Cheltenham last time and it looks as if STEP BACK has been targeted at a second big-chase win having romped home in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April.

Mark Bradstock's progressive gelding went up a stone in the ratings for his wide-margin success that day but the form has been well boosted this season by Rock The Kasbah (second) and Present Man (third) while Relentless Dreamer and Caroles Destrier (fourth and fifth) have also won decent chases.

The likely good ground at Warwick should suit Step Back, who raced without the cheekpieces he wore at Sandown when reappearing at Cheltenham in October. The headgear is back on here and the swashbuckling David Bass rides.

Also at Warwick, FIRST ASSIGNMENT can continue his good form this season in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

Tom Scudamore's mount was clearly well-handicapped when scoring twice at Cheltenham earlier in the season, after which his trainer was obliged to turn him out quickly at Haydock just a week after the second success.

That race may have come just too soon, though First Assignment's battling third behind Paisley Park and Shades Of Midnight, both winners since, was still a good effort.

A 7lb rise looks reasonable given how far the first three were clear of the others that day and, with the likely good ground in his favour, First Assignment can get back on the winning trail.

Posted at 1500 GMT on 11/01/19.

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