All the talk amongst horse racing punters at this time of year concentrates on the fast-approaching Cheltenham Festival when the biggest and best horses, jockeys and trainers will descend on Prestbury Park for four days of exciting action. Here are our Feb 16 horse racing betting tips and predictions.
We’ve watched on as trials and preparation legs have taken place, putting some of the races’ early contenders through their paces and allowing both backers and bookmakers to get a good look at their progress before deciding on how to bet and what to back.
We don’t usually turn our focus towards the Grand National at Aintree until the Cheltenham showpiece is in the books, but that is one of the main reasons many struggle to back a winner of British racing’s most-famous fixture. Months of time and effort go into the festival, but the same level of commitment doesn’t apply to the national, and it usually shows.
An Early Look
So, for those looking to change their approach this year and gain an early peek at how the ante-post betting is shaping up, Saturday brings the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock Park. Three miles and four furlongs stand between the starting pack and a winner of this Grade 3 contest and we’ve enjoyed some memorable outings over the years.
The event was launched way back in 1947 but the first running didn’t take place until 12 months later due to bad weather. Gallery was entered as the first champion when doing the business for Prendergast and Bissell. Some famous champions have followed, including Red Rum in 1975, Shotgun Willy 2003 and Silver By Nature’s double in 2010 and 2011.
Yala Enki joined that exclusive winner’s club 12 months ago, the victor trained by Venetia Williams with Charlie Deutsch sitting in the saddle. Who will wrestle the crown from that team this year? It’s anyone’s guess at this stage, but bookmakers believe they have the winner nailed down when putting forward their ante-post list.
Ramses De Teillee Leads the Way
A competitive list is led by Ramses De Teillee who can be backed as favourite at the time of writing, but the fact Coral traders have attached an 8/1 price tag tells just how open this renewal is expected to be. The seven-year-old grey arrives at course with a career record showing three wins, six seconds and a couple of thirds from 16 runs and he has finished no higher than second in each of his last two.
That run started when winning the Welsh National Trial at Chepstow in the early exchanges of December, seeing off runner-up Prime Venture by 2 ½ lengths off an SP 2/1f, the second a 20/1 shot, with Ami Desbois making up the major places, ending third at 16/1.
He found only one too good next time out when held by Elegant Escape in the Grade 3 Coral Welsh Grand National on 27 December. 1 ¼ lengths was the difference that day, the 10/1 silver medallist edged by Colin Tizzard’s 3/1 favourite. Impressive, but a closer look at the form shows Ramses De Teillee has won only one of his last half-dozen and that may put a few punters off supporting him as favourite. If you’d prefer taking the leader on, there’s plenty in behind that appeal.
Robinsfirth Heads the Chasing Pack
Robinsfirth is second favourite at 10/1 with 888sport and that hasn’t gone unnoticed to date. The 10-year-old gelding has finished in the top two in each of his last three, that run reading 2-1-2. It started with a second behind Chase The Spud at Haydock in November, beaten six lengths despite going off a 10/3 fav. Connections wanted to see an improvement and they got it when their star won a Grade 3 Handicap Chase over 3m 2f at Cheltenham midway through December. Colin Tizzard’s improver held Shanroe Santos by a couple of lengths that day, delighting backers who supported the 7/4 available. A quick-fire return to finishing as runner-up when beaten by Wakanda in the Grade 2 limited handicap at Haydock last month on good to soft ground, the right horse winning.
Another who perhaps can’t be fully trusted on recent form and another we’re happy to pass in our search for a strong selection at a punter-friendly price. As already mentioned, this is a competitive race with many of the early field having genuine claims on the prize money, so don’t be scared to let your eye drift down the pecking order.
One at a Nice Price
The runner to carry our stake money into this contest is Missed Approach who can be backed at 14/1 – top price when playing with Bet365. The Warren Greatrex trained nine-year-old Irish-bred gelding was pulled up at Sandown on his penultimate start when contesting the Grade 3 bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase in April of last year.
That doesn’t read too well on paper, but excuses can be made, and he hit a couple of hurdles hard towards the end which seemed to knock the wind from him. It’s worth mentioning he led the race at times, before being taken out for his own safety.
We got a clearer picture of what Missed Approach is capable of when winning the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival last year, landing followers an 8/1 pay-out when seeing off race favourite Mall Dini by half a length. That was over 3m 2f, but he made all from the start and battled on gamely towards the line, showing his fitness and love of a scrap when things get serious
Those qualities will be needed again if he’s to hand us a return on our investment at Haydock, but he arrives with confidence onside and the big race experience to have a go at winning this. Those who would prefer a bit more of a safety net can back Missed Approach each-way with place terms generally available of 1/4 the odds a place 1-2-3-4. That’s good enough for us and, if he goes, followers will get a run for their money, at the very least.