Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips: Colonel Harry looks banker material in the Towton

12 January 2024

Last weekend was a bit of a damp squib, wasn’t it? Sandown abandoned their card on Saturday, which left racing fans scrambling to find decent action to watch, then 24 hours later Naas was called off after just one race. Disaster.

The good news is that there should be far fewer weather concerns this week and, although it remains ridiculously cold and wintery outside, Graded action at Kempton and Wetherby will certainly brighten up the day. 

Let’s start with Saturday’s featured contest, the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton (2.07). This 2m4½f event has been dominated lately by Paul Nicholls with three winners in four renewals and only one horse sent off bigger than 2/1 has taken the prize in the last decade. It usually pays to play the obvious here given the customary small field size and lack of depth.

Pic D’Orhy, who romped home to take the prize by 18 lengths last season, returns to the fray for Nicholls and looks the horse to beat once again. Now a nine-year-old, he owns an impressive career record of 12 wins from 28 races and seems to be better than ever with five victories from his last six starts.

Connections have pinned down the conditions that suit him best and have campaigned him extremely well over the last two seasons. A flat track is crucial to him, as is Harry Cobden’s horsemanship in the saddle. As a result, this has been his main aim since his comeback victory in the Grade 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.

A repeat of last year’s winning performance (168 RPR) would make him pretty tough to beat, but he’s facing better opponents this time around. However, I have my concerns about each of them. Banbridge, as talented as he is, jumps better when going left-handed, while Notlongtillmay is yet to win at this level and regularly comes up slightly short.

Edwardstone is the class angle courtesy of his three Grade 1 victories, but he hasn’t won for over a year now and I’m not convinced that he wants this trip. He obviously has the talent to win, but this seems to be ‘Plan B’ for a bona fide two-miler in an attempt to avoid Jonbon, who has beaten him twice already this season.

The other Grade 2 contest on Saturday is the Towton Novices’ Chase (1.10 Wetherby), in which Colonel Harry looks banker material for trainer Jamie Snowden.

Not only is he upwards of 5lb better than his rivals on official figures and gets to race off level weights, but Colonel Harry will relish the testing conditions and longer trip so further improvement is more likely than not.

He sparkled on his chasing debut at Chepstow back in November when a number of accurate leaps allowed him to scoot clear of his opponents, before he came up short on his recent outing at Sandown. 

He made a crucial and uncharacteristic error at the third-last fence that day, which put him on the backfoot as the field quickened. Nevertheless, he stayed on powerfully to the line and only went down by a length-and-a-quarter. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was the best horse in the race.

Colonel Harry is way better than these rivals and I expect him to justify favouritism at what looks a pretty fair price considering everything is in his favour.

I’m also hoping that it will be third-time lucky when I back Santos Blue later on the Wetherby card (2.50). This seven-year-old has proved extremely frustrating for me as I napped against him on Boxing Day 2022 when he beat my selection (Sporting Mike) in a close finish, while I changed allegiances to punt him on Boxing Day 2023 when he filled the runners-up spot.

He shaped very nicely that day but was just given way too much to do by his young conditional rider, who surely won’t make the same mistake again. The drop in trip to 2m3½f will put more emphasis on speed, which I believe strengthens his chance of winning, while Dan Skelton has interestingly won this event twice in the last four years. Second again and I give up with him!

Finally, SBK has made their move into Ireland by sponsoring four races at Fairyhouse this Saturday so it would be foolish to overlook the card. The showpiece event is the €100,000 SBK Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase (1.57) and I strongly fancy the Gavin Cromwell-trained Letsbeclearaboutit on the class drop.

This gelding must have been difficult to train early in his career as he has only made the track on 14 occasions despite being a nine-year-old, but we are starting to see the best of him this season and I loved the way he travelled through the race when successful on his penultimate outing at Cork in a Grade 3 novices’ chase. 

Connections ambitiously stepped him up to Grade 1 company in the Drinmore last time and he found 2023 Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus and recent top-level winner Found A Fifty too strong, which is pretty understandable. But now they revert back to a winnable contest and I’m hoping he can capitalise off his mark of 150.

Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips

Colonel Harry (1.10 Wetherby) @ Evens
Letsbeclearaboutit (1.57 Fairyhouse) @ 7/2
Pic D’Orhy (2.07 Kempton) @ 11/4
Santos Blue (2.50 Wetherby) @ 17/5

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