Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips: Oh So Grand ready to produce late surge in Winter Oaks

19 January 2024

The big freeze hit England and Ireland this week and caused a bunch of national hunt fixture cancellations, which includes Saturday’s meetings at Ascot, Haydock and Taunton. There goes the Clarence House Chase duel between El Fabiolo and Jonbon that we all wanted!

Fortunately we have the luxury of Polytack and Tapeta surfaces at our mercy so the horse racing show stays on the road, albeit to a lesser degree (quantity and quality) with flat action at Lingfield and Wolverhampton set to entertain the betting public. 

I know plenty of people don’t like all-weather punting - those in question like to make their feelings well known on Twitter - but I don’t share that opinion. It’s better to have some racing instead of none on days like this, and there are actually a couple of pretty nice prizes up for grabs.

One of those is Lingfield’s feature contest, the £100,000 Winter Oaks Fillies’ Handicap (3.10) for older horses. It was won last year by Simon and Ed Crisford’s Al Agaila, who subsequently went on to achieve Listed glory at Deauville, and the training partners are represented once again, this time by another improving type called Oh So Grand.

This daughter of Postponed ran to a reasonable level in the summer - she broke her maiden in a small-field contest at Bath before romping home at Wolverhampton under a penalty - but then disappointed with a couple of handicap defeats off marks in the mid-to-high 70s. The Crisfords gave her a break after and entered her in the horses-in-training sale in October.

Six days before she was supposed to go under the hammer, they ran her in a Newcastle handicap and she fairly blitzed her rivals. The quality of her opposition is debatable - the runner-up subsequently finished second before being purchased by a Saudi-based owner/trainer - but the manner of the success was enough for connections to withdraw her from the auction.

Oh So Grand rewarded that faith by producing a huge career-best in the Winter Oaks trial over this course and distance 45 days ago. She was ridden patiently and had just one rival behind turning in, which was a disadvantage as they went slow fractions throughout the early stages in a race that became a sprint.

It proved to be no issue as she engaged sixth gear in the straight and surged past her competitors with a quick final-furlong sectional of 10.71 seconds. The handicapper gave her just 4lb for that, which I think is pretty fair, and a similar performance from a good low draw should be enough to see her rack up the hat-trick this weekend.

I will be covering the latter part of the Wolverhampton card as part of my shift on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday so it would be remiss of me to not include a selection in this column. My strongest fancy at the Midlands venue is Optician, whose rivals hopefully won’t see which way he goes in the 1m4f handicap (7.30).

This four-year-old showed little for trainer Tim Easterby in 12 runs to begin his career. He placed in a couple of weak handicaps at Wetherby and Carlisle in early summer, but his form quickly tailed off and he ended up being dropped from an opening mark of 69 to just 57 by the autumn. Easterby decided to get rid and sold him for just 3,500gns.

A change of scenery seems to have done him the world of good as he looked a completely different horse on debut for trainer Shaun Lycett six weeks ago. Punted into 15/8 favouritism, Optician sat just in behind the speed and quickened up nicely in the straight, before fending off a late challenger in the style of a horse with plenty left under the bonnet.

There’s no doubt that he had a great trip in that race, but he was much the best horse anyway and I don’t need glasses to see that he should be capable of following up off a 4lb higher mark if he’s in the same vein of form. 

Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips

Oh So Grand (3.10 Lingfield) @ 11/4
Optician (7.30 Wolverhampton) @ 7/5

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