Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips: Back Diligent Harry to win over the minimum trip

23 February 2024

Even the most obstinate jumps racing fan would admit that this weekend’s offering is a little below par in terms of quality. With the Cheltenham festival just two-and-a-half weeks away, the best equine talents are firmly on the sidelines waiting for their date at Prestbury Park.

Small fields are a common theme at Newcastle, Chepstow and even Fairyhouse on Saturday and nothing really caught my eye at any of the three venues from a value standpoint. I suppose it’s not too different at Kempton but there are a couple of clear exceptions, most notably the featured 3m handicap chase (3.37) which features 12 runners.

Last year’s runner-up in the race, Flegmatik, heads the betting and unsurprisingly so after an impressive course-and-distance success 42 days ago. The Dan Skelton trainee has an excellent record at Kempton (three wins and two places from six outings) and is clearly in fine form, but he would want the ground to dry up a touch and a recent 3lb rise puts him up to a career-high mark of 140.

I still prefer him to second favourite Tweed Skirt, who was supposedly being retired to become a broodmare after her success here over the Christmas period but is now making her second start since. She jumps better at this venue than elsewhere, but the form of her penultimate race victory isn’t working out well and her new chase mark of 141 is pretty steep.

But it’s the Chris Gordon-trained Lord Baddesley who interests me from a punting perspective at around 9/1. This gelding isn’t overly exposed for a horse of his age (nine) and he has some solid performances to spark confidence since switching to fences in December 2022. 

The most notable of those was when he finished fourth behind Balco Coastal (second in a Grade 1 since), Solo (second in a Grade 2 since), and Panic Attack on chase debut, and he readily got off the mark at the second time of asking at Plumpton this time last year. Those runs hinted that he may have a decent future in this sphere. 

He’s been a touch hit-and-miss since, but there were clear signs of encouragement last time at Newbury on his first start over further than 2m4f. Lord Baddesley seemed to jump better due to the slower pace set over the longer trip before comprehensively answering questions regarding his stamina with a strong final furlong. That effort urged connections to believe a longer distance would bring out even more improvement and he gets that here.

I have little doubt that he remains well handicapped if he can put it all together and the return to Kempton over this new trip might be the catalyst for that to happen. 

It’s off to Southwell for my final domestic bet, which comes in the Listed Hever Stakes (2.45) over the straight five furlongs. Dual course-and-distance winner Clarendon House heads the market here at a very skinny even-money, but I want to oppose him as he makes his return to the UK after finishing fourth on turf at Meydan.

An overseas venture like that can knock the edge off a horse and I just have to take him on at the prices - I would have made him around 6/4 or 13/8 in here, not evens. As a result, I will have a few quid on Diligent Harry, who drops down in trip after an impressive comeback victory over some nice types at Lingfield last month.

We’re used to seeing Clive Cox’s sprinter compete over an extra furlong, but he has a ridiculously high cruising speed and usually races a touch keen so I don’t mind the cutback. He’s clearly in fine fettle and he should get an excellent tow into the race with speedball Fine Wine being drawn next door.

Many may pigeonhole Diligent Harry as a bit of a disappointment due to his exploits on turf, but it’s key to remember that he possesses an impressive six wins from 10 starts on the all-weather and usually thrives at this time of year.   

Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips

Diligent Harry (2.45 Southwell) @ 7/2
Lord Baddesley (3.37 Kempton) @ 9/1

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