Saturday ITV Racing Tips: Back Hors to Combat big field Newbury handicap

Three-horse finish - ITV Racing
Tony is hoping to be amongst the winners at Newbury and Ayr on Saturday

There's some excellent racing at Newbury and Ayr on Saturday afternoon, including Group race action and the Scottish Grand National, and here with his thoughts and big-price tips is our man Tony Calvin...

Hors De Combat looks big at 22.021/1 or bigger. He was in good form in Dubai this winter, and the drying ground is very much in his favour."

Hors De Combat at 22.021/1 or bigger in 15:45 at Newbury

All eyes will be on the return of Expert Eye in Newbury's Greenham at 15:10 but I detect that connections go there more in hope than expectation. And the market agrees.

Put it this way, he'd have probably been a 4s-on chance, instead of around 5/4, if he came here straight from that scintillating Goodwood success last August when many, myself included, were prepared to give him the 2,000 Guineas trophy there and then.

The form of that race simply couldn't have worked out much better, and it was franked yet again when the third home won the Feilden Stakes earlier this week.

But the wheels have come off since then. He missed the National Stakes with a dirty scope, and then blew out totally when sent off 4/7 for the Dewhurst, trailing in last after running too free, although it was surely far more than that (some reports suggested he came home lame).

He needs to learn how to settle, as a bare minimum, if he is going to fulfil his undoubted potential, and he is easily left alone in his prep race. We saw the folly of backing at these prices in trials with Roaring Lion earlier in the week.

If all eight were to stand their ground, then James Garfield, over 5 lengths behind Expert Eye at Goodwood and a subsequent Mill Reef winner, and Champagne Stakes runner-up Hey Gaman would be highly-attractive each-way bets.

But, with the ground quickening up from good to soft, the dreaded non-runner in the dead eight probably looms pretty large.

I hope Expert Eye wins and wins well, as the Guineas could do with a potential superstar in the field - and let's not forget he traded at an exchange low of 3.711/4 for the Guineas after the Vintage Stakes romp - but this is a race to sit and watch.

The same applies to the other Group 3 races on the card, unfortunately.

Not much value to be had in Group races

The six-runner John Porter at 14:00 sees Defoe on a retrieval mission after a desperately disappointing run in the St Leger on his final start last season.

With the Roger Varian stable beginning to get in full in swing, it is no surprise to see his Geoffrey Free winner head the betting here, and he is the highest-rated in the field, after all.

But it looks a trappy little race to me, with five of the six making their reappearance and the one with proven fitness, Autocratic, is trying 1m4f for the first time. But jockey Ryan Moore thinks he will stay and he is probably a fair price at around 6/1, especially with the ground drying out for this fast-ground Brigadier Gerard winner. No bet, though.

The old Fred Darling at 14:35 is even trickier to solve.

Yes, Gavota is the right favourite as she split two decent fillies when second in the Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket - both the winner and third have run very promising races in defeat in Group 3s this season - but even the briefest of glances at the ten promising fillies in opposition tells you that odds of around 2/1 are unattractive.

Two against the field in in 1m handicap

The 1m handicap at 15:45 is much more like it from a betting point of view, and I will take two against the field.

Hors De Combat looks big at 22.021/1 or bigger. He was in good form in Dubai this winter, and the drying ground is very much in his favour.

He went up 3lb for that Meydan success in February but he has still been rated 7lb higher in the past, and it is simply a matter of his price being a fair bit bigger than I expected, 7yo or not.

Most people have seen how well Leader Writer has shaped in his two starts this season, and I am willing to take a chance that the ground has not dried out too much for him. Or that being drawn 25 or 25 is not a massive hardship.

He shaped ominously well from off the pace on his Lingfield return and then he shaped best of those drawn high when eighth in the Lincoln.

Connections seem convinced that soft ground suits him best but he had good-ground form in Group races when trained in France, and the handicapper was kind in dropping him 1lb for that Doncaster run.

He is the second bet in the race at 14.013/1 or bigger.

Waley-Cohen's mount can Master Scottish National

There are also five races on ITV from Ayr, and obviously the centre piece is the Scottish National at 16:05, for which The Young Master appeals most to me at 18.017/1 or bigger.

His stablemate Doing Fine is shorter in the betting but I much prefer this one's claims.

He has dropped to a very winnable mark, some 16lb lower than when winning the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on good ground two years ago, and he showed enough in the Kim Muir last time, his first start after a wind op, to suggest to me that he is worth an interest here on this drying ground.

In fact, I am very surprised he was dropped another 3lb for that Cheltenham run on unfavourably soft ground, as it hinted at better to come. I hope Sam Waley-Cohen can do the weight, but he may put up 1lb or so.

Get to one of your dentists and seal up that mouth for the next 24 hours, Sam!

I will include Mysteree as a small-stakes saver at 50.049/1 or bigger, despite the fact that he would undoubtedly want it softer. We know he stays all day and maybe the first-time cheekpieces and tongue-tie can spark him back to life off a fair mark after some rancid recent efforts.

His trainer is two from five when using this headgear option since 2017, and to be fair the horse ran okay on good to soft when fourth in the 2016 Eider Chase (he won it the following year).

A few fancies but no tips for rest of Ayr card

The Scottish Champion Hurdle at 14:55 is clearly a very competitive affair, too, but unfortunately my two against the field are last year's winner Chesterfield and Verdana Blue, who head the market at around 11/2.

They don't represent a great deal in the way of value but Verdana Blue looks the most likely winner with the ground turning in her favour, and I couldn't put you off her if you wanted an interest in the race. In fact, the Betfair Sportsbook were top price at 6/1 about her when I filed, and that was fair enough.

She was not seen to best effect when third at Ascot earlier in the season, still running an excellent third despite going wide throughout, and she absolutely tanked through the race in the Betfair Hurdle last time, only to predictably find nothing when let down in the heavy ground.

It is easy to see her cruising through this contest and taking this prize - she shapes as much better than her current mark of 145 - but she clearly hasn't been missed in the market and I can let this race pass as a result.

Flashing Glance, who won in a good time at Ludlow last time (his first run after a wind op) and hailing from the red-hot Tom Lacey stable, makes most appeal of those at a bigger price at around the 16/1 mark.

In fact, that's a very fair price, but the fact that he is 2lb out of the handicap, so 8lb higher than Ludlow in a much deeper race, just deters me from putting him up.

Nothing appeals in the five-runner novice chase at 15:30 - how many times have we said that this season about these races? - but there are a couple of decent handicaps at the front of the card.

Vaniteux has been one of the most talked-about two-milers this season and he is sure to interest plenty again, despite his failure at Cheltenham, in the 13:45.

But, off a 6lb lower mark than when winning this opener last year by 5 lengths from Romain De Senam, back on this spring ground, you can expect him to be well supported.

I can't have him though at the prices, and there are a fair few in here with solid claims, including Theinval (a promising fourth when hampered here on Friday, and he can back up within 24 hours) and Ashoka.

Braquer D'Or interests me most in the 3m handicap chase at 14:20 but, once again, not enough that had me reaching for the tip or back button.

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