Saturday Racing Tips: Copperhead could be hard to stop at Newbury

Newbury racecourse in Berkshire
TC has two bets at Newbury on Saturday

If you're expecting festive cheer from Tony Calvin, well, it's come in the format of his three tips at Newbury and Leicester...

"I am going to give the outsider a go in the 1m7f113yd handicap hurdle at 15:15 in the shape of Ball D’Arc at 26.025/1 or bigger, albeit to minimum stakes."

It may be a Grade 1 card at Newbury, with the Challow Hurdle the centre piece, but the last Saturday of 2019 is one of the quietest of the year for my money.

So at least you will be spared by my usual lengthy guff, and we will make this snappier than usual.

In theory, anyway.

Some to swerve before an each-way chance at Newbury

The main race of the day is the aforementioned Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at 15:00, in which Thyme Hill trades at around the even-money mark to maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles.

Last year's Cheltenham Festival bumper third impressed when giving weight away and doing it comprehensively last time, and I think his price accurately reflects his chances of seeing off some similar unexposed and talented rivals here.

Not a betting race for me, and it is certainly not a day to get the big punting stick out anywhere, in truth.

I went round in circles when looking at the 2m4f handicap hurdle at 13:50, before deciding that I could barely rule out three runners, so I gave up.

The closest I came to putting up one was Howling Milan at 20/1+ as he is getting better as the season progresses while slipping down the weights at the same time. But I just wonder whether this trip may stretch him in the soft ground, so I raised the white flag and moved on.

Copperhead would be my idea of the clear favourite in the 3m2f handicap chase at 14:25, so I am happy to back him each way at 9/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook.

He was progressive over hurdles at the end of last season when winning at Exeter and Sandown, and he ran a satisfactory first race over fences when fifth in a competitive Beginners' Chase at Chepstow in October.

He showed the benefit of that outing when winning emphatically when stepped up to 3m1f at Wincanton last time, and he could be hard to stop even though the handicapper has saddled him with an extra 9lb after that.

He did guess at a few at Chepstow, and again last time, but he is generally a sound jumper and he could be a young stayer - he is still only 5yo - going places. Forgot To Ask, at 14/1+, is the alternative if you want one at a bigger price.

Morning Vicar could be answer to 15:35 conundrum

The 2m6f novices' handicap chase at 15:35 is hardly the easiest so solve and Morning Vicar, Tidal Flow and Diable De Sivola were the three I whittled it down to.

The latter is a big runner after a good second at Plumpton last time and he is definitely weighted to go well on his Sandown third last season too (he is perfectly backable at 8/1+), but the potential of Morning Vicar just gets my vote at 8.07/1 or bigger.

A smart bumper horse (he won here on his debut) he didn't progress as expected over hurdles in a light campaign, despite a Ludlow win, but he shaped well enough on his Kempton return when second to a 100/1 chance and he gets the chance to show what he can do over fences here.

He does so off a workable mark of 126 and, by all accounts, he has the look of a chaser, too. Let's hope he has the instincts of one as well.

Leicester

There are two ITV races at Leicester and my initial interest in Eureu Du Boulay in the 2m4f handicap chase at 14:40 was scuppered when I clocked that there were at least three others in the race that also like to go forward.

But I am going to give the outsider a go in the 1m7f113yd handicap hurdle at 15:15 in the shape of Ball D'Arc at 26.025/1 or bigger, albeit to minimum stakes.

Most eyes will be on Little Rory Mac, who has courted controversy for, differing reasons, on his last two starts.

He could well still be on a decent mark despite going up 11lb for his Market Rasen success, but he predictably hasn't been missed in the market and this looks a fairly competitive 0-130.

jumps racing donc 3 1280 .jpg

That last observation possibly makes my decision to side with Ball D'Arc all the more risky/foolhardy, but this represents yet another big class drop for him and he ran a bit better than the final beaten distance suggests at Doncaster last time.

That was his first start for new connections after being bought from Gigginstown for £14,000 in September and he actually led into the straight, going well, at Doncaster before quickly dropping away tamely.

He hopefully just needed it badly there, and the handicapper has dropped him another 5lb to a mark of 132, which enables him to creep into this 0-130.

Of course, that is light years from the classy form he showed for Gordon Elliott in his 2016-17 pomp - when he was a regular in the winners enclosure in Graded races, and was rated as high as 158 - but I think he is worth chancing, as I also like the angle of him stepping down from an extended 2m3f to a sub-2m on deeper ground.

Having watched 7lb claimer Alison Clarke guide Hard Knocks into second at Wetherby on Boxing Day, she has a very quiet style of riding, but we go into the race with our eyes wide open on that score (and she did well when winning twice on King Golan in the summer).

Lingfield all-weather 3 1280 .jpg

ITV also appear to have sneaked Lingfield's 0-85 1m4f handicap at 14:10 into their Saturday coverage - and to add insult to injury, it has attracted just the 15 runners.

To be fair, that is generally not the pain it would have once been on the fixed-odds front in these days of enhanced place terms on, but the race still doesn't make any great betting appeal.

If you want an interest then maybe Htilominio could be best placed to serve as the punt, as he shaped okay when fourth at Wolverhampton last month, his first start since August, and was dropped 2lb for it.

But I am never one to force a bet, and that is what I would be doing here in a relatively low-grade handicap, worth just over 5k to the winner, in the heart of winter.

Best of luck.

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