Alan Kelly: Tips For Saturday's ITV Racing - 12th March

Sandown & Wolverhampton Provide Bumper Seven-Race Coverage by ITV Racing on Saturday Afternoon

The final Saturday ITV Horse Racing coverage before the 2022 Cheltenham Festival comes from the the meetings at Sandown and Wolverhampton. The feature race of the afternoon is the historic Paddy Power Imperial Cup which dates back to 1907 and which is notable for the bonus offered by the sponsor for any horse who wins the two mile handicap hurdle along with any race at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Martin Pipe famously managed the feat on three occasions courtesy of Olympian, Blowing Wind and Gaspar. Dan Skelton’s Langer Dan came close 12 months ago, running out a comfortable winner of the Sandown handicap before finding only the talented Galopin Des Champs too good in the Martin Pipe on the final day of the festival.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Balco Coastal is the most interesting contender in an effort to land the elusive double. As well as the feature race at 2.25pm, ITV cameras will also show the races taking place at 1.50pm, 3.00pm and 3.35pm on the card. While over on Wolverhampton’s all-weather surface, coverage consists of the 1.31pm, 2.05pm and 2.40pm races.

1.31pm Wolverhampton

Our Tip: Above @ 11/2 with bet365

Top weight Exalted Angel has yet to win in four visits to Wolverhampton and the Dark Angel gelding may have to make do with a supporting role once again in this 6f handicap. 

Zarzyni, Mighty Gurkha and Whittle Le Woods are all capable of going close, based on their best form. But the one to beat could be the Stuart Williams-trained Above, in the hands of jockey Marco Ghiani.

The five-year-old is a better horse on an artificial surface as opposed to turf and this six length winner on the course as a juvenile looks sure to run a big race.

1.50pm Sandown

Our Tip: Marble Sands @ 20/1 with Paddy Power (Each-Way)

As is usually the case, a fiercely competitive renewal of this Grade 3 novices’ handicap hurdle final. Sixth in the valuable Betfair Hurdle last time, top weight Knappers Hill has every chance of conceding weight to his 16 rivals. But at a double-figure price, the each-way value may lie with the Fergal O’Brien-trained Marble Sands.

The grey son of Martaline has yet to win in three attempts over hurdles but was only just touched off by fellow rival Kingofthewest at Taunton last time and Paddy Brennan’s mount looks on a fair opening handicap mark of 119.

2.05pm Wolverhampton

Our Tip: La Tihaty @ 2/1 with BetVictor

Whether this Lincoln trial has any bearing on the once-famous handicap later in the month is open to question with only joint top weight La Tihaty among the first dozen in the ante-post betting (14/1 with bet365) for the Town Moor contest.

The Roger Varian-trained colt is taken to enhance his claims however as the mount of 5lb claimer Saffie Osbourne could turn out to be better than a 104-rated handicapper, based on his four consecutive victories since making a promising debut at Lingfield as a juvenile, all of those wins coming on an all-weather surface.

An impressive winner of a Kempton handicap on his most recent start last month, the son of New Bay is expected to continue his winning run at the main expense of Hafeet Alain and Notre Belle Bete.

2.25pm Sandown

Our Tip: Balco Coastal @ 4/1 with Coral

The Nicky Henderson-trained Balco Coastal could join the Martin Pipe trio of horses who have been successful in winning the bonus available for any horse who goes on to win at next week’s Cheltenham Festival after first winning this valuable handicap.

The six-year-old will not have things all his own way with 21 rivals to beat. But the mount of Nico de Boinville should appreciate this drop back to 2m after finishing second in a Grade 2 contest at Cheltenham in January.

An opening handicap mark of 134 can prove lenient for a horse who could go on to be better than a handicapper.

2.40pm Wolverhampton

Our Tip: Internationalangel @ 13/2 with Betfair (Each-Way)

Despite being one of the lowest rated runners in this 7f Listed race, the Jane Chappel Hyam-trained Internationalangel can cope with the step-ups in class to record her sixth straight victory.

The five-year-old mare has been doing most of her winning at Chelmsford, showing a good turn of foot at the end of her races without being seriously tested.

Robert Tart’s mount has plenty to find with the likes of Happy Power, Misty Grey and Highfield Princess but possesses unlimited potential and could be competing at Group 3 level before too long 

3.00pm Sandown

Our Tip: Mullenberg @ 6/4 with Coral

The Milton Harris stable is having a cracking season and this Listed National Hunt flat race looks at the mercy of his Mullenbeg if the daughter of Walk In The Park is in the same kind of form as when cruising home in a similar race at Cheltenham last time.

The mount of Mitchell Bastyan had several of these behind at Prestbury Park and may have most to fear from Irish raider Eabha Grace.

3.35pm Sandown

Our Tip: Dorking Lad @ 5/1 with Betfred

Any of the six runners could win this competitive 2m 4f handicap chase. But the vote goes to the Gary Moore-trained Dorking Lad now that the seven-year-old has finally found his form over the bigger obstacles.

After beating subsequent winner Flagrant Delitiep at Wincanton, Dorking Lad put 20 lengths between himself and runner-up Honorary Colonel at Huntingdon last month. Despite racing off an 11lb higher mark, Jamie Moore’s mount is capable of landing the hat-trick.