One of the most eagerly awaited races of the season takes place at Ascot on Saturday afternoon with the clash between the unbeaten chasers, Shishkin and Energumene. However, the four-runner affair is a race to watch rather than get involved in from a betting perspective, so we will look elsewhere for Saturday’s Horse Racing tips, previews and predictions.
The big betting race at Haydock is the extended 3m 1f Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at 2.35pm. We will supply a Horse Racing tip for this 10-runner Grade 2 contest together with Ascot’s 2m 3f handicap hurdle at 1.45pm and at 2.55pm the 2m 5f bet365 handicap chase.
“Tip of the Day” – Palmers Hill – 2.55pm Ascot
Unbeaten on both of his starts this season, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old can land a hat-trick of victories stepping up to a trip that should suit.
Unexpected Party (Next Best) – 1.45pm Ascot
Top weight Gary Clermont, despite not winning, has done little wrong in his two runs this season, going down narrowly to the Nicky Henderson-trained Captain Morgs here in November before returning to the Berkshire racecourse to finish a fine third in the valuable Betfair Exchange Trophy just before Christmas.
Jonjo O’Neill Jr’s mount looks sure to run another big race but may struggle to concede plenty of weight to a couple of decent novices in Unexpected Party and Sonigino. The latter, a winner twice when trained by David Cottin in France, has failed to recapture that form in two outings since joining the Paul Nicholls stable.
The five-year-old now runs off a handy mark of 125 and if settling better than at Doncaster last time could be a danger to all. However, the horse who makes most appeal is the Dan Skelton-trained Unexpected Party, second on his last two starts since cruising home in a novices’ handicap hurdle at Wetherby last October.
The mount of Harry Skelton looked like winning both of those runner-up efforts, only to lose out in the closing stages.This drop back in trip could prove ideal for the grey son of Martaline who will be racing for just the fifth time over hurdles.
Fortesque (Longshot) – 2.35pm Haydock
The Venetia Williams-trained Cheltenham Gold Cup sixth Royale Pagaille won this famous handicap by 16 lengths 12 months ago. However, the mount of Charlie Deutsch runs off a 7lb higher mark on this occasion in what looks to be a much tougher race.
While it would be no surprise to see the eight-year-old win back-to-back renewals, one or two horses further down the handicap make more appeal. Unlucky Ladbroke Trophy faller Remastered has obvious claims along with Empire Steel would probably have won Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase but for falling four-out when going best. At a double-figure price however, the Henry Daly-trained Fortesque is fancied to make the frame at the very least.
The Shirocco gelding has won five of his 12 starts over fences, all of which came with plenty of give in the ground. Seventh in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury before finding only Five Star Getaway a length too good at Kempton on his most recent start, the eight-year-old looks to have his ideal conditions and with jockey Hugh Nugent taking 5lb off, should run a big race.
Palmers Hill (NAP) – 2.55pm Ascot
Top weight Fanion D’Estruval is a class act on his day and jockey Miss Lucy Turner takes 7lb off his back in this 2m 5f handicap chase. But the Enrique gelding races off a career-high mark of 159 here following his victory at Newbury in November and has to concede upwards of 17lb to some in-form rivals, the most interesting of which are the JP McManus-owned pair of Palmers Hill and Phoenix Way.
The latter has plenty of ability but has not always impressed with his jumping, as was the case when finishing a well beaten seventh behind Fanion D’Estruval in that Newbury race. Harry Fry’s runner meets that horse on 12lb better terms however and has since run well to finish second to Annsam on this course before Christmas.
A decent round of jumping would put Kevin Brogan’s mount in with a good chance. But preference is for the rapidly improving Palmers Hill from the Jonjo O’Neill stable. Unbeaten in both starts over fences this season, the son of Gold Well could not have been more impressive when winning on this course last month.
Racing over these extra two furlongs could bring about even more improvement from the unexposed nine-year-old who is fancied to defy this 9lb higher mark.
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