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Horse Racing

Festival Trials Day 2023: Preview and tips

Eight races live on ITV Racing on Saturday afternoon. It’s the Festival Trials Day from Cheltenham supported by action from Doncaster. We have looked over all the races shown live to produce some horse racing tips for Saturday. All prices correct at time of writing on Thursday afternoon.

1.20 Cheltenham

Rescheduled from Ascot last Saturday, the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase adds a little extra fizz to ‘Trials Day.’ Only three were set to compete at Ascot so at least we have a bigger field to enjoy here with six. It still looks a clash between reigning champion chaser Energumene and Arkle winner Edwardstone on paper, however.

The former is rightly favourite, beaten just once in nine starts over fences. That came behind Shishkin in this race last season at Ascot, a race that appears to have taken the lustre off his rival. It was a weak enough Arkle on paper in March so Edwardstone requires a personal best to trouble the Willie Mullins star.

Verdict: Energumene @ 8/15

1.50 Cheltenham

A hugely competitive two and a half mile handicap chase here. As such, there are any number here with solid claims. The pair at the head of the market are Il Ridoto and Fugitif. The latter was a very impressive winner at Chepstow when last seen but is ten pounds higher in a deeper race. The former is yet to conclusively prove his stamina for this trip.

At a bigger price, Simply The Betts could be worth taking a little bit of a chance on. He has two wins and two seconds from six starts on the New Course here. They include four of his five best career runs. He’s a ten-year-old now and ran no more than fairly here last time. That said, he’s on a fair mark on his best and first-time cheekpieces could spark him back to life.

Verdict: Simply The Betts E/W @ 16/1

2.05 Doncaster

This tends to be one of the weaker Grade 2’s of the season. This year, however, it has former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante in the line-up. Her appearance adds some spice to the race for all that it could make it rather less competitive.

She has upwards of twelve pounds in hand of all her rivals at these weights which is going to make her very hard to beat. Constitution Hill has bested her in both starts this season and with no disgrace in that, she can get herself back on the winning trail on Saturday.

Verdict: Epatante @ 2/5

2.25 Cheltenham

One of the features of the day, the Cotswold Chase. Run over a furlong shorter than March’s Gold Cup, it gives a chance to put the runners credentials on the line. Only six line up with the 2022 Gold Cup third Protektorat taking on the Grand National winner Noble Yeats at the top of the market.

With Frodon and Ahoy Senor in the contest, this should be honestly run. Protektorat goes well fresh but he’s only 2/8 when running at Cheltenham, both wins in novice company. That perhaps makes him vulnerable back at this track for all that he has the best form in the contest.

Noble Yeats had the re-opposing Ahoy Senor and Sounds Russian behind him when winning the Many Clouds Chase in December but the last named kept on again on that speedier track having got outpaced. He might just be a spot of each way value to continue his progression and pick up the pieces late on.

Verdict: Sounds Russian E/W @ 10/1

2.40 Doncaster

The River Don is a three-mile novice hurdle, a trial for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Stay Away Fay has won both of his career starts so far, looking better the further he went at Newbury last time out. The step up in trip should suit him nicely, it’s no surprise to see him head the betting.

Grand Soir has progressed well since stepped up to this trip. Along with The Wounded Knee, proven stamina is a plus but both may prove vulnerable to one moving up in distance. Maximilian and Park This One were third and fourth in a Sandown Grade 2 over shorter. At the prices, it might be worth taking a chance on the last named who has looked to keep a little for himself. He should have plenty more to come.

Verdict: Park This One E/W @ 16/1

3.00 Cheltenham

The Cleeve Hurdle is a trial for the Stayers at the Cheltenham Festival. Paisley Park has won the last three runnings of this contest, joining Lady Rebecca as the most successful horse in the history of the race. It’s not surprise to see him a short price here following his win in the Long Walk at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Dashel Drasher should get a relatively soft time of things on the front end which will help him but he’s just 1/7 when running in Graded company. Gelino Bello is back over hurdles after a fall in the Kauto Star at Christmas. He won a Grade 1 as a novice over this trip but that form has taken plenty of knocks since. He represents the main danger, however, and his ante price for the Stayers would tumble if he wins.

Verdict: Paisley Park @ 5/4

3.15 Doncaster

The big handicap contest of the day, the three-mile chase is usually a deep field but it feels slightly lacking this season. The last four renewals have gone to a veteran and in Cloth Cap, there’s a strong chance that it will be five in a row. This trip and ground are ideal, he’s dropped to a workable mark and ran a touch better than the finishing position last time out.

Demachine was below par in this race last year but he was sent off at just 5/1 and was subsequently given a wind op. He’s run with credit over shorter trips this campaign and should be in the mix. Ga Law has to prove his stamina over this far but he’s returned from a twenty month absence in fine fettle and merits respect.

Verdict: Cloth Cap E/W @ 10/1

3.35 Cheltenham

The final contest on ITV is a Ballymore trial, two and a half miles the trip in this novice hurdle. Pembroke has only won a pair of hurdles at Wetherby and Ludlow but he was deeply impressive in the most recent of those. Connections have called him a “work in progress” so there should be more to come, especially now stepped up in trip.

Henri The Second has the strongest form in here, the winner of the Winter Novices’ at Sandown. Like this contest, that is a Grade 2 so he incurs a penalty for that success. A big run from Maximilian or Park This One in the 2.40 at Doncaster would boost that form nicely.

We got burnt putting up a couple of Tom Lacey’s on Tolworth day. Despite that, Cruz Control is an interesting one at a price. Well regarded, the ground is in his favour and he could outrun his double figure odds in a competitive race.

Verdict: Cruz Control E/W @ 16/1