At the start of a massive week for fans of ITV Racing, the broadcaster is showcasing a total of seven contests at Sandown Park and Wolverhampton on Saturday as a prelude to the glories of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival from Tuesday.
The main dish on Saturday is the Betfair Imperial Cup (2.25pm), one of four live ITV races from Sandown, with a trio at Dunstall Park on the all-weather, including the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes (2.40pm).
Our racing expert marks your card for Saturday’s terrestrial action, with ITV Racing on air from 1.10pm to 4pm on ITV4.
ITV Racing predictions – Sandown and Wolverhampton, Saturday March 11
Enda McElhinney has recommendations for all seven races on Saturday. You can read the analysis behind his selections below.
Odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.
1.30 Wolverhampton – Huge Daily Boosts Only Betuk Handicap (6f)
A competitive start. BALDOMERO is in good form and just could not last home under top weight at Lingfield eight days ago. He is going to feel let loose with 8st 11lb on his back and Billy Loughnane further easing the burden via his 5lb claim – and it would not be a shock if he sees them all off.
Selection: Baldomero @ 5/1 with Sky Bet
1.50 Sandown – European Breeders’ Fund Betfair “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (2m 4f)
Paul Nicholls won this last year and has three in the mix – Henri The Second, Hugos New Horse and Twin Power – while handicap debutant Etalon is a player for the Skelton team and course-and-distance winner Inneston for the Moores.
Last month’s easy Leicester winner CUTHBERT DIBBLE represents Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has a good recent record in this race, and is unexposed at the trip. With son Sam riding, he has got strong claims.
Selection: Cuthbert Dibble @ 9/2 with Sky Bet
2.05 Wolverhampton – Spreadex Sports Lincoln Trial Handicap (1m ½f)
Between them Unforgotten, Yanifer and War In Heaven have combined to win their previous nine starts and they all have claims again. But NOTRE BELLE BETE is very consistent and has form that ties in with those principles via last month’s close second behind Outbreak at Lingfield.
Andrew Balding’s runner was back from a layoff that day and should be sharper now, while the booking of Oisin Murphy tempers any worries about a wider than ideal draw.
Selection: Notre Belle Bete @ 4/1 with Sky Bet
2.25 Sandown – Betfair Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (2m)
A strong 18-runner field is engaged in the Imperial Cup and it should make for a cracking renewal. Playful Saint made short work of his handicap debut at Leicester and could go well for the Skeltons from 7lb higher, while Punctuation, Fine Casting and last-time-out course-and-distance winner Hardy Du Seuil are all notables.
MONVIEL was caught further back than ideal in last month’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury before staying on for fifth. If he can keep closer to the pace now, Philip Hobbs’s charge is rated 1lb lower and looks like he will relish the tough Sandown finish.
Selection: Monviel @ 7/1 with Sky Bet
2.40 Wolverhampton – Spreadex Sports Lady Wulfruna Stakes (Listed, 7f)
If he fires, ANGEL BLEU is the one to beat for Ralph Beckett in this Listed contest. He is a five-time turf winner at 6f to 1m, including two Group 1s in France in 2021.
He shaped nicely on his seasonal bow in the Greenham at Newbury last spring, so coming here fresh is not a worry and, in the context of this race, it is not hard to forgive subsequent defeats in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
He has got the class to dispose of these on an all-weather bow/seasonal comeback.
Selection: Angel Bleu @ 11/4 with Sky Bet
3.00 Sandown – British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (2m, Listed)
Usually a strong Mares’ bumper, and it looks no different this year.
Easy Hereford winner Casa No Mento is considered alongside Wincanton scorer Goodtimecrew, but MARCH WIND did plenty wrong when eventually finishing second on debut at Wetherby in January and she could reward trainer Sandy Thomson for making this journey south by improving a chunk and landing this prize.
Selection: March Wind @ 18/1 with Sky Bet
3.35 Sandown – Betfair Daily Multiples Offer At Cheltenham Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m 4f)
Having missed 639 days after his final hurdles start before finishing second in a match at Ffos Las in November on chase bow, EASY AS THAT is making up for lost time.
The Venetia Williams inmate has won both subsequent starts at Haydock (2m 5½f, soft) and Newcastle (2m 4f, good to soft) and he looked very much on the up in that success a fortnight ago. He is 9lb higher but is fancied to defy the assessor.
Selection: Easy As That @ 6/4 with Sky Bet
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