ITV Racing Saturday Cheltenham And Doncaster Preview

Cheltenham - January 29 2022
Cheltenham 13:55
Paddy Brennan


J: Paddy Brennan
T: Milton Harris
Age: 7
Weight: 10-12
OR: 133
Days: 34

The Grade Three Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase comes first on ITV and sees another smart field of runners goes to post and staying down a form line we like we think Jacamar can run a big race at a double figure price.

An up and down hurdler for Milton Harris during his career, he was sent chasing this term and on the evidence of his first two runs it looked the wrong move.

However, he has learnt loads for his first two experiences and on his third start over the larger obstacles this term he went to Wincanton over todays trip and finished a neck second behind a nice type for Sam Thomas.

Running off only 2lb higher on Boxing Day, he came with a superb late run under Danny Mullins to swallow up Your Darling and Mister Coffey, to land a very competitive handicap at Kempton.

The way he finished his race off suggests he will suit Cheltenham well and off only 3lb higher he should be in the mix once more.

Doncaster - January 29 2022
Doncaster 14:10
James Bowen

Anna Bunina

J: James Bowen
T: John C McConnell
Age: 6
Weight: 11-2
OR: 135
Days: 28

Another nice event at Town Moor is the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle and we are taking on the favourite with the John McConnell trained Anna Bunina.

The mare has been a smart hurdler over the years, coming over from the flat where she was also a talented horse, and towards the back end of last season she showed the best of her form.

Sent to the Cheltenham festival in March she finished a good eighth in the Grade Three County Hurdle behind some smart types and off the back of that finished a good second in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.

She has only been seen once this term when having a blow out on New Year's Day at Musselburgh and that should have put her bang on for this event.

Big chance getting weight off the favourite.

Cheltenham - January 29 2022
Cheltenham 14:30
Nico de Boinville

Chantry House

J: Nico de Boinville
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 8
Weight: 11-6
OR: 160
Days: 34

The feature race of the afternoon is the Grade Two Cotswold Chase and we can't look past the favourite Chantry House for Nicky Henderson.

The JP McManus owned gelding first took the eye when winning at Warwick in decent bumper on heavy ground which saw him beat the likes of Edwardstone and Shan Blue, who both go on to become established national hunt horses.

Having just the one spin under rules he was next seen again in December 2019, this time on his hurdles debut at Cheltenham, just doing enough to see off the likes of Stolen Silver, Pipesmoker and Pileon.

All of those horses went on to win next time out and frank Chantry House's form, it was then left for the Nicky Henderson runner to do the same and he obliged at Newbury winning hard held.

This set him up perfectly for a crack at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival where he finished a valiant third behind two superstars in stablemate Shishkin and Abacadabras.The Seven Barrows handler always said that Chantry House would make into a nice chaser and he looked to be a star in the making over the bigger obstacles on debut at Ascot.

Although seeing off a tame field he went on to win the event by 26 growing lengths and off that performance it is going to take a smart horse to beat him.

He then went to Cheltenham and ran no sort of race, finishing third of four runners behind stablemate Fussil Raffles, but he looked a shadow of himself.

Henderson admitted he had a back problem and with that rectified he went to Wetherby in February and got back to winning ways in fine style.Chantry House improved massively for that run next time out when taking advantage of the fall by Envoi Allen to land the Grade One Marsh Novices' Chase.

The gelding stayed out the trip well and his handler then decided to step him up in trip to 3m1f for the Grade One Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree and he went on to win by 32 lengths.

A very exciting staying chaser in open company this term, he landed a Listed Intermediate Chase on seasonal debut in a match race at Sandown on seasonal debut.

He was last seen at Kempton on Boxing Day in the King George VI Chase when pulling up with plenty of the race to go, with something a miss.

This event is much easier and gives him a great opportunity to get back on track and prove to the world he has Gold Cup credentials.

Doncaster - January 29 2022
Doncaster 14:45
Joshua Moore

Unanswered Prayers

J: Joshua Moore
T: Chris Gordon
Age: 6
Weight: 10-12
OR: 126
Days: 21

The final Grade Two of the day is the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices' Hurdle over three miles and Unanswered Prayers for Chris Gordon could be tough to beat.

Being seen in two bumpers last term and running to an average level he has massively improved for the step over hurdles.

Making his seasonal debut in October, he won well over two miles, beating a nice type for Dan Skelton who has since franked the form.

Stepped up to 19f at Warwick he finished first past the post was demoted to second in the stewards rooom, still running to a high level.

In November he took on Grade One Challow Hurdle winner Stage Star and finished a fair second behind him with the Paul Nicholls runner obviously franking the form since.

Unanswered Prayers, did the same last time out on his first try at 2m5f, giving his best run of the season to beat another nice type for Nicholls at Wincanton.

He looks a stayer in the making and should go well.

Cheltenham - January 29 2022
Cheltenham 15:05
Jonjo O'Neill Jr


J: Jonjo O'Neill Jr
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 10
Weight: 11-6
OR: 163
Days: 42

One of the other big events of the day at Cheltenham is the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle where Champ will be looking to strengthen his grip at the top of the Stayers' Hurdle market.

The superstar Champ pulled off the performance of the 2020 Cheltenham festival when jumping the last in the RSA well behind the two tiring leaders but managing to fly up the hill, staying the best of the field and just getting up on the line to land the Grade One.

Before that race he lost his unbeaten record over fences when falling two out at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, but at the festival he put everything right and looks to be a hell of a staying horse.

Messed around with last term he was only seen twice over fences, having a prep run over two miles in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase, before heading back to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup and with everything going wrong he was pulled up.

As a hurdler Champ was exceptional winning the Grade One Challow Hurdle, Grade One Sefton Novices' Hurdle and then finishing a narrow second in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Not knowing what would be happening with Champ this term after an operation in the summer, he was sent over hurdles on seasonal debut and in a superb renewal of the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle, he came out on top, outstaying the talented Thyme Hill.

This has now seen Henderson lean more towards keeping him over timber for the rest of the season and he is using this event as his stepping stone to the Stayers' Hurdle at the festival.

Doncaster - January 29 2022
Doncaster 15:20
Tom Bellamy


J: Tom Bellamy
T: Alan King
Age: 9
Weight: 10-8
OR: 137
Days: 33

The finale event we have selections in at Donny is the prestigious Sky Bet Handicap Chase over three miles and with a big field going to post in this competitive event we have had two stabs at it.

The first each way play is the JP McManus and Alan King trained Canelo, who needs to bounce back to form but has plenty in his favour to do so.

Having been up in the heavens when it comes to his handicap mark he is now back down to very feasible 137, which is workable for him if retaining his potential.

In November 2020 he put up two superb performances, winning a good handicap chase off 130 and then off 8lb higher backed that up at Newbury when a close second in another valuable event.

He then won off a mark of 142 in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick handicap Chase at Wetherby and off the back of that race ran in this event off 148 and finished a respectable fourth.

Since then he has slightly struggled with his mark, falling in the Grand National on his final start when never offering a threat to the leaders.

This term he has been seen three times, finishing seventh in a good handicap at Bangor before being pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy and then last time out was a weak seventh of nine at Kempton.

Off the back of these three runs he has now dropped to a mark of 137 which sees back where he needs to be to go well in this race, being 11lb lighter than his fourth in the contest last year.

Big each way player, especially with some of his best form coming on drying ground.

Doncaster - January 29 2022
Doncaster 15:20
Lorcan Williams


J: Lorcan Williams
T: Paul Nicholls
Age: 9
Weight: 10-10
OR: 139
Days: 63

Another big each way player, again for JP McManus is the Paul Nicholls trained Kapcorse who seems to still be improving and should have room in his mark to go close.

In November 2020 he was seen for the first time in 18 months in the Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury when looking like needing the run.

He had another year off the track and returned off a lenient mark of 131 in the same race and this time look to have plenty up his sleeve when winning by close to six lengths.

He has been raised 8lb for that win but if coming on for that first run for a year he can't be discounted.

Cheltenham - January 29 2022
Cheltenham 15:40
Nico de Boinville

Balco Coastal

J: Nico de Boinville
T: Nicky Henderson
Age: 6
Weight: 11-5
OR: 130
Days: 38

The penultimate event of the afternoon at Cheltenham is the Grade Two Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and Balco Coastal for Nicky Henderson.

The six year old has always been thought of highly at Seven Barrows, finishing second in a PTP in December 2020 to Gentlemansgame, who has turned out to be a nice horse for Mouse Morris.

Given to Henderson after being bought for £100,000, he won a nice bumper on rules debut, bolting up by 17 lengths and then went to Aintree for the Grade Two Bumper and finished a fair seventh of 18 behind the likes of Stage Star and Knappers Hill.

Sent hurdling this term he has been seen twice over obstacles and looked very impressive both times, winning on debut at Huntingdon in taking style and was then gritty last time out at Ludlow, with the second that day since winning well.

He steps up in grade and trip for this event but looks to be crying out for 2m4f and should go well.

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing