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Weekend tips: your best bets for Saturday's big races

Thom Malone takes us through the weekend’s action at Naas, Newbury and Ayr.

Keep Sean Levey on Ripp Orf on side in the Spring Cup on Saturday, writes Thom Malone.
Keep Sean Levey on Ripp Orf on side in the Spring Cup on Saturday, writes Thom Malone.
Image: Mike Egerton

TIGER ROLL CARRIED all in his wake last weekend and the ripples are still in evidence.

This weekend’s racing is unlikely to make the front pages, especially given the absence of Too Darn Hot in the Greenham Stakes (Newbury, 2.40pm, Saturday). John Gosden’s colt is officially the best juvenile since Frankel and it’s a shame to see him miss the race that Frankel started his three-year-old season in.

The roll of honour for the Greenham is littered with top-class equine talent and subsequent Group One winners. The surname Hannon is on the trophy seven times and the team from East Everleigh send Boitron, who tops the market.

The top-rated horse in the race is Hello Youmzain, whose only misstep last year was being too keen on his second start at Haydock. He showed plenty of desire when last seen winning a group two race in France beating a couple of solid juveniles, while the fifth horse home has won a listed race since. Kevin Ryan’s yard are not renowned for having early winners but they have had two from their last seven runners so the horse should be fit enough to do himself justice.

William Hill St. Leger Festival - Day Two - Doncaster Racecourse Sean Levey rides Ripp Orf in the Spring Cup. Source: Mike Egerton

The Spring Cup (Newbury, 3.15pm, Saturday) is the second of the big premier flat handicaps in the UK. Traditionally the main protagonists from the Lincoln tend to reoppose; this year, however, none of the first four will line up although the winner, Auxerre, looked to be Group class so has no future in handicaps.

Ibraz looks like he has the profile to be a worthy favourite but he may not be fit enough just yet. Ripp Orf will have no such fitness concerns. He was a strong finishing fifth in the Lincoln under what was probably not a great ride, but has Sean Levey on board for this and has placed off this mark on soft ground last season. There will be extra place concessions so back him each way, shouldn’t be out of the frame.

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Dermot Weld Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The sense of momentum building into the season proper continues with the Gladness and Alleged Stakes at Naas on Saturday. The opening race on the card will be a first chance to see Monarch of Egypt — the progeny of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah — on the racecourse and will make for an interesting spectacle.

Imaging made a talking start to his season, giving Oisin Orr his first pattern win at Leopardstown last time out, and with conditions to suit, there is little reason to think he cannot step up in class in the Group 3 Gladness (Naas, 4pm, Saturday).

In the Alleged Stakes (Naas, 4.35pm, Saturday). it’s a process of elimination that led to drawing a line through all bar Hazapour, again trained by Dermot Weld. Hazapour has not been seen since disappointing on Irish Champions Weekend, but the son of Shamardal has beaten a whole host of decent Ballydoyle horses in the past and there is little reason to see that changing at Naas this weekend. Like Imaging, it’s not that he will be the best of these by the end of the season but the vast majority of the field just cannot be trusted. 

Ayr’s biggest day over jumps is on Saturday, where the Scottish Grand National is the feature (Ayr, 3.35pm, Saturday). Like the Irish National this is often seen as a way to prep a horse for the big one at Aintree the following season.

Cloth Cap is very inexperienced over fences, but has won two of his three starts over the larger obstacles and only has to carry 10 stone. He has to be better than his mark suggests. As with the Spring Cup there will be extra place concessions, and the way this guy stayed on his jumping debut suggests the extra trip will suit and assuming his jumping is good enough, he will be staying on at the end.

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Thom Malone

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