Megan Nicholls Racing Tips – Cheltenham, Doncaster & Ascot

BetMGM ambassador Megan Nicholls offers her insight into the world of horse racing as she brings her first-rate knowledge exclusively to our blog every week.

In this entry the former jockey, who rode more than 110 winners before turning her hand to TV punditry, takes a closer look at Saturday’s meetings at Cheltenham and Ascot.

Eyecatcher of the Week

Having found and purchased Givemefive from Johnny Murtagh, you're always hoping the horses will exceed expectations – and he certainly has done that.

His home work has always been really pleasing and he's been a pleasure to work with ever since we started dealing with him.

He's schooled well and he's trained well – we were hopeful he would be a nice horse but what he did at Warwick last time out was crazily impressive. He blew our minds.

We thought he would be very competitive but to win by 18 lengths, eased down, in the fashion he did in what looked on paper to be a pretty competitive race was just so pleasing.

It was a real special one, personally speaking, to be able to find a horse for my cousin. He's ended up having amazing owners - with golfers Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell both having a share - and the fact he has realistic expectations of going to Cheltenham is quite incredible.

Absolutely delighted with him for so many reasons and looking forward to seeing wherever he goes next. He is going to be hard to replicate, but we keep our eyes peeled to find similar types to him moving forward.

The pressure is going to be on for the next one. I put him up at the start of the jumps season as a juvenile to follow and I am hoping I was absolutely right in suggesting that.

It is likely he will go to Kempton next for the Adonis and onto Cheltenham from there, so it's really exciting.

Saturday Racing Tips

Cheltenham 12.05 – Triumph Hurdle Trial

Burdett Road (EVS) is the short-priced favourite, and it's not surprising. He's a talented horse on the flat, and what he did at Cheltenham last time was impressive. Having been held up right off the pace, it looked like he had an awful lot of work to do turning in, but ultimately won, eased down with as much in hand as you would like.

His jumping was not good enough, despite how well he won. I think the more competitive races he will be running in, the more his jumping will be tested, and it has not been slick enough.

He's gotten away with it so far, though, and he should get away with it again.

Sir Gino (11/8) is a beautiful horse, an absolute monster, and I can't wait to see him when he goes chasing in a couple of seasons' time if that's not even next season. He doesn't strike me as a really sharp juvenile, and his jumping, especially late on, needs to be slicker.

I have no doubt it will be and he will be a better horse in a better tempo race.

Neither horse would be my pick for the Triumph Hurdle in March, but I think that Burdett Road will take an awful lot of beating this weekend. If he is jumping slicker, I might change my mind, and he might come further up the pecking order for the Triumph.

I'd like to see a better jumping performance from him, as the engine is there.

Megan’s Tip: Burdett Road WIN

Ascot 1.50 – The Cotswold Chase

I am really looking forward to this race. I'm absolutely delighted to see Stay Away Fay (3/1) taking on some of his elders and more experienced horses, and he is the one they are going to have to beat.

I know Royale Pagaille (11/4) beat Bravemansgame at Haydock, but I just think that Stay Away Fay is an exceptionally talented horse. He will be so much better in a stronger-run race, where he doesn't have to make his own running, and he stays forever.

If he's really going to be a Gold Cup contender for the team next year, then he wants to be going very close in this type of race.

Royal Pagaille is a very solid horse and is going to give everyone more of an idea where we stand with Stay Away Fay, but we know Cheltenham suits him, his jumping has been very good, and I can't wait to see him up in grade against some of these.

I will stick with Stay Away Fay - the talent is huge, and I am very much looking forward to seeing him back on track.

As an aside, it's great to see a couple of these horses taking this type of route - not necessarily the easy and traditional path forward. They are running in better races, stepping out of novice company, and participating in really competitive national hunt stuff that we love to see. We have seen some magnificent horses take similar routes over the years - so I'm a huge fan.

Megan’s Tip: Stay Away Fay WIN

Doncaster 2.05 – Mares' Hurdle

Paddy Mullins is on the favourite, Ashroe Diamond (11/8), for Willie Mullins in this one but he’s got two in the race and I’m going to go with the Danny Mullins-ridden Gala Marceau (7/4).

I just think she’s being overlooked slightly. She comes back off a break so fitness won’t be an issue and she was beaten not all that far by Lossiemouth at Cheltenham last March.

Lossiemouth actually goes to Cheltenham this weekend as well – and is short-priced favourite in the International Hurdle there – but yeah I think Gala Marceau has huge potential to improve this year as well as plenty of experience and she finished the year well.

I’m looking forward to seeing her back on track and think that maybe the market has got this a little bit wrong – Willie obviously trains both of them but I wouldn’t split them by that much. I’m going with the underdog.

Megan’s Tip: Gala Marceau WIN

Cheltenham 2.25 – Handicap Chase

It was absolutely gutting to see BetMGM lose the Clarence House race at Ascot last weekend, and similarly gutting that we don't get the Jonbon and El Fabiolo clash. We should still see El Fabiolo at the Dublin Racing Festival, and all being well, we will get the clash in March.

This is a huge opportunity for James Bowen - Nico de Boinville had another unfortunate setback and has stood himself down this week and isn't going to be able to ride. So Bowen gets the leg up on Jonbon (3/10) - a horse I hope is ridden positively once again. He loves that way of going, and he was so impressive on his return in November last year when winning the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham.

Ultimately, it should be very much a point-and-go job for Jonbon - he's beaten the rest of his rivals fair and square already this season, and it's hard to see any of them overturning it.

I am looking forward to seeing him back on track, and hopefully, we can get a good comparison of his performance against that of El Fabiolo next weekend and learn that little bit more we might need to know come March.

Megan’s Tip: Jonbon WIN

Doncaster 3.15 – Handicap Chase

Kandoo Kid (10/1) is up in trip - I am absolutely delighted.

He looks like he is crying out for this step up; he's been in great form over fences and has been staying on really well when outpaced over a shorter trip.

So I am thrilled to see him up to 3 miles, and there is way more to come from this horse. He's a nice, solid each-way price and is definitely one to be looking out for.

It could be a good day for Paul Nicholls across Doncaster and Cheltenham, but I just think he is a nice and solid each-way price.

Megan’s Tip: Kandoo Kid WIN

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