Megan Nicholls Racing Tips – Newcastle, Wincanton & Sandown
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 110 winners before turning her hand to television punditry, casts her eye over Saturday’s meetings at Newcastle and Wincanton as well as the bumper card at Sandown on Sunday.
Eyecatcher of the Week – Willmount
Willmount was an impressive winner for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville at Newbury in a UK Novices’ Hurdle on Thursday.
Before he switched to the Henderson stable, he was trained by Neil Mulholland and was impressive when unbeaten in two bumpers and a point-to-point.
He is four from four to date – I’m not convinced it was the most competitive race at Newbury but the fashion in which he won was very impressive.
Nicky tends to run plenty of nice novice hurdlers at Newbury and I thought he was one to keep an eye on. He could be up in grade fairly quickly and you would want to give this horse plenty of respect.
He’s one for the notebook.
Saturday Racing Tips
Wincanton 1.50 – Rising Stars Novices' Chase
I am going to stick with my favourite, Knappers Hill. He’s going to be a short-priced favourite once again.
He didn’t disgrace himself at Chepstow when he was beaten by Unexpected Party. I said it would be down to the rhythm and jumping and so it proved but he would have sharpened up plenty from that start and it’s likely that he will have improved for the run a bit as well.
Harry Cobden will be confident knowing he has jumped really well on his first chasing outing and will try to make as much use of that as possible.
Of the others, a horse that looks pretty exciting is Doyen Star for trainer Evan Williams. He’s lightly raced with only three starts to date – and only two of those under rules, both of which he won nicely over hurdles at Chepstow.
He is switching to fences here but he was a point-to-point winner previously. He could be anything.
On official ratings, they all have a lot to find with Kanppers Hill but, of the bigger prices, Doyen Star could be the one to serve up a challenge.
Megan’s Tip: Knappers Hill WIN; Doyen Star E/W
Wincanton 2.25 – Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap)
It’s a shame we are only seeing 11 runners, I was hoping we would have a full field of 18.
I really feel my dad [four-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls] is going to have a strong day at Wincanton. He’s running a couple of horses in this race. He has Frodon, who needs no introduction whatsoever and won this last year.
However, my pick is going to the other stable runner which is Threeunderthrufive, who is going for his first run since a wind operation. I have been fortunate enough to have a sit on him doing some of his work this year and he was in tremendous form.
I think it is a positive he is starting at 3m 1f. He’s previously run in some of these marathon-type races and ran well but maybe not quite stayed, possibly because his wind has been catching him out a little bit.
His high head carriage was potentially a result of his wind catching him last season. The wind operation seems to have helped him in his home work, the way he carries himself and hopefully will help on the track too.
I totally understand how Frodon would be a fairytale story but it’s going to be Threeunderthroughfive for me.
If I was going to look away from Threeunderthrufive, his biggest danger is the The Big Breakaway for Joe Tizzard. Joe’s horses have started the season in flying form. He was lightly raced last year and was last seen unfortunately falling in the Grand National at Aintree.
However he’s gone well fresh previously and he’s a horse that has promised plenty of ability, without showing us everything he can do on occasion. He had a couple of good runs last year and stayed well so, away from Threeunderthrufive to win, he’s a horse I could be looking at to place.
Megan’s Tip: Threeunderthrufive WIN; The Big Breakaway E/W
Wincanton 3.00 – Elite Hurdle
It is often a race with a fairly small field and it’s just five runners this time round. With the double entry of West Balboa, who is also declared with Harry Cobden in the 3.20 at Aintree, it could end with just four runners which would be a bit of a shame.
It may be a small field but it is relatively competitive. Rubaud will be the short-priced favourite – he’s one of my dad’s runners who comes to Wincanton in good form.
He really improved throughout last year and returned in great form when winning pretty nicely at Kempton at Listed Level on his seasonal reappearance last month. It would be hard to ignore him.
If West Balboa does turn up, then she’s a very talented mare and would absolutely be the one he has to beat. I would be shocked if she ran at Wincanton, though, with the Aintree run over 2½ miles, a much more suitable trip for her.
I suspect the reasoning behind the double declaration is that there are ground concerns at Aintree and, if it became very heavy and racing wasn’t able to go ahead, then naturally West Balboa would have the option of going to Wincanton.
I’m afraid it’s the same old story with these small fields, though. The ground at Wincanton will be a lot better than most other places and there is some decent prize money up for grabs. We would all like to see some competitive racing to start the season but unfortunately it isn’t the case this time round.
Megan’s Tip: Rubaud WIN
Newcastle 3.45 – November Handicap
Local Dynasty is the obvious interesting horse here for Charlie Appleby.
He has had a bit of a break and has been gelded. He’s stepping up in trip, which looks to be a positive.
When he finished fourth in a Heritage Handicap last time out at Newmarket he got short of room and had to be switched but he did start to run on and he wasn’t beaten all that far in the end, losing by just 2½ lengths. He was a bit of an eyecatcher that day.
It’s fair to say Appleby’s yard was in fairly quiet form at that time but that form has really turned. Their horses have been flying and they have had plenty of winners in the last couple of weeks so I think he's worthy of his price, which will be close to the top of the market.
I’m looking forward to seeing him back in action on all-weather. Being up in trip looks perfect as well and I think it will be a nice stepping stone for him ahead of potentially heading over to Dubai.
Megan’s Tip: Local Dynasty WIN
Sunday Racing Tips
Sandown 2.15 – Elmbridge Handicap Chase
Xcitations is a horse that goes well at Sandown and enjoys slow going so this seems ideal for him.
He tends to need a run and improves plenty after that first run of every season – it’s good then that he had a start in the Handicap Chase at Kempton last month in which he didn’t disgrace himself even though the ground was maybe a bit too quick and the track a bit too sharp as well.
However, as I say, he does tend to improve fitness-wise after his first start back and I imagine this is a race that they’ve mapped out for him as he’s got good form at the track.
I think despite being top weight he’ll have a big chance here on favourable ground.
Megan’s Tip: Xcitations WIN
Sandown 2.50 – Handicap Hurdle
This one looks a nice opportunity for Iliko D'Olivate. He ran well at the track before, was lightly raced last season and has the potential to improve further.
He’s quite a big horse, physically he’s done really well over the summer and his training at home has been really positive. This just looks like an ideal opportunity for him on his seasonal reappearance in a race that I imagine will have a bit of pace with Jupiter Du Gite in there.
But Iliko D'Olivate can be a bit fresh so a nice pace would help him relax and settle. It might be key to his chances. He’s won on soft ground before – if it got heavy it wouldn’t be ideal but if it remains just soft it shouldn’t be a problem for him.
While I think it’s a fairly open race he stands out as the horse who potentially has the most improvement still to come.
Megan’s Tip: Iliko D'Olivate WIN
Sandown 3.25 – Veterans' Handicap Chase
I think veteran races are a great initiative – it gives these older horses a chance to find their confidence again and get back in the winners' enclosure.
They are all clearly fit and healthy and training well, it’s just sometimes they get overtaken by younger legs. These are brilliant affairs and they seem to be well supported.
This time round I am going for Good Boy Bobby, who stayed on really strong to win at Chepstow on his reappearance. I think that performance would have done his confidence the world of good, He is the type of horse who can put together a couple of wins on the bounce.
He stays very well, which is really important for Sandown Hill. I think he could back up that win at Chepstow and get his head in front once again here.
Megan’s Tip: Good Boy Bobby WIN Browse all our horse racing markets here
Odds correct at time of publication but subject to fluctuation