Megan Nicholls Racing Tips – Haydock & 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 television punditry, casts her eye over Saturday’s meetings at Haydock and Ascot.

Eyecatcher of the Week – Minella Missile

Minella Missile deserves a special mention this week, having beaten short-priced favourite Captain Teague in the Hyde Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last Friday.

He’s a horse that my dad [14-time National Hunt Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls] thinks an awful lot of. Ridden with patience and showing a nice turn of foot, he definitely caught the eye and it will be interesting to watch his progress.

On the back of that, another horse for the notebook is Don't Tell Su, who was behind Minella Missile at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance at the end of October.

He’s a big horse that will improve fitness-wise and could be an exciting novice hurdler this year as well as a very nice chaser in the future.

Don't Tell Su is a horse for the notebook — though there are no immediate plans for him just yet — so Minella Missile was my eye-catcher of the week.

Saturday Racing Tips

Haydock 1.50 – Graduation Chase

The Graduation Chase does produce some nice horses and Grey Dawning (15/8) is going to be my pick here.

He ran very well behind Stay Away Fay on his reappearance in a Novices' Chase at Exeter earlier this month and he's a horse that his trainer, Dan Skelton, thinks plenty of.

The favourite, Gaillard Du Mesnil for Willie Mullins, very much needs a stamina test and the 2m 5f around a drying Haydock could catch him out.

Grey Dawning is a talented horse who has a high cruising speed and a bit of a turn of foot. The track and conditions should suit him and his recent comeback was pleasing. He will be the one to beat.

Megan’s Tip: Grey Dawning WIN

Haydock 3.00 – The Lancashire Chase

The race at Haydock has cut right up and Bravemansgame (4/5 fav) has been slashed into a very short-priced favourite — and rightly so.

He's improved massively and, despite getting beat at Wetherby last time out, he's still a very talented horse. There is loads more to come from him.

Drying ground is a positive and, even though jockey Daryl Jacob is riding him for the first time competitively, he has ridden him at home and he’s also a straightforward horse so it shouldn't be any concern whatsoever.

It is fair to say that he wasn't that impressive when he won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby last year, though, and the overall form was not that strong. However, he improved crazy amounts to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton next up and I think he will show similar improvement again here.

I imagine he will get into a nice tempo on the front end, with Daryl being fairly positive. Royale Pagaille can go forward, but if Bravemansgame keeps things simple and finds that lovely and natural jumping rhythm, we will see the best of him.

It's great he is running — it's a small field, there is still enough time before the King George and, at his best, he is absolutely the one they have to beat. Protektorat also runs and he is the reigning champion of this race but, when faced with Bravemansgame previously, it's the latter who has come out on top.

Megan’s Tip: Bravemansgame WIN

Ascot 1.30 – 1965 Chase

This is hard to split.

Pic D'Orhy was a huge improver last year and the team at home are really pleased with how he has returned to training. His homework has been very good too, suggesting he has improved further which is a real positive. The trip is absolutely perfect for him.

However, his only defeat last year did come at Ascot behind Shishkin (8/13 fav), so that would remain the only question. He's very fit and very straight, and this is a nice stepping stone for the rest of the season.

Reports are obviously good around Shishkin — he got his confidence back up at Aintree in April while he also won at Ascot in February with just one defeat sandwiched in between at Cheltenham in March.

After going wrong at Cheltenham in the 2022 running of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, he looked unsettled back at the Festival — it was as if he didn't look comfortable back on the track, which means he probably ran a bit better than observers gave him credit for that day when finishing second behind Envoi Allen. Stamina is there with this horse and it is interesting he returns over the extended two-and-a-half.

I find it hard to pick a winner. I know my dad has huge faith in Pic D'Orhy, who is very good on his day, but the way Shishkin beat him previously makes me want to side with him.

So Shishkin is my pick in a really intriguing race that could shine some light on the King George.

Megan’s Tip: Shishkin WIN

Ascot 2.05 – Ascot Hurdle

I am going with Theatre Glory (11/4) for this — she is very talented on her day and wasn't far behind Knappers Hill (1st) and Goshen (2nd) in the Select Hurdle at Sandown at the back end of last season.

This track will suit her better than Sandown, too, with the drying Ascot ground likely to suit her more. She was an improver last year and there could be more to come from her again.

It's a shame we won't see Jamie Moore on Goshen — he is on the sidelines with an injury, and we send our best wishes to him. Goshen is not a straightforward horse and, although replacement jockey Niall Houlihan works with the yard, it won't be easy to jump on him the first time.

We know he's tricky, keen and hangs — and, although he's very talented, he is not always the most reliable which is why I am going against him.

Blueking D'oroux is a massively improving horse; he won well on his return and is up in grade. He improved no end from a wind operation and his confidence is up.

However, it is hard to know where his limit lies. That's the only reason I am going against him — I would not be surprised to see him win convincingly but how much more is there to come from this horse?

I am sticking with Theatre Glory, the one they will have to beat.

Megan’s Tip: Theatre Glory WIN

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