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 Taunton and Newbury.

Gripping Boxing Day Drama

I want to touch quickly on the Boxing Day results. Obviously, it was a crazy King George VI Chase. Hewick winning was not a result anyone expected but it was an amazing atmosphere and Shark Hanlon, his trainer, is a huge character. It was a pretty amazing race but a dramatic one, that’s for sure.

It was nice to see Constitution Hill back as good as ever but Il Est Francais was probably the star of the day for me. He’s a very smart novice, coming over from France to make a decent horse like Hermes Allen look fairly average, so he is very special and we’d be delighted to see him back over here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him next year in the King George.

It was an amazing Boxing Day at Kempton but there’s been lots going on over the last few days. Thursday at Leopardstown saw Galopin De Champs back in winning form, which was great to see. He was very impressive in winning the Savills Chase, back up to his correct trip and he looked like the best version of himself.

He’s come back before and people have been a little underwhelmed but Thursday was back to his best with a dominant display.

Newbury 1.15 – Handicap Chase

I’m going to go for Martator (15/8 fav). He’s got his cheekpieces removed again, which he wore last time and ran well into second. He’s run three solid races this term – he’s not been with Venetia all that long and he is progressing and getting there now.

The last two times he’s been in behind two pretty progressive horses – one of them trained by my dad in Brave Kingdom, who boosted the Plumpton form, and Etalon, trained by Dan Skelton, where Martator was second over course and distance a few days ago. It was a good performance.

He’s certainly a horse going the right way. I thought the 1lbs rise was not harsh whatsoever, so a mark of 118 keeps him very competitive. It’s likely that Guy will bowl along at an even pace, and I think that will suit Martator. He looks relatively straightforward in how he can be ridden, so he’s the one to beat.

Megan’s Tip: Martator WIN

Newbury 1.50 – Handicap Hurdle

Get A Tonic (15/8 fav) was very impressive last time at Newbury when a slight change of tactics saw Harry Skelton dictate from the front end. That was over course and distance and she absolutely bolted up.

She was put up 8lbs for that victory so she has got a rise in the weights, which will make things slightly tougher, but she’s very much in form and there are question marks over a few of the others in this race – and the small field won’t hurt her.

Steal A March is the horse that looked progressive but he’s had a year off the track and I felt that stepping up to three miles was what helped him last year. Starting back at 2m 4f might not be enough of a test for him to be at his best, especially after a break.

I very much doubt Charlie Deutsch will try to give Harry Skelton too much of an easy time at the front, he’s on a new horse for Venetia Williams, Now Or Never. We don’t know too much about him, he’s had a couple of wins in France and Venetia does well with these types, but if Get A Tonic can dictate she’ll be hard to beat.

Megan’s Tip: Get A Tonic WIN

Taunton 2.10 – Mares' Novices' Hurdle

Queens Gamble (5/6 fav), my horse to follow this year from Harry Derham’s yard, is going for a listed event having won both her starts over hurdles.

She was a nice winner at Kempton on her stable debut for Harry and on her seasonal debut as well. She’s definitely got loads of improvement in her. She deserves to be stepping up in grade over obstacles.

It’s ideal we have Caso No Mento in the race, who likes to get on with things. If she can give Queens Gamble a nice lead, it will improve her chances. She just needs to relax a bit behind one or two.

She’s got a huge stride, a high cruising speed and the most important thing is she gets into a rhythm. In fairness, she doesn’t have to take the lead – if she gets into a rhythm in front that wouldn’t concern me too much. In an ideal world, though, someone like Caso No Mento will go a nice easy pace.

I’m not surprised she’s a short-priced favourite. Officially, she’s currently rated 6lbs less than Caso No Mento. Being a listed event, they’re running at even weights. Queens Gamble is certainly well above that official mark.

I’m looking forward to seeing her on the track – Taunton should suit her nicely. It’s not dissimilar to Kempton in that it’s right-handed, flat and sharp enough. She handled Kempton perfectly, she’s a strong traveller and I’m really looking forward to seeing her back on track.

Megan’s Tip: Queens Gamble WIN

Newbury 3.00 – Novices’ Hurdle

I’m delighted to see a bit of a bigger field, nine runners is a gift compared to this race in the last couple of years and it’s a really competitive field. This is the most competitive Challow Novices’ Hurdle in a few years.

The last couple of renewals have been short-priced favourites – and although we have a short-priced favourite in Willmount, it’s still a pretty open edition.

Willmount has been very impressive, and deserves his status as favourite. He’s the one to beat – his jumping was slick at Newbury last time and he’s open to huge amounts of improvement but he is stepping up in trip so is in unknown territory in that respect.

I’m going to put up Farnoge (8/1). Bryony Frost is on board, he’s a bit of a bigger price, which is possibly down to jockey bookings. He’s potentially still slightly under the radar. He’s won on soft and heavy ground, he’s won on good ground and when he won on good ground at Ascot last time I don’t think that was necessarily to his suiting. He’s better with a bit of cut on the ground.

That day he beat a horse called Excello by a good margin, who won at Ascot in his first time over UK fences last weekend when beating the very useful Solo. I think this form is red hot.

Megan’s Tip: Farnoge WIN

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