Megan Nicholls Ascot Racing Tips

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 Ascot and highlights not one but two impressive performances over the past week.

Eyecatchers of the Week – Etalon & Nico de Boinville

Etalon won impressively at Sandown, making it three from three over fences. He's improving, his jumping is immaculate, and he was a real joy to watch over the two miles at Sandown.

Not all horses, especially novices, can jump quite so well around a tricky track.

It was an excellent performance from him – trainer Dan Skelton has said plenty of options are open going forward, with Cheltenham or Aintree a possibility.

We will see what the handicapper does on Tuesday. I would like to see him in the Grand Annual – I think he's going in the right direction; his jumping could stand up to the test and is improving rapidly.

Elsewhere, we tipped Iberico Lord to win the Betfair Hurdle in the blog last week and it's always nice to have a winner for our readers.

I thought Nico de Boinville gave this horse an exceptional ride, saving every inch of ground going down the inside the whole way, never coming off the rail.

Iberico Lord was very good for Nico in that he had horses all around him and didn't see a lot of his hurdles but he was very slick and jumped exceptionally well.

Nico was very patient down the straight at Newbury – it was a long way from the last to the line, around a furlong-and-a-half, and Nico just kept holding on and saving. I thought, tactically, it was an excellent ride.

Saturday Racing Tips

Ascot 1.50 – Novice Chase

Apple Away (6/4 fav) is a grade one winning hurdler and has made an OK start to her chasing career, but has found Grey Dawning too good twice.

She has plenty of ability, but it is proven she is beatable, and I think she will be beaten again.

I will stick with Brave Kingdom (10/3), who has returned in incredible form after a huge absence. He won at Plumpton and then improved again to win at Newbury next time. He looks as though stepping up in trip has been a massive help.

He's clearly got plenty of stamina, and I love how he was passed at Newbury but battled back to win going away. He is a horse who has his confidence up, he is going the right way, and he is unexposed chasing at the 3-mile distance. He deserves to step up in grade now, and more is still to come from him.

It's frustrating that he has to give weight away to a mare in Apple Away. In fact, on official ratings, she is getting crazy amounts of weight, really. But, she does have to improve on what she has done chasing so far, and Brave Kingdom is going the right way.

Megan's Tip: Brave Kingdom WIN

Ascot 2.25 – Handicap Hurdle

I am going with Bad (10/3) for Ben Pauling and Ben Jones. Ben Pauling is flying at the moment, with winners left, right, and centre.

Bad has been in good form without winning so far this season and has cheekpieces applied for the first time, as well as having a wind operation since his last run at Ascot.

His form is pretty solid throughout this season; he's run some really big races in defeat and his most recent run, when he was third at Ascot, has been boosted by Titan Discovery who just keeps improving.

This horse is one to keep onside. He's up in trip, has new headgear, a wind operation, and a yard that is absolutely flying behind him – I thought he was a fairly sensible price and more trustworthy than one or two others.

It's no bad thing that the ground is forecast to be drying up - he seems pretty versatile in that respect.

Megan's Tip: Bad WIN

Ascot 3.00 – Handicap Chase

I am going with Shan Blue (6/1) here.

He is a horse the Skeltons always thought a lot of and we know, following a fall in the Charlie Hall back in 2021, he had a couple of issues and lost his way and his confidence.

But last time, with cheekpieces reapplied, we got a glimpse of what he can do, and it was a real step back in the right direction. He did make a mistake early on, which wasn't ideal, but he recovered from it, and it was nice to see him finish his race and run on. The distance that day – 2m 3f – is definitely too sharp for him, but it was a totally different horse. Hopefully, it has done his confidence the world of good.

The cheekpieces are retained, and he sneaks in at a sensible weight. He has 11st 5lbs on his back on a mark of 143. He is back up to 3 miles on ground he will enjoy. He's been versatile, but if it does dry out and remain good-to-soft, then that is absolutely perfect.

I think Shan Blue will bounce back to somewhere near his best, and if the cheekpieces and step up in trip work again, then a big run is on the cards.

**Megan’s Tip: Shan Blue WIN

Ascot 3.36 – Ascot Chase

I am going with Pic D'Orhy (2/1) - Dad could have a good day at Ascot on Saturday. He's a winner at the top level, and he comes good at this time of year. He goes well at Ascot, and his run at Kempton last time behind Banbridge was absolutely awesome.

Despite giving the winner some weight that day, he wasn't beaten far at all. He obviously missed the last fence, which didn't help and cost him some momentum, but it was a huge run. He has trained very well since then.

L'Homme Presse (4/5 fav) is the short-priced favourite, and he looks like he could be a live Gold Cup contender. He beat Protektorat at Lingfield and did it nicely enough, but it was a huge run from Protektorat in behind, and he was well beaten by Shishkin and Hitman next time out in the Denman Chase at Newbury.

The form lines add up for L'Homme Presse, but I just think Pic D'Orhy would be ahead of Hitman, and on this trip, he will have more tactical speed.

The ground drying out is a definite positive for Pic D'Orhy, and if he brings his A-game, it will be a real battle and an exciting renewal, despite only being a small field.

**Megan’s Tip: Pic D'Orhy WIN

Browse all our horse racing markets here odds correct at time of publication but subject to change

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