Nine of the past ten Betfair Super Saturday fixtures at Newbury have featured the word soft or heavy in the going description but unseasonably good ground is on the cards this weekend.
Course officials have even given warning that the word “firm” may sneak in as more dry days are predicted in the build-up and they are not allowed to use their usual water supplies at this time of the year. Even if they could, the temptation would no doubt be resisted with frosty nights forecast.
It’s rare that “firm” appears in the going descriptions of jumps tracks nowadays, with courses watering to ensure good ground or softer.
One wonders whether “firm” might even one day disappear altogether, joining other obsolete going descriptions such as “Average”, “Moderate” “Very Heavy” and “Perfect”. The historians among you might also recall that three renewals of the Grand National have been run on “Snow”, although the latest was almost a century ago.
Of course, one horse’s “Perfect” represents “Imperfect” for another. Here are seven Newbury entries who will be in their element on the good ground, or possibly quicker.
It’s little wonder that Does He Know has looked well served by a sound surface. His sire, Alkaased, won a Japan Cup on firm ground, while his grandsire, Slip Anchor, whizzed around Epsom in 1985 when landing the Derby.
Does He Know put up a classy display to win off a rating of 152 on good ground at Cheltenham’s November Meeting when last in action. That was his seventh win on going with the word “good” in it, with a success at Ludlow being achieved on good to firm.
He's earned his place in a higher grade and the Betfair Denman Chase looks a good fit for him. Coral offer 6-1.
But one word of caution. He has shown a little waywardness – Kim Bailey described him as a “headcase” earlier in his career – and ran out in his only previous visit to Newbury. However, that was more than two years ago and it may be he just didn’t fancy taking on Bravemansgame in the muddy conditions.
3.00: Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase
The bad news for Greaneteen’s four rivals in the Game Spirit is that he’s heavily favoured by the weights. And the really bad news is that he loves bouncing off good ground.
He’s run on such going on four occasions, winning each time. And they’ve not been egg-and-spoon races where he could afford to run below-par.
Two of the wins have been in renewals of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter – off handicap marks of 151 and 168 – and the other two have been in runnings of the Grade One Celebration Chase at Sandown in the spring. He beat Altior on the first occasion; then Sceau Royal by 12 lengths on the second.
First prize on Saturday is almost £40,000 and you could forgive Harry Cobden for having already worked out his winning percentage. If you haven’t, Harry, it’s about £4,600 (including your riding fee).
3.35: Betfair Hurdle (Handicap)
A maximum field of 24 is allowed for the Betfair Hurdle but only 23 were left in the mix on Monday, presumably with those wanting deep ground already waving the white flag and saving their owners an extra £195 to stay sitting at the poker table.
Five more folded before the final declarations were made at 10am on Thursday but it was no surprise to see Rubaud and Restitution in the final field as they will enjoy decent underfoot conditions more than most.
Paul Nicholls signalled early on that Rubaud would need decent ground to be in the line-up, and he’s got his wish with a novice who has exactly the right profile for the race. His fluent wins at Taunton this season came on good ground, with Nicholls attributing his defeat at Kempton on Boxing Day – behind a potentially smart rival – to the testing conditions. Click here to read why I made him an ante-post bet at 16-1 last week.
For what it is worth, Nicholls has captured the past two renewals of the Betfair Hurdle when the ground has been good, via Zarkander (2012) and Pic D’Orhy (2020). Like Rubaud, they were five-year-olds.
Finally, Frankel will be 15 on Saturday and what better way for the legend to celebrate than by siring a Betfair Hurdle winner?
One of his sons, Restitution began his career on the Flat with John Gosden and lost his maiden tag at Yarmouth on good to firm going. Over Jumps, for Alan King, he’s shown a clear preference for good going, including when scoring at Doncaster last time.
4.43: Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Bumper
Several of the entries in this feature have shown their effectiveness on good ground, none more so than Aslukgoes, who was a commanding winner at Worcester in July before following up at Fontwell the following month.
There can apparently be a big difference between summer good ground and winter good ground, although nobody has ever been able to give me a proper explanation. Whatever, there is some substance to the form as Aslukgoes thumped American Sniper on level weights at Worcester and that horse is now rated 128 over hurdles.
Aslukgoes rates an intriguing prospect for rookie Newmarket trainer Ben Brookhouse, the son of well-known jumps owner-breeder Roger Brookhouse. Brookhouse Jr has yet to have a winner but several of his early runners have outrun chunky odds.
Horse racing tips for Saturday: Dave Nevison's best bets
Paddy's Pick 5: our top tips for Saturday's £75,000 game
Johnny Ward: my best bet at Naas on Saturday
Paul Nicholls: The inside track on my Saturday runners at Newbury
Expert Eye: eyecatchers declared to run this weekend
Ante-post Gold Cup tip plus Dublin Racing Festival eyecatchers
Select any odd to add a bet