Saturday ITV Racing Tips: Best bets for Cheltenham and Lingfield

ITV are covering six races live from Cheltenham and Lingfield on Saturday and our tips might just help you turn a profit, not to mention our exciting free bet offer.

If you're not already familiar, here's how our free bet offer works.

Get up to £20 as a free bet if your horse places second and is beaten by half a length or less - offer applies to all live ITV races!

So you can back our selections - or pick your own horses of course - with just a little more confidence and you can head straight to Planet Sport Bet to place your bets by clicking on the horse's names below.

Selections:

Third Time Lucki (1.40 Cheltenham)

Al Dancer / Up The Straight each-way (2.15 Cheltenham)

Optimise Prime each-way (2.50 Cheltenham)

Harry's Bar (3.05 Lingfield)

Pyramid Place each-way (3.25 Cheltenham)

Harrovian (3.40 Lingfield)

1.40 Cheltenham - Third Time Lucki

Captain Tom Cat beat Mick Pastor at Wincanton seven days ago and they might finish in the same order here, but neither may cope with Third Time Lucki.

Dan Skelton's six-year-old already has match practice over these fences having made a highly impressive chasing debut at the October meeting, highlighted by some impressive leaps.

On that evidence, he's going to make a better chaser than hurdler - rated 143 in that sphere with three wins and a sixth of 25 in the County Hurdle the highlights - and that makes him unopposable albeit we're being asked to take odds-on.

Should he win as expected, he'll enhance his Arkle claims and he's a 12/1 shot currently with Planet Sport Bet for that Grade 1 in March.

2.15 Cheltenham - Al Dancer / Up The Straight each-way

Protektorat, a second season chaser out of the novice ranks, has been installed as favourite for this valuable 2m5f handicap and the six-year-old, a Grade 1 winner last season, is unlikely to fail through lack of fitness with his trainer Dan Skelton saying he's done "loads at home".

However, he wouldn't be the first such horse to come up short in this race, which has tended to go to battle-hardened handicappers in recent times, rather than Graded-class chasers, and he also has the burden of 11st 12lb to carry - a weight shared by Paul Nicholls Simply The Betts.

He has to be opposed at the odds and one horse who very much fits the bill is Al Dancer, who is making his debut for the in-form Sam Thomas having finished third in last year's running of this race when with Nigel Twiston-Davies.

He was sent off as favourite on that occasion and his backers would have been feeling confident for the early part, so strongly was he travelling in midfield before making his challenge three out, only to hit a flat spot and keep on at one pace.

Coole Cody on his way to Paddy Power Gold Cup victory

The handicapper has dropped him 5lb since that run, meaning he's 9lb better off with the returning winner Coole Cody (pictured), and another thing in his favour is his record fresh - form figures of 1111 after breaks of 120 days or more (is returning here after 259 days off).

He wasn't far off top class when campaigned over two miles and has run some of his best races at this track, including when chasing home subsequent Champion Chase heroine Put The Kettle On at the 2019 November meeting, so his backers look pretty much certain to get a good run for their money.

We'll also put up one each-way at bigger odds in the shape of Richard Rowe's Up The Straight, a recent easy winner at Plumpton and therefore holding a fitness advantage over several of the more fancied runners.

The seven-year-old has plenty of experience over fences under his belt and has faced some stiff tasks, having to chase home the likes of Shiskin and Chantry House in his novice days, and he should now be reaching his prime.

He's also at the right end of the handicap with less than 11st on his back - in common with seven of the last eight winners - and the underrated Tabitha Worsley is easing his burden by a further 5lb.

Lalor, who has joined Paul Nicholls and is potentially well treated on his novice form, and Philip Hobb's Zanza, a respectable third in the Haldon Gold Cup on his return last month, are others to consider in what is a wide open handicap.

2.50 Cheltenham - Optimise Prime each-way

This is tougher to solve but the booking of Nico de Boinville for Ben Pauling's Optimise Prime catches the eye, and the five-year-old has the potential to outrun his big odds to reward each-way backers.

The two novice hurdles he won back-to-back before Christmas last season have worked out quite well and he ran as well as could be expected in a hot Ballymore won by Bob Olinger, eventually finishing tailed off.

Prior to that he'd looked short of pace in a 2m4f contest at Market Rasen so today's step up to 3m for the first time could be just what he needs to show his best, and his pedigree backs that up - he's out of St Leger winner Shantou and his dam was best over staying trips.

If that's the case, he should prove better than his opening handicap mark of 129.

Bookmakers are agreed on making Dan Skelton's Proschema favourite following his fine second in a Grade 2 at Wetherby, where he was trying 3m for the first time, but he didn't look like a horse who was crying out for that trip, and this strong traveller may ultimately prove best over shorter.

Ballymillsy won with plenty in hand on his comeback run at Newton Abbot last month and while he's gone up 8lb for that, he's clearly on the upgrade and looks a stronger stayer than Proschema.

3.05 Lingfield - Harry's Bar

Jumps fans won't give a stuff about this 6f Listed contest on the all-weather and even fervent fans of the Flat might be left scratching their heads, given that not one of the 12 runners can be totally ruled out.

With that in mind, Irish raider Harry's Bar is just a tentative selection. He's at least as good as all bar one of his rivals on official ratings - the exception being Exalted Angel, who hasn't been sighted since June - and he's a prolific winner on the all-weather (10-24), with his most recent success coming at Dundalk in early October.

He could finish fourth on his follow-up bid but that was in a Group 3 and he never really got in a proper position to challenge from his low draw in what was a muddling race.

He's potentially better berthed today in stall one, although he'll need some breaks.

Good Effort made all on the Polytrack at Deauville two starts back and he looks the best of the home team.

3.25 Cheltenham - Pyramid Place each-way

Dan Skelton appears to have targeted this meeting with his big guns and his representative here, Unexpected Party, is likely to go off favourite on the back of his smooth success at Wetherby 15 days ago.

That race did rather fall apart, however, which makes the form questionable, and he's been hit with an 11lb rise, so second favourite Mackleduff, who is chasing a hat-trick and looks to have plenty more improvement in him, is preferred of the pair.

But we're chasing bigger odds by putting up Milton Harris' Pyramid Place as the selection in the hope he stays this intermediate trip of 2m5f (also engaged at Fontwell on Sunday over 2m)

His three wins over hurdles so far have all come at around 2m and they were pretty weak affairs admittedly, but he's always looked strong at the finish and was closing the gap on the winner all the way to the line on his seasonal return at Chepstow.

That was a competitive renewal of a traditionally warm handicap and has to rate as a personal best from the four-year-old, whose cause wasn't helped by being hampered by a faller at the third last.

His stable is in even better form now, with five winners from just 10 runners in the last fortnight, and Paddy Brennan (2-2 on him) takes over from a conditional rider.

At a double-figure price we'll take a chance on him finding a bit extra over today's longer trip, with the prevailing good ground a help in that respect.

3.40 Lingfield - Harrovian

Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver earned himself a long holiday when picking up a freak injury before the King George, which also ruled him out the Juddmonte at York, and he now steps out of Group company for the first time since September 2019.

Pyledriver wins the Coronation Cup

He's clearly a class above his nine rivals and should win, but he's most unlikely to be fully tuned up for what is his prep run for the Hong Kong Cup in a month's time, with the Saudi Cup and Sheema Classic also on his agenda.

When you also take into account today's 1m2f is two furlongs shorter than ideal, he makes very little appeal at around the 6/4 mark and we're hardly rushing to back the next in the betting, Felix, who has a 119 absence to overcome.

Harrovian, who is officially rated his equal, is a much bigger price and the Gosden runner does at least have race fitness on his side, so he's the token selection for a race that is probably best alone for betting purposes.

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