Doncaster top racing tip for Saturday: Trends suggest Xcitations can cause an upset

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The weather is undoubtedly the excuse that will be given for another small field in a decent race with over £20,000 prize money for the winner of Saturday's Virgin Bet Cheltenham Festival Money Back Handicap Chase.

Only six runners line up, but let's have a look at the trends to see if we can narrow that shortlist down even further and pinpoint the winner.

  • 11/11 - Priced 15/2 or shorter

  • 7/11 - Aged between 6-8 years old

  • 6/11 - Won or runner-up last time out

  • 4/11 - Raced at Musselburgh last time out

  • 3/11 - Ridden by a claiming jockey

  • 3/11 - Trained by Paul Nicholls

  • 2/11 - Trained by Brian Ellison

  • 8/10 - Carried 10st 11lbs or more

  • Average SP of last 9 winners is 7/2

The trends above narrowed the field down to three runners: Calico (7/4 favourite), Xcitations (4/1) and Pay The Piper (3/1). Of the three remaining horses after using the trends the one that comes out best on those trends is Pay The Piper, which meets more of the race trends than his opponents. Cutting to the chase, Pay The Piper appears to be best on trends, but I think Xcitations is the most likely winner, having proven himself over course and distance and more importantly at this level.

My analysis below helps to illustrate how I came to that conclusion: Calico, the favourite, last ran in the Grade Two Kingmaker Chase against Jonbon in a two-runner race, finishing over five lengths behind, but his only chase win was in a Class 3 race. Calico does deserve to be favourite, but with the stable out of form and with only that solitary win from five chases his price looks prohibitively short. Xcitations is a bit more experienced with nine chase starts and four wins, including at this level, plus he is a course and distance winner. He is, however; on a mark seven pounds above that of his last win, but certainly comes here with chances. Pay The Piper has even more experience with thirteen chase starts and three wins and seven other top-three finishes. His best win was in a Class 3 and he is now in better quality company off a six-pound higher mark. Any race with a small field and no front-runner is likely to be run at a false pace, which usually ends up with a slow pace going round and a final furlong sprint. This makes predicting the winner of such contests extremely difficult and is one of the main reasons for not betting in this type of contest. However, if push came to shove, and if the favourite fails to live up to market expectations, then Xcitations would just about appear to have the edge over Pay The Piper.

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