Tony Calvin: Derby 1-2 set to dominate and Saigon can star in City of Newcastle

Tony has a marginal preference for Harzand in the Irish Derby
Tony has a marginal preference for Harzand in the Irish Derby

After an exhilarating week at Royal Ascot the action quickly moves on to Newcastle and the Curragh for some high class racing this weekend, and here our man Tony Calvin provides his ante-post look at the Northumberland Plate and the Irish Derby...


"Saigon City is totally unexposed over this 2m trip - his previous trainer Luca Cumani raced him over 7f/1m last season - and fair play to his new handler Declan Carroll for seeing something in the horse that others didn't and taking the bold step of upping him a mile in trip. That was pretty punchy."

Back Saigon City @ 34.033/1 for the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday

There were plenty of ante-post moves on the back of Royal Ascot, chief among them probably Even Song going from 10-1 to as low as evens favourite for the Irish Oaks with the Betfair Sportsbook after her emphatic Ribblesdale win.

And Galileo Gold heads the betting for the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood next month despite many believing that he may have been a shade fortunate to win the St James' Palace Stakes, courtesy of a peach of a ride from Frankie Dettori.

He may only be the clear favourite there as he looks sure to go for the race - his owner sponsors it - while it is still to be seen whether Queen Anne winner Tepin returns from America and if The Gurkha goes to Goodwood, or to Sandown for the Eclipse, though the stable are apparently targeting Deauville at the latter event.

But so little time, so little space - the latter isn't true actually as I regularly overwrite by 500+ words - so let's get stuck straight into the weekend action, starting with the Classic action at the Curragh.


Epsome 1-2 renew rivalry

Saturday's Irish Derby looks like a straight match between the Epsom 1-2, Harzand and US Army Ranger, and that always spells bad news for bookmakers when pricing up their ante-post books.

The Betfair Sportsbook can't split the pair at 5-4, and few people are going to argue with that assessment.

US Army Ranger wasn't ideally positioned after a sluggish start at Epsom and many will fancy him to get his revenge on a track that puts more emphasis on speed.

But the ground looks like it is coming in Harzand's favour with another unsettled forecast in Ireland, and he really was dominant at the line three weeks ago, taking a length out of the runner-up in the final 50 yards.

I personally would favour Harzand of the two at the prices, but clearly there is no real juice in either, and punters are likely to get the same odds, if not bigger, on Saturday morning once you know the opposition, ground and draw. And the four-day declarations are made at midday on Tuesday.

I said the betting make-up of the race could spell bad news for the layers because it could easily turn into a contest that the each-way players will be all over like a rash as the likely field becomes more apparent ahead of the 10am declaration time on Thursday.

So if the field looks like cutting up to less than eight runners as the week progresses, then expect the likes of Idaho to be supported while three places are still up for grabs in the ante-post market. I know the two at the front of the market are rock-solid, and obviously massive odds-on to be placed, but it is all about getting the 1,2,3 each way terms in these circumstances.

A similar punt developed early last week when it was clear that the Prince Of Wales's Stakes was going to be a small field, and the each-way thieves "got the lot" when A Shin Hikari, and good-ground lovers The Grey Gatsby and Tryster, finished out of the frame in that six-runner race.

But with Aidan O'Brien apparently set to run four against Harzand - US Army Ranger, Idaho, Shogun and Port Douglas - hopefully the field-size will hold up.

Epsom third Idaho does look the logical alternative for those looking to take on the front two - he traded at 2.226/5 in the run when powering into the lead 2f out there - but this is probably a race best revisited once we know the final runners.

Besides, if I tipped Idaho at 6-1 each way 1/5 1,2,3 here, then I would never hear the last of it. But, as I always say, if bookmakers don't like the shape of a race, then they shouldn't price it up or simply adjust their place terms. Punters aren't fools, and they know the score, as long as the changed place terms are clearly flagged up.


Watching brief as Minding looks destined to take Pretty Polly

On Sunday, it sounds like Oaks winner Minding is going to step back down to 1m2f for the Pretty Polly.

That could well be her optimum trip but I have no idea of the likely opposition and this looks another race to adopt a watching brief on.


Saigon to prove a hit at Newcastle

The Northumberland Plate's five-day decs were out today and there are the small matter of 73 runners still in the race.

Obviously, it is run for the first time on the all-weather this year, and in previous years the draw has often been very important, but it is no surprise to see the progressive Dannyday and Chester Cup disappointment Steve Rogers head the early betting.

Impressive Chelmsford winner Dannyday needs a few to come out to get a run, but he has an attractive profile, while Steve Rogers went off at 7-2 for the Chester Cup and is clearly thought capable of winning off his current mark.

Gang Warfare was another to disappoint in the Chester Cup after an impressive win at Wolverhampton - he can also boast all-weather wins at Southwell and Lingfield - and I can easily see him bouncing back to form on this surface.

If you are looking for one at a price, though, then Saigon City is a major player at 34.033/1, as he won convincingly over an extended 2m at York in a good time last month and is fairly handicapped on just a 4lb higher mark. Plenty from the race have come out and run well in defeat since, and the ninth horse, Wind Place And Sho, won by six lengths at Pontefract on Sunday.

He is totally unexposed over this 2m trip - his previous trainer Luca Cumani raced him over 7f/1m last season - and fair play to his new handler Declan Carroll for seeing something in the horse that others didn't and taking the bold step of upping him a mile in trip. That was pretty punchy.

Although he hit a flat spot at York, presumably as a 1m winner he has tactical speed to manoeuvre himself from whatever stall the draw hands him on Thursday morning

He looks an intended runner as Tom Eaves is already jocked up, and if you want to get involved at a price, then odds of 34.033/1 - and there is plenty of 33-1 available in the marketplace - about him look the most tempting to me by a fair way. He needs two to come out to get a run but you get you money back in the unlikely event they don't and he is balloted out.

I think he has the potential to go off a lot shorter than 33-1 come Saturday.


Recommended Bet

Back Saigon City @ 34.033/1 for the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on Saturday


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