Tony Calvin: Crievehill the early pick in Saturday's Sandown feature

Sandown fence action
Tony has a big-price pick in Saturday's bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown

"I thought he was going to drop away tamely up the straight, but the horse got his second-wind, under a relatively quiet drive, after the last and regained fourth, sticking on really well."

Saturday's Gold Cup at Sandown brings the curtain down on the National Hunt season and our big-price tipster Tony Calvin is hoping for success with a Nigel Twiston-Davies runner...

I was feeling a little sorry for myself on Sunday evening after a mini-barren spell on the tipping front.

Even though a fortnight of blanks since Supasundae won at Aintree is, unfortunately, nothing too uncommon given the prices I play at, I simply hate giving out duff betting and tipping advice and it is important to acknowledge a poor run to your readers.

That is not everyone's style, but it is mine. The fact that I have done my money at the same time is always secondary.

But then I read the following post on Twitter, accompanied by a picture of a bloke enjoying a beer in the Easter sunshine, and felt even more of a mug for attempting to wallow in a bout of meaningless self-pity.

I mention this for two reasons, especially in the wake of the recent Sri Lankan bombings.

Firstly, always keep horse racing and betting in perspective. It's basically an irrelevance, albeit a vastly enjoyable one. Never let it affect your finances, or mood.

Secondly, the person who tweeted the above has written a book about his experiences and I wanted to plug it here in my own little way.

He is called Neil Spencer and it is called "The Battle Within: A Soldier's Story."

I'll be buying it, anyway.

Cracking two-day meeting at Sandown this weekend

Back to my own insignificant daily grind then, and I do love Sandown's two-day meeting at the end of April and hopefully I can break an enforced absence from the track and get along on Saturday.

A day earlier, we have a good Flat card featuring the Esher Cup, and three Group races - the Friday is also live on ITV, so more of that later in the week - but there is little doubt that the jumps finale on Saturday takes precedent.

And, for all everyone wants to see Altior v Cyrname in the Celebration Chase, the main betting heat is undoubtedly the bet365 Gold Cup.

Form not yet working out for not so young Master

Bored, I actually started looking at the race while watching the Clermont v Quins game on Saturday night - it's all rock and roll in my world - and I wasn't in the least bit surprised to see The Young Master head the betting at the 9/1 mark, with Talkischeap not far behind.

He won this race three years ago off a 6lb higher mark - though he has only finished ninth and eighth in the last two renewals - and he has enjoyed a fine 2018-19 campaign, winning twice and then finishing third in the Kim Muir off this mark last time.

It is too early to judge the strength of that Cheltenham form, but it is true to say that those who finished the race, and who have run since, haven't shone.

The runner-up finished a poor fourth at Ayr, the ninth was pulled up at Aintree, the 12th was beaten 33 lengths in the Grand National (though ran very well, granted) and the 14th was beaten 15 lengths at Haydock on Saturday, a race in which the 16th was pulled up.

That is five minutes of my life that I will never get back, but I am nothing but thorough.

Crievehill the antepost selection

Hopefully, the form could be perked up at the weekend though, as I quite like the look of the fourth, Crievehill, if he is given his chance.

He is owned by Highclere, and on their website they say: "Ground allowing, he may finish his season at the last National Hunt meeting at Sandown."

Now, I'm not sure if he is a likely runner - and the trainer also has Arthur's Gift and Flying Angel in the race at the five-day stage - but surely Nigel Twiston-Davies will be inclined to go for the staying contest given the way Crievehill shaped at Cheltenham.

Before we look at that run, just a word on his ground preference.

To judge from the owners' comments, I assume they think he needs cut, and certainly most of his form has come on soft and heavy.

And, if that is the case, then it is worth noting this recent dry, hot spell is set to end on Wednesday, when rain begins to dominate the Esher forecast.

But I wouldn't be at all concerned by good ground for the horse if it doesn't dry out appreciably.

I am reliably informed that most Arcadio's love a decent surface, and the fact of the matter is that you can make a fair case for Crievehill's best run coming on good ground at Uttoxeter in September (the handicapper thinks so anyway, as he upped him to a career-high mark of 146 afterwards).

That was over 2m4f and most of his form has come up at and around this trip, but his run in the Kim Muir over 3m2f last time had me thinking of him as more of a stayer.

Chelt jump shadow hurdle - 1280.jpg

Zac Baker actually has a fair record this season and has ridden four winners for the stable but, being brutally honest, he lost a little in comparison with some of the other amateurs in the Kim Muir.

So I think you have to mark up Crievehill's performance there. I thought he was going to drop away tamely up the straight, but the horse got his second-wind, under a relatively quiet drive, after the last and regained fourth, sticking on really well.

Of course, he is unproven over this 3m4f166yd trip but that was a very encouraging hint as far as his stamina is concerned and he is obviously totally unexposed over marathon trips. That Cheltenham run was his first beyond 3m.

Crievehill is also a course winner, having bolted up by 20 lengths in the soft over 2m4f here last March (his sole start at the track), and the handicapper has also dropped him 2lb to a mark of 138 after the Festival.

A few resemblances to former winner Beau

And he does have shades of the stable's 2000, 30-length winner of this race, Beau, about him.

Beau started that season racing over 2m4f but improved as he stepped up in trip, and came to Sandown via a second over 3m at the Cheltenham Festival. And both were/are 7yos.

If I were the Twister, I'd be going for gold, and I originally was going to wait until Thursday's final declarations to see the jockey, ground, pace and opposition situation. And to see if he is actually declared.

But I am going to put up him up now at 26.025/1 or bigger on the exchange - he is 28.027/1 at the time of writing - or, alternatively, you can take advantage of the 25/1, win or each way, with the Betfair Sportsbook should you so wish.

The rain that is forecast does aid the prospect of Altior v Cyrname facing off, but the race failed to attracted 10 entries on Monday afternoon, so it has been re-opened until Tuesday, as has the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase and Select Hurdle on the card.

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