Tony Calvin: Feeling Flash if we can Steel some cash in Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle

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Haydock will host some big Betfair-sponsored races on Saturday

"The handicapper hasn't missed him by putting him 8lb for that 2-length win but that victory in a quick time looks very strong form."

Back Flash The Steel at 16/1 each way, five places, in the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle on Saturday

There are some fascinating clashes at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday, including in the Betfair Chase, but it's the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle that is Tony Calvin's priority from an antepost perspective...

Well, the weather is largely set fair until the weekend, so it looks like the eagerly-awaited Altior v Cyrname clash is on at Ascot on Saturday.

Which is just as well as the Christy 1965 Chase has attracted just five entries, so the track will be hoping nothing happens to either of the pair.

Only one viable alternative to the big two

The contrarian in me is to try to get them both beat on their reappearances and, if you are so minded, then Top Notch is the only viable alternative.

And the Betfair Sportsbook are certainly trying to lure people in by offering Top Notch at 16/1, quarter the odds 1,2 - and I very nearly fell for it.

Now, I don't know if he is an intended runner but common sense dictates he should run, Altior or not, as he is at his best on right-handed tracks with a bit of dig in the ground - it is currently soft at Ascot, but the forecast suggests it shouldn't get any worse - and indeed he won this very race two years ago.

Perhaps crucially, he has had a run too, showing tremendous guts and determination to win over hurdles on his return at Aintree, and he is no slouch over fences on his day.

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He is not in the same league as the big boys in here, but he showed high-class form when giving Black Corton 3lb and a 5-length beating at Kempton in January and he could be meeting the principals at their most vulnerable point of the season.

The thing that just puts me off is Nico de Boinville mentioned after the Aintree win that was a prep run for the Peterborough Chase, and that is the first leg of a £500,000 bonus, so connections may opt to wait for Huntingdon on December 8 (though he could quite easily take in both races).

Stable form could decide the outcome

Altior shades favouritism at 1.794/5 on the exchange and that looks fair enough to me, even if he is officially 1lb inferior to Cyrname and stepping up to 2m5f for the first time.

You can obviously make a case for both at the prices given their profiles but the form of the respective stables could be a factor.

Nicky Henderson is flying along, while Paul Nicholls is having a relatively quiet time, operating at just a 13 per cent strike rate in the last fortnight.

If I knew Top Notch was an intended runner, he would be the each-way bet at 16s, but I'll wait for news before parting with my cash.

Big clash in Betfair Chase

With Altior heading for Ascot, the other big clash this weekend is Bristol De Mai v Lostinstranslation in the Betfair Chase though Frodon supporters may have something to say about that.

Given his unbeaten record around here, I think Bristol De Mai is a perfectly fair price at around 11/8 on the exchange - the Sportsbook offer an industry-best 15-8 on Colin Tizzard's recent Carlisle winner Lostintranslation - as he doesn't need it bottomless. It looks like being decent, good to soft ground at Haydock for a change.

Skelton has a live contender in Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle

That isn't the race that interests me from a betting point of view at the track though. That is the Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle.

The double-figure quotes about Lisnagar Oscar predictably disappeared very quickly on Monday afternoon. He reverts to hurdles, after a couple of chase starts, on a very fair mark judged on his course-and-distance win here last season and the drier the better for him.

I wasn't surprised to see the Sportsbook's 16/1 offer about Acey Milan being taken as well, for all that he has yet to prove his stamina over 3m.

However, the one I like is Flash The Steel. He is 18.5 on the exchange but I suggest backing him at 16/1 each way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.

Everyone knows ante-post betting is not what it was, so I don't know why more firms don't also offer the extra place concession to drum up more business.

Flash The Steel has yet to race beyond an extended 2m3f and, again, I don't know if he is an intended runner (and the stable also have Diomede Des Mottes in the race).

But he seemed to relish the step up to 2m3f+ when winning at Chepstow last time, where he travelled well off a fast pace and finished off his race really strongly on the run-in.

The handicapper hasn't missed him by putting him 8lb for that 2-length win but that victory in a quick time looks very strong form.

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The runner-up has advertised the form to a point by winning his next two starts over fences, while the third went into the race as an unexposed, improver (and makes his chase debut at Fakenham on Tuesday afternoon).

So hopefully the assessor hasn't got hold of him yet, and I am reasonably confident that the step up to 3m will be within his compass, too.

He certainly saw his Chepstow race out well and this winning pointer's pedigree gives you plenty of hope he will see out the trip.

His sire Craigsteel gets plenty of three-milers (including weekend winner Wholestone, and the stable's No Hassle Hoff, who finished fourth in this race in 2017) and there is plenty of stamina on the distaff side, too. Indeed, his full brother Doctor Duffy is a 3m1f winner in Ireland.

Dan Skelton won this race when it was run over fixed brush hurdles in 2015, and he has another live runner here in Flash The Steel.

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