Tony Calvin Antepost Preview: A few catch the eye but let's see what the weather brings

York Racecourse
Tony is eyeing up a few of York's early-price races on Saturday

We have some very competitive racing to come on the weekend before Royal Ascot, but with a wet week forecast Tony Calvin is keeping his powder dry... for now...

"He (Tapis Libre) normally takes two or three runs to come to hand, and he will certainly be on my radar if getting the green light, as he does have an alternative option on the track on Friday."

I was going to have another look at a Royal Ascot race this week - last Monday we put up Le Brivido at 7/1 each way in the Queen Anne, and we have at the least got the price there as he now trades at around the 4/1 mark - but the weather has rather scuppered me there somewhat.

The website I use said the course was going to get the thick-end of 30mm of rain from Monday afternoon onwards - and I assume it got it, too, though there have been no updates on the BHA site at the time of filing - so I am happy to take a back-seat for now until the likely ground becomes clearer.

With an unsettled forecast also in place for the next few days as well, connections of fast-ground horses could be getting more than a touch worried for the Royal meeting next week.

But we will see.

A wet week ahead

ITV racing are at York, Chester and Sandown on Saturday, so there are some weekend ante-post races to go at.

There are none on the exchange at the moment but the Betfair Sportsbook have priced up seven contests.

It would have been nice if punters had a clearer idea of the current going, though - though the forecast throughout the week is obviously just as important - and that makes recommending bets at this stage pretty tough.

York got 1.4mm of rain on Monday and is currently good, but it is bracing itself today for the wet onslaught that us southern softies received. Reports that up to 30mm is due on Tuesday, with more to come throughout the week.

Chester is good to soft (soft in places) after getting 10mm on Monday and, they too, are expecting a wet week.

Sandown got 60mm on Monday and clerk of the course Andrew Cooper, who reports that was the "wettest 24 hours" in his time there - there is an easy joke to be had there about Tom Jones concerts (other crooning hunks are available), but I will resist - says it is now soft on the round course and heavy on the 5f track.

In fact, it will probably be soft everywhere come Saturday, but we don't know for sure.

Anyway, I'm boring myself now, so let's get on to the racing.

Pactolus a big price but hold fire for now

I may go to Sandown on Saturday after I have done my pre-racing preview shift on Racing TV, and there are two terrestrial races on the card that have been priced up.

No surprise at all to see Garrus as the favourite alongside Shades Of Blue in the opening Scurry Stakes, though Pactolus does look on the big side at an industry-best 16/1 in the 1m handicap.

That is his only weekend entry but the big problem here is the very real prospect of soft ground for him, as he has never raced on it in a career-spanning 65 races. That is a fair indication that he won't be turning up here if it is testing, so don't back him ante-post!

That is a shame though, as he has run well here in the past, including on good to soft ground, and he is of obvious interest off a turf mark of 87, given he is rated 104 on the all-weather.

One to back on the day if the ground isn't too bad maybe, and other horses in the race worth a second look at the moment are Hateya and Leroy Leroy. Loch Ness Monster is too, but he is double-entered in both the 1m and 1m1f handicaps on the card.

Gold can Mount a challenge if fit enough

There is a decent 1m4f handicap at Chester on ITV but we can afford to wait for the draw and going there - last weekend's non-runner Prejudice catches the eye there, but presumably any significant rain will see him sit it out once again - but York has a very appealing betting shape to it at this stage.

The 1m5f188yd Listed race is the class on the card, and recent Henry II runner-up Mekong is the obvious favourite, given his progressive profile and his ability to handle any ground, including heavy.

But the interesting one in the race - Ryan Moore is jocked up on both Mekong and this one - is Gold Mount, and trainer Ian Williams said he was "on target" to run him in a press release on Monday.

RyanMooreSmile1280.JPG

This would be his first start for Williams after leaving Richard Gibson, and the former Alan King-trained Royal Ascot winner certainly has the class to take a big hand here if fit. I am worried that this may be a stepping stone to other bigger targets, though.

He looks to have been rated a lofty 122 during his time in Hong Kong, and he looks to have stayed 2m well enough in the Dubai Gold Cup in March, his first start beyond 1m4f. And he did actually gag up in the King George V Handicap on soft at the Royal meeting in 2016.

Veteran still has what it takes for York opener

Donncha initially interested me at 20s in the 7f handicap but he has been entered at Haydock on Thursday now, and Dazzling Dan looks solid at 8/1 in the 6f handicap (where the Sportsbook are offering five places), but the old sentimentalist in me is lured to Tapis Libre in the opening Queen Mother's Cup for lady amateur riders.

Now I know he is an 11yo now, but I certainly wouldn't be willing to lay the 20/1 and 16/1 he is in the marketplace, given his record in this race and the way he shaped at Thirsk last time.

He won this race (off this mark) in 2017, and also ran blinders either side of that victory, when third in this in 2016 and fourth last year.

He won on heavy ground at Goodwood last season, and shaped well from off the pace at Thirsk earlier in the month. He normally takes two or three runs to come to hand, and he will certainly be on my radar if getting the green light, as he does have an alternative option on the track on Friday.

An oldie but goodie, as some say.

Back on Friday, when we know what exactly what we are dealing with as regards the ground.

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