Tony Calvin: A lay for Cheltenham and a look at the Greatwood Veterans' Chase

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Solo won the Adonis Hurdle on Saturday
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There's only two weeks until the Cheltenham Festival, so Tony Calvin takes an early look, as well as poking around this Saturday's Newbury card...

"That said, I do like a lay myself when I sense an over-reaction, and so I can relay that I did in fact oppose Solo for the Triumph Hurdle in the immediate aftermath of what appeared a hugely impressive win in the Adonis Hurdle on his English debut for Paul Nicholls on Saturday."

I am probably a bit too stubborn for my own good - understatement of the year alert - and that trait tends to really kick into play when Cheltenham comes around.

Cheltenham sells, everyone tells me, in any format. Print, TV, radio.

Even podcasts.

And in the past I used to go into the Festival with fairly opinionated betting positions on the exchange on all of the non-handicaps, so writing about my punts, and suggestions, was very easy.

But, this year, a glance through my Betfair account makes for very tame reading. Perhaps the responsible gambling line has subconsciously hit home.

But, on a more serious note, I genuinely have found it harder than ever to generate much punting action on the Fez.

And when I have succumbed in any size, it has ended in tears, courtesy of the no-shows of Marie's Rock and Native River, my two long-range bets of any real note.

Native River Aintree - 1280.jpg

Whether it is because the day-of-race markets offer too much value these days - yes, you read that right - with the extra place terms, hugely competitive win-books and the odd cashback offer or 27, I am not sure.

Play the waiting game

Well, actually I am sure. And 48-hour declarations at Cheltenham now give punters a crucial extra day to get ahead, sniff around for the best bets and generally have a proper study-up.

Working a day ahead is never a bad thing, and that would be best advice to you in a fortnight's time.

So, if you can also access all the markets and pick your battles, it does make a lot of sense to play the waiting game.

And I suspect that suits the bookmakers just fine too, as they can go into the Festival, with their marketing and offers at the ready, unencumbered by worrying ante-post positions.

That being said, all races at Cheltenham on Betfair are Non Runner No Bet as of 10am Tuesday.

No Triumph Hurdle

That said, I do like a lay myself when I sense an over-reaction, and so I can relay that I did in fact oppose Solo for the Triumph Hurdle in the immediate aftermath of what appeared a hugely impressive win in the Adonis Hurdle on his English debut for Paul Nicholls on Saturday.

Sure, he could easily follow in the footsteps of the stable's Zarkandar, and do the Kempton-Cheltenham double and I have not exactly got a great price as my lays have averaged out at [4.55] against the current market price of [4.1].

But I am more than happy to be against him at levels around 3/1, as I think layers have at least three major players in their camp, and there is a possibility that the Kempton form is maybe not as good as it first appeared.

On bare form, a 7lb and 13-length defeat of an unbeaten Fujimoto Flyer, with the rest easily beaten off, is the stuff of a Triumph Hurdle winner.

But Cheltenham is a very different test to Kempton as well all know, and it is possibly worth noting how Nicholls' other recent Adonis winner, Zubayr, fared at the Festival.

nicholls-horse-to-the-left-1280.jpg

He started at 11/2 there after his Kempton success on his first start for the champion trainer, and could only finish 32-length 13th of 15 in the big 'un, though of course Solo had hurdling experience in France and he did not.

And perhaps the huge effort Solo appeared to put in last weekend - and it was a big performance I fully admit - could count against him just 20 days later at Cheltenham. He probably didn't have anywhere near an easy race as the style of victory suggested.

Anyway, I have taken a stand - for now, at least, as there is a trading element to my bet as well (hopefully anyway!) - and laying is always an option to consider, especially as the shorter prices.

On to this weekend's fare then, and there is no surprise to see the action coming down another notch in the class stakes.
It would be nice if I got an ante-post tip to the start after some recent no-shows - I am told Cobra De Mai is heading to the Ultima at the Festival, by the way - as there is nothing worse than not getting a run for your money.

And, at this stage, I will let finally the ride Black Corton got on Saturday pass me by, too.

Joe looks a good price

The Betfair Sportsbook has priced up five races on Saturday and I am drawn to Joe Farrell at their industry-best 10/1 in the Greatwood Veterans' Chase at Newbury (14:05).

I think he has a lot in his favour at the weekend - ground, trip, track form, falling mark etc - but he is having his first start since the Ladbrokes Trophy at the course in November, so I initially assumed that he may be a little underdone here, especially as he has that Grand National entry.

And for all I know he could have been off the track with a problem these past few months, and will need it.

However, he is very unlikely to get into the Aintree race off a mark of 142, so hopefully he will be plenty fit enough here and his record when fresh is pretty decent, too.

He doesn't have any other weekend entries and, although he was a well-beaten sixth off this mark in this race last season, he has plenty of good course form.

I was very tempted to put him up, but he has won (2018) and finished third (2019) at the meeting here in three weeks' time, and that could be the plan once again after his lay-off.

That was the closest I came to a bet on Saturday's racing - though Betfair have yet to price up the Grimthorpe at Doncaster and the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury, so watch that space - so I am going to leave it there, as I am not one to force a bet for the sake of it.

Good luck punting this week, and I will be back on Friday.

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