Tony Calvin: Three antepost picks across Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival

Tony has picked out three antepost fancies in this week's column
Tony has picked out three antepost fancies in this week's column

After a big-priced winner last week, racing tipster Tony Calvin is back with his latest antepost column and fancies three horses, including one in the Champion Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival...

"Some Plan looks another likely lad to me, but a much better handicapped one. Like a few horses that Paul Nicholls has got from Roger Brookhouse this season, he shaped as if badly needing his first run for the yard after travelling powerfully into his race.

Back him at 16.015/1 or bigger, as I expect a much better run at the weekend. Sternrubin, up just 6lb from Newbury, is also worth considering at around 14-1."

In the last 48 hours or so, you may have heard, and read, that a lot of our better juvenile hurdlers in recent seasons haven't made their debuts before Christmas.

That simply isn't true.

You wouldn't have seen many better juveniles in recent decades, let alone years, than 2013 Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor, and he won two races before the turkey was out of the oven before winning at Cheltenham by 15 lengths in March.

Indeed, all of the last four Triumph Hurdle winners were out early, with 2012 scorer Countrywide Flame winning on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen in July and 2014 victor Tiger Roll also winning at that course in November.

So don't let that 'stat' put you off if you fancy impressive weekend scorer Who Dares Wins, who followed in the footsteps of this year's top youngster Peace And Co when winning by a wide margin in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday.

Sure, you will occasionally get horses like Adonis winners Zarkandar and Soldatino, who will come out of the woodwork at the likes of that Kempton meeting in February. And Irish contenders will show their hand late, too.

But the "not before Christmas" line is a red herring, and I reckon Who Dares Wins deserves to be a lot shorter than the 21.020/1 that he currently trades at on the exchange. A lot shorter.

And if you can back him win only at 20-1 elsewhere - the each-way terms of 1/4 1,2,3 are not tempting enough for a place play - then you should, too.

Who Dares Wins probably went up to Doncaster on Saturday in the expectation of better ground than at Cheltenham. But if connections did, then they certainly didn't get it, as the forecast deluge arrived and it turned heavy.

But that was no barrier to success, as he powered home by 20 lengths from the 11-8 favourite Robertstown.

That form is already enough to give him serious place claims at Cheltenham in March (Timeform provisionally gave him 145 for that weekend win), and the prospect of a stiffer track and better ground - he was an 85-rated, 1m6f winning stayer on the flat, in which sphere was suited by good and fast conditions - could see him step forward again.

His sire Jeremy was responsible for the aforementioned, ill-fated Our Conor, and at 20-1 he looks a massive price to be following in his footsteps on the Friday of Cheltenham.

Even allowing for Peace And Co underperforming, it was good to see Old Guard winning the International on Saturday - at a scarcely believable Betfair SP of 10.519/2, so please never let a drifting price put you off - and we are not ripping up our 33-1 each way ante-post bets just yet.

Of course, the bare form is nothing to write home about, even in the context of what is needed to win even an average Champion Hurdle.

But there is no doubting that the race lacks any depth this season, and in Old Guard we have an improving 4yo, clearly well-suited to Cheltenham and with a very wiling attitude. There is a lot more to come from him.

He'd be my clear fourth favourite for the race at this stage, and I wouldn't lay you more than 3-1 about him hitting the frame in March.

So if you aren't on at 33-1, then I would have absolutely no hesitation in suggesting that you back him at industry-best 25-1 each way ¼ 1,2,3 with the Betfair Sportsbook now.

The perils of backing ante-post at Cheltenham were highlighted by the post-race comments of connections after More Of That's win last week. He now has four possible targets at the Festival - the JLT, RSA, Gold Cup and maybe even the World Hurdle - but surely the RSA will be the sensible target.

If I was having a bet in the RSA, at this stage it would be Blaklion at 23.022/1, but then again his trainer may decide to target him at the four-miler...

Anyway, there are plenty of good betting races this Saturday, chief among them the Ladbroke Hurdle at 15:35 at Ascot.

It is hard to argue with Winner Massagot and Jolly's Cracked It heading the market - the former was very impressive at Ascot last month and a 12lb rise was probably just enough justified given the manner of the win - but their prices have pretty much gone.

I was initially very keen on Diamond King, as he has shaped very well on his first two starts for Gordon Elliott, winner of this race for two of the last three years, since joining him for Donald McCain.

McCain held this horse in very high regard before his lost his way earlier this year, and Diamond King looks a likely sort. But the UK handicapper has hammered him, and he now has to race off a 12lb higher mark than when beaten three lengths off 132 at Fairyhouse last month.

That doesn't seem right to me.

Some Plan looks another likely lad to me, but a much better handicapped one. Like a few horses that Paul Nicholls has got from Roger Brookhouse this season, he shaped as if badly needing his first run for the yard after travelling powerfully into his race. Perhaps, they came in late, though I don't know.

Some Plan certainly fell into that category at Sandown before emptying from the second-last - he traded at 1.331/3 in running, believe it or not - and the handicapper has been kind enough to drop him 2lb for it, too. And the expected better ground at Ascot on Saturday could suit him better, too.

Back him at 16.015/1 or bigger, as I expect a much better run at the weekend. Sternrubin, up just 6lb from Newbury, is also worth considering at around 14-1.

One of my favourite horses, Thistlecrack, is in the Long Walk Hurdle, though that doesn't appeal as a betting heat at the moment, and I'll also keep my powder dry in the Sodexo Silver Cup, for now.

Gullinbursti interests me off a mark of just 137 on his return from a lengthy break in the latter race at 15.014/1, and I will return to his chances in Friday's column if he gets the nod at the overnight declaration stage.

Recommended Bets

Back Some Plan at 16.015/1 for the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday

Back Who Dares Wins at 21.020/1 or bigger for the Triumph Hurdle

Back Old Guard at 25-1 1/4 1,2,3 in the Champions Hurdle with the Betfair Sportsbook (if you are not already on at 33-1)

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