Ante-Post

Tony Calvin: Springtown Lake can make a splash in Saturday's Gold Cup

Springtown Lake
A 25/1 runner has caught Tony Calvin's eye at Cheltenham this weekend

"I think the importance of a recent run and assured stamina could be key factors if it turns up heavy, and the selection shaped well enough over 3m at Ascot recently."

It's the Cheltenham November meeting this weekend and, in his early look at the markets, Tony Calvin thinks he's spotted a price far too big for Saturday's Gold Cup...

I am going to leave the weekend cards at Cheltenham until we know the final declarations - it is always best to go into big meetings with a clear and open mind, whenever possible - but Friday's action is also on ITV4 and it isn't too shabby, either.

Indeed, the Betfair Sportsbook has already priced up four races, so that is where this week's ante-post column will largely focus.

I won't be going in hard on Friday's racing either as the weather forecast suggests the ground could change dramatically from the current good to soft (soft in places).

The weather site I use indicates there may be around 40mm from Wednesday afternoon onwards - Thursday looks particularly grim - but, as we all know, what is forecast and what actually arrives is often two different things.

Who to pick for the testing ground?

I think we have to proceed on the basis on very testing ground at this stage though, and that would make Eamon An Cnoic very interesting indeed at 14/1 in the Friday's 2m BetVictor Handicap Chase, as I really like the angle of stepping him down to the minimum trip on very soft ground.

However, he has also been confirmed for the main event on Saturday, so I can hardly put him up as a bet here.

I imagine connections will be favouring the big weekend prize too, and this horse clearly stays very well as his Festival fourth over an extended 2m4f at the Festival underlined, but the way he goes through his races when on song suggests he would be a massive player back at 2m.

It is worth remembering that he went off at 6/1 for the Red Rum in April - and worth forgetting his run there if you are backing him here! - and was hugely impressive when beating Capeland over 2m at Chepstow in February.

This dual heavy ground winner remains a well handicapped horse off an 8lb higher mark then Chepstow but, as I said, I just can't tip a doubly-entered horse.

Doitforthevillage to go well?

I can easily see Doitforthevillage going well in his bid to foll

DoItForTheVillage-1280.jpgow up his run in this race two years ago, as he shaped okay here last month and has been dropped another 2lb for it (he was dropped 2lb for his reappearance effort).

And, crucially, he often needs a couple of runs to put him straight. He won this race on his third start in 2017 and that was again the case at Chepstow last December.

He has to be on everyone's shortlist, and so does recent Ayr scorer Ardera Cross (who is jocked up), but I will reluctantly leave this race alone for now until I see the final field.

The 2m4f novices' chase and the Cross Country race are also priced up, but the only other Friday race that interests me is the 2m5f novices' hurdle.

The one that stands out for me at the prices is the 14/1 about Mossy Fen, with the Sportsbook possibly taking the opinion that he is an unlikely runner considering he only won at Aintree on Saturday.

He will be half that price is turning out again though - he really was impressive under a 6lb penalty last weekend - and he did win his point just six days after falling (admittedly at the first), so he may have some toughness about him.

Again though, he maybe is an unlikely runner given the swift turnaround, so it is probably wise to sit on our hands here, too.

I was going to take a flier in the race though in the shape of Autocrat at 33/1 - until the Sunday decs came through and he was put in the Supreme Trial over 2m at the weekend.

This horse shouldn't be underestimated though, for all he carries a 5lb penalty here.

He gets that courtesy of a Listed 2m2f Auteuil win on his hurdling debut and he clearly wasn't disgraced when a close third under a 7lb penalty next time.
I wouldn't profess to know anything much about French novice hurdles but the winner followed up under a big penalty next time and the runner-up then went on to finish second over fences. And the fourth was 6 lengths away.

Autocratic-1280.jpg

The form of his debut win looks rather tasty too. The runner-up (who beat a certain Klassical Dream on his only Flat start) followed up by nine lengths on his next outing.

Autocrat could well be a horse to have on your side whether he runs in the coming days.

Stamina to look at Saturday

As I have drawn a blank on Friday's racing, I had better take a good look at the weekend after all - I am such a willing trooper - and the BetVictor Gold Cup and Greatwood Hurdle have been priced up.

A total of 25 have stood their ground in the former contest, in which obviously Eamon An Cnoc would obviously interest me if going down the longer route, as does Happy Diva if that midweek rain arrives.

But I am going to get Springtown Lake at 25/1, five places, on my side at this stage. That is the biggest price around, with an extra place to boot.

I think the importance of a recent run and assured stamina could be key factors if it turns up heavy, and the selection shaped well enough over 3m at Ascot recently.

He was eased another 1lb for that and all his best runs have come over shorter, so the drop down in distance looks sure to suit.

He was rated 5lb higher at his peak and you can easily argue that his best days have come on soft or worse (though he has form on good to soft) and he is now back on the same mark as when winning over 2m4f at Sandown last November.

Although he was well beaten in the end, he ran well enough when fifth in the Close Brothers here in March, too.

In fact, you can mark up that run a fair deal as he made a pretty bad mistake when going okay 3 out, but the scrimmaging immediately after the fence cost him more ground, and he actually did very well to stay on again into fifth up the straight (the in-running comment does not paint an accurate picture, as he finished off his race well).

Off his low weight, he doesn't look a 25s poke to me at all, especially given Philip Hobbs has his team in very good nick.

The Greatwood has been very kind to me in recent years, and it is very surprising to see just 19 in the race at the five-day stage.

I don't have a strong opinion at this stage, and I am happy to wait until Saturday before trying to solve this puzzle, especially we will have an extra 24 hours to get a handle on the ground.

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