There's a busy afternoon of horse racing on ITV this Saturday and Tony Calvin recommends two ante-post bets for the meeting at Wetherby as well as assessing the Ascot card...
"Lignou was rated 129 in Ireland, where his last start was a non-staying effort over 3m in June, and I am happy to take a chance with him at 25/1 each-way, four places, with the Sportsbook."
ITV aren't scrimping on their weekend coverage these days, and they provide coverage of 10 races once again this Saturday, with jumps action from Ascot, Wetherby and Down Royal.
Wetherby have struggled a bit with entries for their three Listed and Graded contests - just the 29 in total, with eight in the Charlie Hall - so hopefully the majority of those stand their ground come the weekend, and at least the two ITV handicaps on the card have a very healthy 54 five-day declarations between them.
The Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Steeplechase over in Ireland is also on the box, and Ascot have not struggled for entries either, so it is fair to say ante-post punters have a lot to go at early doors, should they so wish.
Of course, running plans are very hard to ascertain, so selectivity is key, but we may as well start at Wetherby as we are set to have two top-notchers on show in the shape of Cyrname and Paisley Park.
Cyrname the one to beat in the Charlie Hall Chase
The going here is currently good but there is a fair amount of rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, so it may be best to work on the assumption of good to soft for the weekend. They have been watering there with the intention of producing ground on the slow side of good, so I hope that doesn't come back to bite them.
Actually, both of those horses have a little to prove after their form tailed off last season, but there is no doubt that Cyrname is the one to beat in the eight-strong Charlie Hall at his best, and the Betfair Sportsbook are clearly fans, as they make him 5/6 favourite.
In truth, last year's winner is probably a 2s-on poke, and shorter, if we knew he was back on song here, but he does carry a 6lb penalty here and he has to put his subsequent Kempton and Ascot (where a respiratory issue was reported) no-shows behind him.
Shan Blue has been the horse backed against him in the last 24 hours (opened up 11/2 in places). That's mainly because Dan Skelton reported in a Wetherby racecourse press release on Monday that this race has been on the horse's radar since the start of the season and he is set to come here instead of taking up an alternative engagement at Ascot on Saturday, but it is not a betting race as it stands. All firms are understandably betting to only two places for each-way terms.
Paisley Park is the 2/1 Sportsbook favourite for the bet365 hurdle but the 9yo does look vulnerable first time up under a 6lb penalty, as that extra burden brings the likes of Thomas Darby and Lisnagar Oscar bang into the equation at these weights, while the 160-rated chase Master Tommytucker returning to hurdles adds a dangerous wild-card element, too.
I am a sucker for the 6-1 chance Lisnagar Oscar, but this looks a very trappy race as it stands and a watching brief is the best call.
Last season was a write-off for Marie's Rock as she could never get back into the swing after injury curtailed what was a deeply promising 2019-20 campaign, and she is a stand-out 9/2 for the Betfair Sportsbook for the bet365 Mares Hurdle.
I have no idea if she is an intended runner, but I wouldn't be laying more than 3s myself at this stage. If that.
Lignou will go close if he reproduces Irish form
The two handicaps at Wetherby are also priced up, and the 24-runner 2m3f154y handicap hurdle (15:40pm) is the one that has got me betting and tipping.
My interest in Weather Front began and ended when I saw he had two other weekend entries, and the fact that Olly Murphy didn't mention Tinnahalla in a recent stable tour always pricks up my cynical ears.
The two that interested me in here were Lignou, on his first start for Jennie Candlish having been bought out of Noel Meade's for a mere £6,000 last month, and Eviscerating.
I have a lot of time for the Candlish yard, who I have down as a shrewd punting outfit, and Lignou is well handicapped on his winning form for Meade in Ireland, where he also ran some good races when fresh. Mind you, the UK handicapper is starting him on 132, but at least that allows him to scrape into this 0-130.
He was rated 129 in Ireland, where his last start was a non-staying effort over 3m in June, and I am happy to take a chance with him at 25/1 each-way, four places, with the Sportsbook. He may not run for all I know, but this is his only weekend entry, so I will take the chance to small stakes.
A reproduction of his Kilbeggan win over 2m3f on good ground in April would see him go very close here. He gave 12lb and a neck beating to Hewitt that day, and the runner-up has won three times since, and is now rated 140 and 130 over fences and hurdles respectively.
Any 20/1 would be fine, if the 25s has gone by the time you read this.
Eviscerating capable of competing at a big price
I have to back Eviscerating too at 50/1 each-way, four places, too. In fact, he'd be my main in the bet and 25/1 and upwards would be very fair.
Like Lignou, he has no other weekend engagements, and I thought he shaped well over 2m at Worcester back in July, the 50/1 chance trading at a low of 5.69/2 in running before fading late on.
The handicapper has dropped him another 4lb to a mark of 115 after that run, and he is now one well-treated horse.
For example, he was rated 12lb higher when a ¾ length second to Taxmeifyoucan over 2m4f in the soft at Hexham on his stable debut back in 2019 and he was 6lb higher when second over 2m here on good to soft here back in March.
Trip and ground will be fine (he goes on good and soft), he has that course form, and we know he is capable of winning this off his current mark. And his two best efforts for the yard came off a break, so his absence since July is no worry at all.
For what it's worth, regular 3lb claimer Nathan Moscrop is already jocked up, and while the stable certainly wouldn't scare you off with their strike rate they did have a winner at Southwell in July.
Plenty of interest at Ascot but no bets yet
All four handicaps on ITV at Ascot are priced up, and the going here is currently good to soft. Like Wetherby, a fair chunk of rain could be arriving on Friday and Saturday, though.
Eden Flight is very interesting in the 2m3f novice handicap chase (13:35) not least because she is (currently) owned and trained by Venetia Williams, and she bought the horse out of Willie Mullins' yard for £11,000 in May.
Obviously, that is not a great deal in the grand scheme of things but I'd be surprised if this horse was a total dud given the previous owners, the Riccis, have Royale Pagaille with her - you'd have like to think she would have been given a steer of sorts. The horse did show a flash of ability for Mullins when second in heavy ground at Fairyhouse, while clearly not coming up to initial expectations (he was sent off at 11/4 to beat Andy Dufresne on debut for Mullins after winning on his sole French start).
The UK handicapper has given him an opening mark of 125 but the problem with that is that this a limited handicap (top weight 11st 8lb; minimum 10st 11lb), so he is going to be massively out of the weights if the 153-rated Millers Bank rocks up, though that one also has entries on Friday and Sunday.
As such, we can't play here and now, and he is a guess-up anyway, in truth.
The 20-runner 1m7f152yd handicap hurdle (14:10) looks very tasty and Natural History could be the one to beat if they have found the key to unlock his Flat potential (rated 101 on the level) to translate it to hurdles (mark of just 126).
I actually thought recent Welsh Champion Hurdle third Leoncavallo was a solid each way option at an industry-best 12s with the Sportsbook, but whether he is just a bit too exposed to be winning a handicap like this - I'd expect the ante-post favourite Soaring Glory to rate a lot higher this season - off his current mark is probably a fair question to ponder.
I think Johnbb could be the pick of the weights, but I don't see any stand-out at the current prices and we will probably get enhanced place terms on the day, too.
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