Tony Calvin: A look ahead to the return of Aintree and Cheltenham and the Group 1 at Donny

Cheltenahm Race Finish
Cheltenham returns this weekend along with good cards at Doncaster and Aintree

There's some tremendous action in all corners of the globe this weekend, and our man Tony Calvin gives his early thoughts on the return of Aintree and Cheltenham plus the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster...

"Phoenix Of Spain's second to Guineas favourite Too Darn Hot over 7f in the Champagne Stakes here clearly looks very solid - though the third and fifth were beaten next time out - and the step up to a mile for the first time really promises to suit; the 9/2 chance sets the standard for the others to aim at."

It's a strange old world that we live in.

I was at Ascot on Saturday so wasn't in a position to monitor the TV analysis - you do miss a lot when you go racing - but, from what I have read and heard since, it seems to be that everyone was critical of Ryan Moore for not hemming Stradivarius in on the rail in the Long Distance Cup, and full of praise for Frankie Dettori for slamming the door shut on Thomas Hobson in the very same race.

I fully appreciate that they were two separate "tactical" incidents, but I don't understand how anyone can view Dettori's ride as anything other than as potentially very dangerous, though there is some suggestion the Italian wasn't aware of what was on his inner when he shifted across (hence it wasn't officially deemed dangerous, I guess).

Call it race-riding or whatever you will, but Thomas Hobson was still fully in there pitching and within half a length of Stradivarius when Dettori gave the "thou shall not pass" manoeuvre - the ITV jockey cam gives you a superb insight into the incident - and he was probably lucky to get away with just a three-day ban for careless riding.

Those praising the ride as a tactical masterclass, in direct contravention of the laws of racing, may want to remember that the next time a jockey is put on the deck.

Magna favourite for Saturday's Group 1 contest

It's the start of the jumps season proper Mk II (or III) on Saturday, as the ITV cameras head to Cheltenham, and we have the Old Roan meeting at Aintree on Sunday as well, but the race of the weekend is the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. The ground is currently soft, with a drying week forecast.

That's the old Racing Post Trophy to me and you, and if the race turns out half as well as last year's race the new sponsors will be chuffed. Saxon Warrior beat a certain Roaring Lion in last season's renewal, and that pair didn't turn out too badly.

Magna Grecia and Stormwave were supplemented into the race at a cost of £17,500 on Monday, with the former one of eight Aidan O'Brien entries.

The fact that Magna Grecia has been put into a race in which the stable were already mob-handed suggests he is a probable runner, so it is no surprise that he is the favourite and 7/4 with the Betfair Sportsbook, who clearly rate his chances more than most. They clearly want to duck him early doors.

He also happens to arguably boast just about the best form too, having pulled well clear of the rest when a neck second to Persian King in the Autumn Stakes, but I imagine he will have a few stablemates to keep him company at Doncaster.

Norway of interest despite step back in trip

Quite who is another matter, but I wouldn't be in a rush to desert Norway, priced at 10/1 (the biggest in the marketplace), myself if he gets the green light from Ballydoyle.

I know stamina appeared to win him the day over 1m2f in the Zetland Stakes last time and he comes back a couple of furlongs in trip here, but I loved the way he quickened up from near-last to win going away at Newmarket and he doesn't lack pace on that evidence.

Granted, the runner-up didn't really advertise the form that much at Pontefract on Monday, but if he runs, I am interested.

The 25/1 chance Stormwave is perhaps a surprise entry given that connections were talking in relatively low-key terms after his Salisbury win earlier this month, but the fact that he justified favouritism there on his debut suggests that victory caught no-one unawares and I imagine his owner will have found the £17.500 easily enough.

Plenty of potential improvers in early guessing game

I said Magna Grecia was arguably the form horse going into the race, but I have already backtracked on that, as I reckon Phoenix Of Spain and narrow Lagardere runner-up Broome have run to a higher level, as it stands.

Phoenix Of Spain's second to Guineas favourite Too Darn Hot over 7f in the Champagne Stakes here clearly looks very solid - though the third and fifth were beaten next time out - and the step up to a mile for the first time really promises to suit; the 9/2 chance sets the standard for the others to aim at.

A few of these clearly have the potential to reach it though, not least some of the other O'Brien colts like Japan.

And Turgenev, winner of a novice under a penalty at Newmarket last time and representing the all-conquering John Gosden yard, has looked pretty tasty, too. He is the second favourite at 7/2.

However, it's still a guessing game as to what will run, let alone sizing up the full potential of most of the field, so we can happily leave alone until Friday.

Dreams aplenty still alive at Aintree and Cheltenham

O'Brien surprisingly doesn't even have one entry in the Group 3 Horris Hill at Newbury, but I am sure many of the jumps punters among you will be itching to get involved in Cheltenham's two-day meeting and Sunday's Aintree card, for which the Old Roan Chase has attracted a cracking 15-strong field at the five-day stage.

The early Betfair Sportsbook favourite is 7/2 chance Cloudy Dream, having his first start for Donald McCain.

The headline horse at Cheltenham is probably We Have A Dream in the 2m hurdle, and last year's Grade 1 winner of the 4yo hurdle at Aintree is expected to develop into a Champion Hurdle prospect this season, as befits a 156-rated performer for a powerful yard.

He's an even money chance with the Sportsbook, who have also priced up four other National Hunt races, making it nine in total for the weekend. A very busy Monday for the odds-compilers (only one race available on the exchange at the time of writing, but keep your eyes peeled there).

Plenty of international racing to enjoy also

I probably should also mention that a filly called Winx runs in some race called the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday morning. Apparently, she wins quite a lot and is fairly useful, hence she is 1.331/3 for the race.

That is a bigger price than we are used to seeing for her as she is taking on a couple of familiar faces in recent Caulfield Group 1 winner Benbatl and Irish Derby runner-up Rostropovich in an eight-strong field.

Looking a bit further ahead, there have been some changes on the Breeders' Cup markets. The two-day meeting starts at Churchill Downs on November 2, with the main stuff a day later.

QEII winner Roaring Lion has been trimmed into around 8/1 for a switch to dirt for the Classic - he also has the option of the Turf, though the stable have the odds-on Enable in there - and Magical is a big mover for the Filly And Mare after her comprehensive Ascot win on Saturday.

I'll leave you there but good luck with the punting this week, and I'll be back on Saturday. Maybe even for Friday's racing on Racing UK , but we will see what the final fields and the betting bring us there.

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