A busy punting day for Tony Calvin on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival as our in-form tipster puts up a further five bets at Prestbury Park...
"I am still of the opinion that Rebecca Curtis’ champion can retain his crown and is my number one fancy at the prices, after a fair bit of deliberation it must be said."
I won't bore you with my ante-post book in the Marsh without Envoi Allen market - suffice to say I will be shedding a tear or 27 if Chantry House, Fusil Raffles and Asterion Forlonge follow the favourite home - and not least because Thursday presents the best punting card of the week so far.
No self-indulgent waffle here then, so let's crack on.
I struggle to see Envoi Allen getting beat in the opener at 13:20 but that is obviously telling you very little, and my strongest view in the without market is probably Blackbow, who I think has been given time to get his confidence back on his last two starts after a fall and who I expect to be suited by the step up in trip.
Keeping the faith with Hill in the Pertemps
There is no angle in the without line there any more with eight lining up, but there is with Keeper Hill at 33/1 each-way, six places, in the Pertemps at 13:55.
The abuse I got for sticking this horse up at 50/1 for the Betfair Chase in November has just about subsided and I do like the cut of his jib now he is down to 142 over hurdles.
And hopefully on ground that will be riding good to soft at worst. I suspect we are looking at good on Thursday if the watering can doesn't unexpectedly come out.
And that would be just peachy for him.
Yes, he lacks the plot appeal of something like The Bosses Oscar and he is a 10yo now, but he has been coming down the weights while running well on unsuitably testing going of late, and I just hope the anticipated decent ground is a springboard to him notching his first win since his Haydock chase success in November 2019.
The last time this horse raced on good to soft he ran a certain Frodon to 1¼ lengths in a Kempton Grade 2 Chase in January 2020 (though the winner was giving him 6lb) and clearly he is a huge player at these weights if translating that ability to hurdles.
As I said, his last two placed efforts over hurdles on heavy and soft ground were performances to be applauded in the conditions, and he also has a couple of decent efforts to his name here too, not least a seventh in the then-Neptune in 2017.
And let us hope - well, I am anyway - that trainer Warren Greatrex putting first-time cheekpieces on the horse is a master stroke. The trainer's recent record with that headgear angle is not great, though his overall strike rate of 7 from 57 is fine.
At 33s, with the extra places, I am in.
Oscar my main tip to retain his Stayers' Hurdle crown
If you have a betting opinion in what looks an impossible 14-runner Ryanair at 14:30 then I salute you.
I can't recall seeing such a competitive and deep Grade 1.
Sure, it lacks a stand-out performer, hence it is 5/1 the field, but I could not confidently name you one horse that will not win, and that includes the lowest-rated, Fanion D'Estruval. On a day that throws up so many betting opportunities, I can easily watch this race without a punt. Very easily.
I have been tipping Lisnagar Oscar for a repeat win in the Stayers' Hurdle at 15:05 ever since his tremendous effort at Haydock last time at odds ranging from 25s to 16s, but my concern with that run is that it could have been too rigorous a work-out with this race in mind.
It was no easy prep after a three-month absence, and it was possibly too good a run, if that makes sense.
He had previously struck into himself (he incurred a "slice to his leg", which sounds painful) and made a noise at Newbury in November, when he travelled well before cutting out - he had a wind op afterwards - so if he has been suitably refreshed since then with the odd trip to the Welsh seaside, then I think he has pretty strong claims of following up his unheralded win in this race last year.
This is a better renewal, but he did win convincingly last March. His best form is on soft but he has won on good, so the ground doesn't worry me.
I know we have lost Thyme Hill in the last week, but I was just wondering whether his price had now gone - I have been rabbiting on about him since he was 25s and 16s - but he is edging towards 12/1 win-only on the exchange now, and that seems to be too big.
I have also been talking up the each-way claims of last year's Pertemps 1-2 Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller - and I have backed them too, four places, so I wouldn't put you off them at all - but I am still of the opinion that Rebecca Curtis' champion can retain his crown and is my number one fancy at the prices, after a fair bit of deliberation it must be said.
He is a bet at 11/1 each-way, four places with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Hoping Sully can safely land the odds
This is a busy punting day for me and I was going to stick up three for the Plate at 15:40 until The Shunter's price just crashed that little bit too much for me, after a few firms opened up at 6/1 on Tuesday.
I love the set-up of this 2m4f trip over fences for him after his recent Kelso win - the UK handicapper upped his chase mark to 140 here, but he actually has him 142 over hurdles now after that Morebattle win - and he won the Greatwood here in November, so he has course form, too.
But he is into 4/1 now and he did have a hard race when winning just 12 days ago, so I have to reluctantly swerve him now at his reduced odds.
Sully D'Oc AA is the first bet 14/1 each-way, six places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
He had a wind op after running here last January and it seems to have done the trick, as he ran out a convincing and well-backed winner (when also sporting a first-time tongue-tie) at Ascot on good to soft ground in October.
He went up 10lb for that 4¾-length win but that was justified, as the form has been franked time and again, and he may well have defied that rise but for a last-fence blunder at Newbury last time out in November when third to subsequent Kempton winner Clondaw Castle.
The handicapper thought so too, as he inched him up another 2lb, but I am hoping connections deliberately put him away afterwards with the Festival in mind. And the fact that he won after a long absence at Ascot suggests he is a horse that goes well when fresh, and on decent ground.
I am also going to stick up Champagne Court each-way, six places, at 28/1. The 40s went earlier, but the 28s is acceptable.
He has been a very frustrating horse to follow since his brace of wins in November 2019, having earlier finished fourth in a Martin Pipe here, but he has gradually come down the weights and there was a sign of revival when fourth in first-time cheek pieces at Warwick last time.
He will need to travel a bit better here (though he traded at 2.245/4 in running at Warwick) but maybe a return to better ground will help and Jeremy Scott ended a fair losing run with a winner at Stratford on Monday. A mark of 134 underestimates this horse if he has been further sweetened up.
I'm falling (nearly) for an alternative bet in Mares' Novice Hurdle
I have backed Hook Up ante-post in the Mares' Novice Hurdle at 16:15 but I have gone off her for some reason - maybe the field is deeper than I thought it would be, maybe it is her jumping or maybe it is the ground - and I came right around to Telmesomethinggirl at 14/1 each-way, four places.
Unfortunately, her price properly crashed throughout Wednesday and I was left with the offer of just 11/2 as I went to publish at 4.15pm.
I had to pull the plug tipping-wise but this front-runner couldn't get on the lead at Leopardstown last time after a false start, so she ran a fine race in the circumstances to finish third in that competitive mares' handicap hurdle.
It was all the meritorious considering it was her first run since September and it came on deep ground, as most of her form in the autumn came on decent going. I like the fact that she stays a lot further 2m1f, as I expect her to be ridden aggressively here.
I also imagine this has been the plan ever since she was put away in September, but the price has gone. And so am I.
Mahler can win us a few Bob in finale
I got cold sweats when I saw Musical Slave was entered for the Kim Muir at 16:50 but, as well handicapped as he undoubtedly is, his jumping is just too errant for me to stick him up again here.
You know what happens next. We will get Desert Orchid reincarnated on Thursday now, and he will hack up.
I have backed Shantou Flyer ante-post at 20s and 16s but his price has shortened a touch too much for me now, so I am going to put up Bob Mahler at 20.019/1 or bigger.
His saddle slipped at both Haydock and Kelso before he showed a bit more when third in atrocious conditions at Musselburgh last time, though he certainly will need to travel a bit more kindly for Harry Bannister than he did there. Or else he will be detached from an early stage.
If he does, then he is handicapped to do some damage. He is on the same mark as when winning the Edinburgh National last season, and 5lb lower than when a 3 ¼-length third in this race last year.
I very much hope this better ground is the key to him bouncing back. I hope to be back tomorrow, having cheered home an unlilkely Greatrex double!
Be good. And if you can't be good, be lucky.
PROFIT AND LOSS RECORDS
MARCH (not including Wednesday’s results):
FEB: +17.82; JAN: -0.2; DEC:- -20.8; NOV: +23
2020 FLAT SEASON (June 1-November): +20.8
PREVIOUS P AND L (April 14 2017 to Apr 1 2020): +303.4
NB: All recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP, not at prices available at time of publishing.
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Click 'Bet now' to view the market for the Marsh Novices' Chase where Envoi Allen is around 1.645/8
Back Keeper Hill in 13:55 at Cheltenham at 33/1 each-way, six places, at 34.033/1
Click 'Bet now' to view the market for the Ryanair Chase where the favourite is around 6.611/2
Back Lisnagar Oscar in 15:05 at Cheltenham 11/1 each-way, four places, at 12.011/1
Back Sully D’Oc AA in 15:40 at Cheltenham, 14/1 each-way, six places, at 15.014/1
Back Champagne Court in 15:40 at Cheltenham at 28/1 each-way, six places, at 29.028/1
Click 'Bet now' to view the market for the Mares' Novice Hurdle where Telmesomethinggirl is around 9.417/2
Back Bob Mahler in 16:50 at Cheltenham at 20.019/1