Tony Calvin: Back Cole Harden to regain Stayers crown

Tony fancies Cole Harden to regain the Stayers Hurdle crown he won in 2015
Tony fancies Cole Harden to regain the Stayers Hurdle crown he won in 2015
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There's very little racing to go at this weekend so Tony Calvin takes a look at a couple of the Cheltenham Festival antepost markets and he hopes an old friend can do him a favour in Thursday's feature race...


"I'm probably more susceptible than most to that bullishness, but the trainer reports the horse in rude health at home, and you know that he is going to give you a run for your money from the front."

This weekend is one of the quietest and low-key of the year from a racing and betting point of view, so I'm happy to leave that action until Friday afternoon and concentrate on what looks like a decent each-way play in a Cheltenham ante-post market.


Master catches the eye ahead of Triumph


It would have been two had the betting madness that ensued in the wake of Master Blueyes' 11-length defeat of the 142-rated filly Evening Hush at Kempton on Saturday persisted for a few more days.

I know odds-compilers are not what they were, but how any of them could watch Alan King's fast-improving grey bound clear on the run-in in the Adonis and not be bowled over by his Triumph Hurdle claims - one firm cut him to 25-1 from 33-1, while another went 20-1 - is beyond me.

Those quotes predictably lasted a matter of minutes - perhaps they were intentionally generous to get a PR name check on TV in the immediate aftermath of the race, who knows? - and his price now ranges from 7-1 to 10-1 in the marketplace.

And that isn't surprising. The handicapper has today raised him 17lb to an official mark of 150, and the Triumph Hurdle favourite Defi Du Seuil (on 155) is the only horse rated higher in the race.

Anyway, enough of what might have been - though I wouldn't want to be laying the 10-1 now - and let's concentrate on the bet I like.


Cole claims Harden-ing after recent improved form


Come in, Cole Harden, your assistance is required in the Stayers' Hurdle once again.

Back him each-way at 10-1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, and look to get with him at [11.0] and [2.9] or bigger win and place respectively on the exchange.

Obviously, I have a lot of history with the horse, having banged the Cole Harden drum for a good few weeks before his all-the-way win in the then-World Hurdle in 2015.

I watched the race at home on my own, just as well given the filth that came out of my mouth as he jumped the last and stuck on doggedly on the run-in.

He hasn't won in seven starts since and has had injury problems and a very brief flirtation with chasing in December, but the signs are that he is returning to that 2015 best again. And that could be good enough to see him home in front on the big stage next month.

After the chasing idea was shelved he was tried in cheek pieces for the first time over 2m4f in the Relkeel and, while his third to Agrapart there was light years away from his peak form, it was a step in the right direction.

And his second to Unowhatimeanharry back up to 3m in the Cleeve Hurdle last time was another big leap forward again, even if he was getting 8lb from the Stayers' Hurdle favourite there.

He may well find Harry Fry's winning machine too hot to handle again, especially on 8lb worse terms, but that is why I am suggesting the each-way play.

However, horses disappoint and I really like the look of the race from a betting angle - not least because I think it lacks strength in depth, and I don't fancy any of the other market-leaders (indeed, the second favourite on the fixed-odds front, Vroum Vroum Mag, is an unlikely runner) - and the confidence emanating from the Warren Greatrex yard is infectious.

I'm probably more susceptible than most to that bullishness, but the trainer reports the horse in rude health at home, and you know that he is going to give you a run for your money from the front. On good ground he could be very hard to catch once again.


Recommended Bets (Stayers Hurdle)
Back Cole Harden each-way at 10-1 with the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Cole Harden Win @ [11.0] and Place @ [2.9]


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