Tony Calvin: Marcel the horse to back for the 2,000 Guineas

Marcel runs in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on the 30th April
Marcel runs in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on the 30th April

Racing expert Tony Calvin looks ahead to the 2,000 Guineas and likes the look of a horse he had previously dismissed...

"It seemed that I had parked Marcel’s win in the Racing Post Trophy to the back of my mind, as well as Arod’s Group-winning exploits before his narrow second in the Sussex Stakes, not to mention Buckstay’s haul of £112K+ for winning at Ascot in October."

2,000 Guineas

Honesty is often in short supply in horse racing, so here is a truthful admission.

I originally discounted - no, dismissed would be a more accurate description - Marcel from my 2,000 Guineas calculations, either sub-consciously or by design, simply because he was trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam.

When I started looking at the race in greater depth yesterday afternoon, Marcel was the first off my list because of the trainer.

Quite why, I don't actually know.

As punters, if we are being honest, we all have jockeys and trainers who we take a betting dislike to, for a number of reasons, and their runners often become invisible to us. We don't even consider them, maybe not even notice them. If they win, so be it, but they won't be carrying my cash, thanks.

I don't get as heated about him as some, but I imagine a fair few punters have taken this approach with Barney Curley runners in the recent past.

It appears Chapple-Hyam was one of my blind spots. And, looking back, I can't recall the last time I punted one of his runners.

Whether it was because of ignorance on my part, or simply a lazy belief that he was now a journeyman trainer now after his stratospheric rise in 90s and his troubles and travails since, I'm not sure.

But, on reviewing the race and Marcel's chances this morning, I was clearly wrong.

Sure, Chapple-Hyam's numbers appear to have dwindled alarmingly - he has only 30 horses for this campaign, apparently - and he may not be the outgoing, charismatic PR force of old, but a look at his 2015 statistics demands that he should get more respect than I was affording him.

It seemed that I had parked Marcel's win in the Racing Post Trophy to the back of my mind, as well as Arod's Group-winning exploits before his narrow second in the Sussex Stakes, not to mention Buckstay's haul of £112K+ for winning at Ascot in October.

And a record of 16 winners from 103 runners on turf in 2015 is none too shoddy by anyone's standards, while it was also heartening of sorts to see the stable send out their first winner of the year at Haydock on Saturday.

So hands up and an apology from me, and for good measure I think his Marcel is the best value left in the 2,000 Guineas market at 15.5. And if you wanted to try and get matched on him at 6-1+ in the without favourite market - there is some 7-1 knocking around elsewhere but I can't see that lasting - then I wouldn't deter you.

The starting point for the race is obviously Air Force Blue at 1.738/11. He looked the part in the Dewhurst and is obviously a worthy odds-on favourite.

But he is unproven over a mile, and an unsettled Newmarket forecast this week may not be ideal, and I imagine he could be a bigger price on Saturday morning if you fancy him.

If you are going to take him on though I think Marcel boasts the best credentials at the prices.

Considering he only went into Doncaster on the back of a Newcastle maiden win the performance there was little short of miraculous, as a 33-1 starting price underlines.

However, there looks to be no disputing the merit of the win as it came in a good time and the 1½ length runner Johannes Vermeer when on to win his Group 1 in Saint-Cloud, beating the current Guineas second favourite Stormy Antarctic by a head.

In pure form terms alone you can make a fair case for him being the closest to the favourite in the betting. I am worried about whether he will be cherry ripe on Saturday - there have been mixed reports about his state of readiness after a racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting - but at 14-1+ I think he is worth chancing. And a bit of ease in the ground won't inconvenience him.

I have a lot of time for Buratino in class terms, but you do have to be worried about his stamina, particularly if there is a fair bit of rain around this week.


1,000 Guineas

If it sounds as if the Ballydoyle camp are confident about taking home the 2,000 Guineas, then it appears that some in Ireland believe that a Minding win in the 1,000 Guineas, is a formality after her Fillies Mile win last season.

However, the fact that they are also running Ballydoyle (the horse) in here too, does leave a little doubt in your mind, and that has crept into the exchange market with the favourite drifting to 2.982/1.

There has been a few quid around for Mix And Mingle today and I can see that, as she travelled well in the Nell Gwyn before finding little when let down in the rain-softened ground, which she wouldn't have liked at all. An extra furlong and better ground will see her take a big step forward.

But I think it is wise to hold fire on her, as if any significant rain does materialise, you won't get a run for your money. And I don't see her shortening up that much from 40.039/1 if and when she is confirmed at the overnight stage, though her price will be trimmed, for sure. That's a decision for you to make.

I'd be against Lumiere and Ballydoyle at the current prices, but I wouldn't be ruling aganst the Aidan O'Brien third string Alice Springs on better ground than she raced on first time up in the heavy at Leopardstown over 7f.

She was only beaten 1½ lengths in the Cheveley Park, is a course and distance winner and finished an excellent ¾ length second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf over a mile in Keeneland.

If O'Brien fires three bullets in this race, then I am going to have her onside, as the stable have taken this with outsiders in the past, though Homecoming Queen was apparently more fancied than the 25-1 SP suggested she was when winning the race by 9 lengths in 2012. Alice Springs has a similar profile to her, too.

I was very tempted to tip her up at 25.024/1 in the win-only exchange market, but I will wait until the day just in case she sidesteps this Classic and goes elsewhere.


Jockey Club Stakes

Elsewhere, in the weekend ante-post markets, it is hard to argue with odds of 1.75/7 about Jack Hobbs in the Jockey Club Stakes on Saturday.

The Irish Derby winner is set to take high rank in the top all-aged middle distance races this season and this looks a good starting point for him.

Obviously, Oaks winner Simple Verse could give him something to thinking about if taking up the engagement - and I am presuming the favourite is going to run, but I don't know - but she carries a 5lb penalty for her Classic win, whereas Jack Hobbs doesn't, as his win came before August 31.

The Palace House Stakes is very hard to get a handle on at this stage, not least because only five of the 24 entries are jocked up and definitive running plans are hard to come by. This looks a race best swerved until we get the final decs on Thursday morning.

Jazzi Top looks like being a short-priced favourite in The Dahlia Stakes on Sunday, and she currently trades at 1.9110/11 on the exchange. But, again, this looks another race where a watching brief looks the most sensible policy.

Recommended Bet

Back Marcel at 15.5 in the 2,000 Guineas



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