Saturday ITV Racing Tips: Back Growl to fight his way to Ayr Gold Cup glory
A hugely competitive day of racing is in store on ITV on Saturday with the Ayr Gold and Silver Cups taking centre stage, and here with his thoughts and bets is our resident tipster Tony Calvin...
"I just took the view that he is nigh-on guaranteed to run his race, and would be very hard to kick out of the frame at the very least."
You will hear the bleedin' obvious trotted out many times when various people discuss the racing at Ayr on Saturday - "you'll need a horse that handles testing conditions" - and, of course, that is correct.
In the immortal words of Oz in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, the slog in deep ground is indeed going to be "nae picnic" - famously uttered by the great man when discussing his Falklands sojourn in Dennis' sister's front room - as you will have already have gathered if you have been watching the racing since Thursday.
The problem for punters is that the proven mudlarks will be artificially short and you have to the look beyond the readily-apparent to try and eke out that elusive "value" bet.
Horrible word value, but it does the job, I suppose.
Ignore ground concerns for progressive handicapper
I'm more likely to fall flat on my face with this one but I do like the claims of Waarif in the 1m handicap at 14:00 despite the fact that he was unplaced on his sole start on soft and has been withdrawn on account of that going twice in his career, most recently at Hamilton in June.
Not the most promising of openings to tipping a horse, so let's put some flesh on the bones of this selection. We better deal with the ground issue first.
I don't know why he was pulled out at Hamilton in the summer (the other withdrawal was on his debut when he was trained in Ireland, so I am not bothered with that) but it seems curious to me given that he appeared to handle soft very well on his turf reappearance at Wetherby in April.
That was his first start for over three months and it came over an inadequate 7f, and he was coming back for more at the end of the race and was beaten less than 2 lengths.
And his pedigree gives encouragement that testing ground could well suit, as his dam won on it from just three starts (she was also second of 23 in soft/heavy previously) and his better siblings, notably Irish sprinter Sioduil, loved the mud.
So I am more than hopeful he will handle the ground, and he is a progressive handicapper, too.
He has officially improved 17lb since the summer (on mainly quick ground), has won three of his last five starts, and I thought he was unlucky not to make it four when meeting all sorts of trouble in running before flashing home to finish fourth to Borderforce (also a big player here) on good to soft at Ripon last time.
I think there is more to come from him, and he rates a bet at [15.0] or bigger - I am going win-only because of the ground factor - with regular pilot Conor McGovern taking off another 3lb.
At the prices, I am most worried by Fire Brigade, back on his favoured ground, and Borderforce.
Stare can leave bookies leaving Cold
As I have started with the opening ITV race at Ayr, I may as well continue to crack on in chronological order, and next up is the Silver Cup at 14:40.
I wouldn't rule out a big run from the old, soft ground-loving warhorse Confessional in his current form, though a 5lb penalty may stop him. A similar burden may not thwart Cold Stare, though.
He has a similar profile to the stable's Thursday winner Saryshagann, in that he is ex-French and a slow-burner who could blossom now he has his autumn ground.
He was rated 102 after winning his first two starts in France, and ran a very promising race when sixth in the Greenham back in April on his first start for his current trainer.
Four pretty uninspiring efforts followed - he finished last in two races, and beat only one home in the International at Ascot - but he was a different proposition when encountering soft ground at Haydock over 7f last time.
The bare form of that race is nothing to get excited about, and he is actually 1lb badly-in here with his 5lb penalty, but I loved the way he glided through his rivals in the final 2f to win comfortably.
This is actually his first attempt at 6f and the 3yo obviously meets some battle-hardened handicappers, but I think a strongly-run race over this trip in soft ground promises to suit. He is worth a few quid at [15.0] or bigger, as his draw in two doesn't overly-concern me, even after today's Bronze Cup result (he is also 14/1 with Betfair Sportsbook).
Let's hope David O'Meara and the excellent Middleham Park Racing outfit have a day to remember at Ayr on Saturday.
Growl can scare off rivals in Gold Cup
I am not getting involved in a devilishly-difficult 2yo race at 15:15 though I would have done so if Glass Slippers was still available at the 12/1 she was on Tuesday morning. She is now basically half that price.
That is also stating the bleedin' obvious, but I thought she won with a ton in hand at Chester and it sounds like connections have had this race in mind for her for a long time.
But it is a very tight race, and I was also half-tempted by Summer Daydream at 16/1+ after an impressive debut win on heavy at Carlisle last time, though the time and form was nothing flash.
The two horses that I fancied most at the five-day stage haven't even made it to the weekend in the Ayr Gold Cup at 15:50 - Laugh A Minute and Eirene - which pretty much sums up why my love affair with ante-post betting is on the wane. There was no hint that they wouldn't run.
I can fully see the case for Muntadab, though the price has gone a fair bit south since Wednesday, and last year's Stewards Cup third Upstaging could bounce back on this softer ground at around 40/1.
Throw in the more obvious claims of the 10lb well-in Son Of Rest and the rock-solid, 2016 runner-up Growl, and this looks a bit of a nightmare, and to be honest I oscillated around four possible selections.
Others included Ice Age and Baron Bolt but, as my old man used to say, "it's time to shit or get off the pot, Tony." Surely, the editor will allow me to mildly blaspheme, in the circumstances.
So, father, I am putting up Growl win and place. And as a habitual favourite-backer, I am sure the great man would have given me the nod of approval.
I just took the view that he is nigh-on guaranteed to run his race, and would be very hard to kick out of the frame at the very least.
He may not be firing at his peak 114-best but he has run three crackers off this mark of 99 of late, and the softer ground here will clearly suit.
He is a standing dish in these big-field handicaps, and finished second to Brando in this race two years ago, and hopefully Paul Hanagan can steer a clear passage from his midfield draw. If he does, and isn't placed, I'll be mildly surprised. He has plenty of pace to track if edging towards the lower numbers, where a lot of the speedsters are gathered.
Back him at [11.0] win and [2.6] or bigger in the five-places market, but I won't be going mad on the stakes front.
Choice selection can pay dividends at Newbury
The ITV races at Newbury can be dealt with a touch more quickly, just as well as the word count would have gone through the roof otherwise. It will be interesting to see how the ground rides on Saturday if they get any more rain, so that is another betting consideration.
The official ratings tell you the old Arc Trial is very tricky, perhaps closer than the betting suggests with Mirage Dancer around a 13/8 chance - and Extra Elusive interests me, despite having a lot to find form-wise - and similar comments apply the other Group races on the terrestrial roster, the Mill Reef and the 5f sprint.
So we will move swiftly on to the 1m2f handicap at 13:45 where there are a few that are officially ahead of the handicapper - Stylehunter, Pivoine and Mountain Angel - and probably at least another couple besides. The favourite Adamant was pulled out lame on Friday morning, though.
In truth, you can make a case for six or more - as the above comments imply - but Original Choice each-way at 12/1, four places ((check place terms when you strike bet in case there have been more non-runners since) with the Betfair Sportsbook gets my vote (or similar win and place prices on the exchange). The rain on Thursday night and Friday morning was great news for him.
He ran two blinders at the old Glorious Goodwood meeting, beaten around a length in both outings off just a 3lb higher mark, and then finished a fair fifth at York last time.
However, things didn't pan out ideally over a mile on quick ground at York, when he crucially got shuffled back coming round the bend, and he was always playing catch-up thereafter.
You can easily argue that his best effort to date came over this trip at Goodwood, when again he didn't get the cleanest of passages, and a bit more rain would be lovely for a horse proven in heavy ground. I'll settle for a bit of ease, though, and he could surprise some sexier types, and stablemate My Lord And Master also interested me at a double-figure price.
Back Original Choice 12/1, four places, with Betfair Sportsbook in 13:45 at Newbury (or similar prices on exchange)
Back Waarif at [15.0] or bigger in 14:00 at Ayr
Back Cold Stare at [15.0] or bigger in the 14:40 at Ayr
Back Growl at [11.0] win and [2.6] or bigger in 5-places market in 15:50 at Ayr