The re-scheduled Betfair Hurdle takes place at Newbury this Sunday and Tony Calvin cannot contain his excitement about a spectacular weekend of horse racing as he makes his ante-post pick...
"Mack The Man hasn’t been cut and I am happy to put him up win-only now at 21.020/1 or bigger on the Exchange or 20/1 with the Sportsbook."
It isn't quite the Dublin Racing Festival - and let's be careful not to overdo the hyperbole - but what a weekend is in store for horse racing fans.
The cold spell that claimed so many of our big meetings of late has relented, and we are set for Super Sunday, with last week's abandoned Betfair Hurdle card now being re-staged on that day.
With the Grand National weights released on Tuesday - the Betfair Sportsbook are non-runner money-back (NRMB) from midday on Tuesday - and other big Saturday cards at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton, then there is Grade 1 and 2 talent on show wherever you look.
To be honest with you, I don't know where to start.
Master Tommytucker could dominate Betfair Ascot Chase
In fact, at 6/4 and 7/2 on the Sportsbook respectively, the Betfair ambassador is odds-on to take home a large portion of the loot.
To be honest, the 6/4 doesn't excite me at all, even if the 172-rated chaser (he was 177 after beating Altior here in November) is clearly top dog on the official figures.
He was beaten when falling at the last as a 4/11 poke last season and comes here via a pulled-up effort in the King George, so he has questions to answer. I am not in the least surprised he is bigger on the Exchange at the time of filing, even with doubts about what he will face.
I'd be leaning towards Master Tommytucker of the Ditcheat pair as he can be deadly on a going day, as he was when winning in a good time at Kempton.
It could well be that needs to dominate in a small field - and we all know he can hit one, too - but he may well get this scenario here if the five-day field of 10 cuts up.
It may do just that - Dashel Drasher, Fanion D'Estruval, Kalashnikov, Lostintranslation, Riders On the Storm are also entered at Newbury on Sunday, while Terrefort is also in a handicap at Ascot, too - but it is not a betting race for me at this stage.
It could be some race if the Nicholls pair are joined by Saint Calvados, Lostintranslation and Kalashnikov, plus a couple of the improving handicappers, though.
There are some potentially tasty contests elsewhere on the Ascot card, too.
We have 12 in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown at 13:50, although admittedly it lacks a stand-out - I would have been tempted by Demachine at 20/1 but he is also entered at Newbury on Sunday - and some deep handicaps, which I love.
Races to revisit later in the week
I have seen easier puzzles to solve than the 35-runner Betfair Cheltenham Free Bet Pot Builder Handicap Hurdle (at 15:00) - Craigneche is the 9/2 favourite here - and the 22-runner "My Oddsboost" on Betfair Swinley Chase (14:25)!
Jerrsyback has an obvious chance in the Swinley Chase after a good third here last time after a long break and I am still convinced if Musical Slave is a winner waiting to happen off this mark if learning to jump a bit better (actually make that a lot), but both are a touch short in the ante-post market considering the big doubt.
That doubt is that they both owned by JP Manus and trained by Philip Hobbs so it is anyone's guess if both will run. JP also has Kimberlite Candy, course specialist and 2018 winner Regal Encore, Kapcorse and Brelan D'As in the race too, to potentially muddy the waters further. However, he does run plenty in the same races, obviously.
If I knew leading National fancy Kimberlite Candy (who has a leading chance at Aintree, and you may be hearing more of him in his National piece later) was an intended runner on Saturday, I would be charging in for the Sportsbook's 20/1 about him.
With running plans hard to ascertain, though - we will mention Enqarde in a bit, too - those definitely look like races to come back to later in the week.
Haydock test for Cheltenham bet Lisnagar Oscar
Over at Haydock, I am very keen to see how Lisnagar Oscar fares in the Rendlesham (14:05), as I have a little tickle on him at 33s NRMB on his retaining his stayers' crown at Cheltenham next month, and a few more bites at bigger prices on the Exchange.
I was doing some prep for a Weighed In "Footsteps To The Festival" Podcast a fortnight ago and one of the races we were focusing on was the Stayers' Hurdle.
I was happy to take on Thyme Hill and Paisley Park at the top of the market - and still am - and I was wondering what had happened to last year's winner Lisnagar Oscar, as we hadn't seen him since Newbury in November.
So I dropped Rebecca Curtis a line and she gave me the fullest of answers, saying that a Pertemps qualifier at Exeter was the plan - he was a non-runner there on Sunday due to the heavy ground - as a comeback prep run, as the horse had knocked into himself at Newbury and he also had a wind op in the interim, too.
I imagine he will need this run though and he has a 6lb Grade 1 penalty to carry as well, so I can resist the 8/1, but I still think he is a very lively outsider for the Fez, so hopefully he can shape well enough here to keep my ante-post bets for next month alive.
With the Aintree weights out on Tuesday, the brakes will be off for many in Haydock's Grand National trial (14:40) - and the aforementioned Kimberlite Candy, too - and Enqarde will surely interest many ante-post punters here after his impressive win last time. Or he would have had had he not also an entry in the 3m handicap at Ascot, too.
So he is not the kind of horse you can put up at this stage really, not from my perspective anyway.
Double-entries are an issue for others in here, too. Notachance, Newtide and Cloudy Glen are also in at Ascot, while Ramses De Teillee has the option of Kelso on Friday.
And a few of these (Achille, Potters Legend, Just Your Type and Springfield Fox) may even wait for the Eider at Newcastle a week on Saturday.
So find an intended runner and you could be in luck here. Or at least be in a very good trading position come the weekend. There is one problem from this end. I couldn't find a horse whose price excited me.
ITV also are showing the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton (15:18) and I have no issues with Song For Someone heading the market here, though 6/4 is as short as he needs to be at the moment in this nine-strong field. That said, one of his main market rivals Goshen is also in a handicap hurdle at Ascot.
It's a pretty messy weekend for double decs.
Read Tony Calvin...
If Saturday is good, then the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle card at Newbury on Sunday ratchets it up a gear still.
We will come on to the Hurdle itself in a minute, but what a finale to the card. I have never been a fan of betting and tipping in bumpers myself, but it is all change after looking at the Read Tony Calvin's tips on Betting.Betfair National Hunt Flat race at 4.45pm....
What. A Title.
The Betfair Sportsbook have priced up four races on Sunday (the bumper not being one of those, unfortunately) and I am little surprised to see Clan Des Obeaux as short as 4/6 for the Betfair Denman Chase (14:25), although I suppose that simply reflects he is an intended runner and many of the others are not sure to rock up.
Champ unexpectedly dropping to 2m in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at 15:00 arguably makes it the race of the weekend from a pure interest point of view.
To say that I was shocked to see this development for last year's RSA winner and Gold Cup candidate was an understatement - he has never run over less than 2m4f over hurdles and fences - and the Sportsbook are non-believers too, going 10/3 about Champ, comfortably the biggest in the marketplace.
I am much more in their camp than those elsewhere who make him just a 15/8 chance against confirmed two-milers in Greaneteen and Sceau Royal, but it will be a fascinating contest to watch, all right.
The curse of the alternative entries prevents (yet again) me from sticking up Dhowin this week, as he is triple-entered, with one of the possible engagements the Betfair Weighed-In Podcast Weekly Handicap Hurdle at Newbury (13:50).
He was scrubbed along from flag fall to line when fifth over 2m5f in the Lanzarote, and you have to think the step up to 3m will really suit. But he is in at Haydock and Ascot as well. Another watching brief, I am afraid.
Mack The Man for the Betfair Hurdle
At least we pretty much know what will run in the Betfair Hurdle. There are obvious cases to be made for Cadzand and Soaring Glory but they have been very well found in the market now, even if Metier's no-show has resulted in their prices shortening.
Mack The Man hasn't been cut and I am happy to put him up win-only now at 21.020/1 or bigger on the Exchange or 20/1 with the Sportsbook.
Each way punters will get better terms on the day, even though the latter are already paying five places.
I didn't put him up in this column last week because the meeting was a 1.01 poke to be abandoned but it will go ahead this weekend, and probably on heavy ground with another wet week in store. That will suit him nicely.
My reasons for siding with him remain unchanged. In fact, I will pretty much cut and paste it here.
Mack The Man is officially the worst handicapped horse in the race (along with Crooks Peak) as he has a 5lb penalty for a Wincanton win last time for which he went up only 2lb.
So he is 3lb badly-in.
But that was probably a necessary stepping stone - at the time he would not have been certain of a place in this line-up at all given the Wincanton win came off a lowly 127 - and one that came after two unsuccessful chase starts.
Despite being badly in, he is only 2lb higher than when a 15/2 chance in this race last season, when being brought down at the last.
Sure, he was two or three lengths off the leaders but he wasn't out of it at all as he finds (as he showed when beating Protektorat and Song For Someone at Sandown in December 2019, and that form isn't looking too shabby now) and I can see him coming on a ton for that Wincanton win.
Not that it was a poor win as such - the time was decent - but I am guessing it was a means to an end.
At 20s, I am paying to find out (and you will probably get bigger as he is currently 25/1+ on the Exchange). Win-only at the moment, though.
Buckle up on Saturday morning, as it promises to be a cracker of a weekend. I am back on Friday.