Craven Meeting Day Two Tips: Don Armado looks a clear play at the prices
Tony Calvin casts his eye across the markets at Newmarket on Wednesday, with his punting guns targeted at an 18/1 poke in the opener...
"There should be plenty of pace on in here - over half the field have gone forward in the past - and Richard Kingscote can play him late, as he did at Goodwood. The more you forgive him for that last run, the more you think he is surely overpriced at 18/1+."
Have to oppose the jolly in the opener
I will never understand why the Wood Ditton has any place in terrestrial coverage - a field featuring un-raced horses is hardly bet-inducing stuff, for starters - so that is one of the four ITV4 races from Newmarket on Wednesday immediately struck off the punting list.
And, on the whole, the Craven Meeting is largely about looking and learning for me, rather than unloading.
Luckily, he says hopefully, Don Armado looks a bet in the first at 13:50 at [19.0] or bigger on the Exchange. Or indeed you can back him at 18/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, win or each way, if you prefer. I'll go with the Exchange play.
The obvious starting point for this race - and he could be the beginning and end of many people's study-up - has to Breath Of Air, who is undeniably the "sexy" horse of this party.
That is on account of the fact that he beat the recent Greenham winner Mohaather by an impressive three-and-three-quarter lengths in a Newbury maiden last season, and then followed up with a good third in a Listed race at Doncaster.
With a solid pedigree and Ryan Moore booked, he is the obvious favourite, but I have my doubts about whether is as well handicapped on a mark of 93 as the betting (and that Newbury run) suggests, and this will be easily the quickest ground he has faced.
I think he has to be opposed at around the 3/1 mark and Don Armado looks the clear play to me at the prices.
Forgive the Lingfield shocker
He has to be forgiven an absolute shocker at Lingfield last time but connections have simply put that disappointment down to him not handling the track, and he was looked after by Oisin Murphy rounding the final bend, as soon as that became apparent.
So we can ignore that run - unfortunately, the handicapper did, too, but we can't have it all - and he has fair claims if coming back to his best.
He ran two good races on the all-weather earlier in the year, and all his best turf form last season came over 6f on fast ground off a decent pace.
He won well at Goodwood in August and then shaped well off a 6lb higher mark when fourth of 18 at York, when he hit a bit of a flat spot when attempting to come off the pace, from what was probably a disadvantageous draw in three.
Both of those runs came in a good time, and the York form, in which today's rival Moyassar came third, has worked out really well.
He is only 1lb higher here and, with conditions to suit, I expect him to outrun his odds against admittedly less-exposed types.
There should be plenty of pace on in here - over half the field have gone forward in the past - and Richard Kingscote can play him late, as he did at Goodwood.
The more you forgive him for that last run, the more you think he is surely overpriced at 16/1+.
Expect Brando to win well
We can quickly pass over the Wood Ditton at 14:25, as I have said, and then we are on to the Abernant at 15:00, where we have a very solid favourite at around 7/4 in Brando (pictured).
Now, everyone - well, regular readers - knows that I love to take on a market-leader but you have to pick your battles, and Brando is seeking a hat-trick in this race (and his fourth straight win at this meeting), has 6lb and more in hand of this field on official ratings, and is at home on any surface.
He also has a superb record when fresh and his seasonal reappearance form figures in the last four years read 1111. Not too shoddy.
I suspect he will win, and win well, but I don't tend back and tip at these prices in horse racing (can't remember the last time I did on here, or privately), and he could have had a less-than-smooth preparation this year for all I know.
The big race of the day, the Craven at 15:35, looks an absolute minefield to me. With half of the field unbeaten, and the other five all holdings claims of various descriptions, I just wouldn't know where to start, sorry. I am very happy to leave that one with you!
Archaeology could discover best form in the last
I was going to park it there on the Newmarket front but I can't resist a look at Archaeology (pictured, nearside) who has a few interesting angles to his chance, in the last at 17:20.
The first is that he has been gelded since we last saw him, and the second is that he was picked up out of Johnny Murtagh's yard for 50,000 guineas in October, joining Jedd O'Keeffe, who has been among the winners of late.
And the third is possibly the most important, namely the step up to a mile.
His only win for Murtagh came over 5f 164yd on good ground at Navan but he did have placed form over 7f 92yd in the soft at Roscommon - we may as well be specific here - and they weren't earth-shattering performances by any means.
But his current mark of 77 reflects that, and this stiffer test here must surely suit him on pedigree.
He is a half-brother to four winners, with all of them scoring at least up to 1m1f and two as far as 1m4f, and the best of them, Spacelab, put up his best effort on fast ground.
He could well blow out completely - I was going to say he may be best with some dig too, but that would have been an appalling joke - but he is a very interesting contender.
There are no prices available at the time of writing though, and you obviously can't tip without those, so I may be back when the odds finally filter through. He is definitely worth a second look.
A cracking card at Cheltenham
Anyway, we are also being treated to a Cheltenham race from ITV4 - it's genuinely a cracking card across the board - in the shape of the 14:40.
It's a good 2m4f handicap chase, but unfortunately also a very tricky puzzle to solve, as around 4/1 the field in a nine-runner heat underlines.
Whatever Dan Skelton runs at the moment has to be given the utmost respect - actually that sentiment applies the whole year round with him - so Rene's Girl will have her supporters.
In fact, there will probably be money for all of the nine runners as you can give them all a chance, with the two at the bottom of the weights only marginally out of the handicap.
To be honest, I don't have a betting opinion on the race, so I will leave it there. Do have a look at the rest of the Cheltenham card yourself though, as it is really decent and competitive racing.
Back Don Armado in the 13:50 at Newmarket at [19.0] or bigger