Newbury's excellent two-day meeting commences with some cracking action on Friday, and Tony Calvin has a couple of tips for you to consider...
"Everything points to another big run here and, as a 7yo having just his 12th hurdles start, it is not out of the realms of possibility he has a bit of improvement in him."
Fair play to Newbury and sponsors Ladbrokes for taking the four-runner novices' chase off the ITV running order - don't get me wrong, it's a cracking little Grade 2 and they all won last time out, but these types of races don't often get the betting juices flowing - but, sod's law, the handicap chase they have replaced it with has cut up from 15 to seven at the overnight stage.
Before we get to the terrestrial contests, just a quick word on that novices' chase at 12:40, which is worth a whopping £50k and even the fourth is guaranteed £2,665 if they all get round.
It is undoubtedly a classy affair and, on adjusted ratings, there is only 2lb between Nassalam, Pic D'Orhy and Millers Bank, and you wouldn't be in a mad rush to rule out the original outsider (he has been backed in from an opening 7/2) Tea Clipper, for all he picked up a 5lb penalty for his Class 1 win at Chepstow last month.
The 4yo Nassalam just edges the field on official ratings but his career record to date suggests he would ideally want it deeper than the current, watered, going of good to soft (good in places).
Anyway, on to my betting bread and butter, and the ITV fare.
Shocked with Jonbon's initial price
It is not often you see a maiden hurdle on the main telly box but that is what we have in the 13:15, and a decent race it promises to be too, with many, no doubt, expecting Jonbon to be the star attraction.
A full brother to Douvan who cost £570,000 after winning his sole point last November, he is an automatic hype horse, but at least he paid back £4,502.18 of that purchase price when winning a bumper here last March, doing it well enough, even if the form amounts to very little.
If you back him, then good luck, but he meets at least one horse with better bumper form than him (Good Risk At All) and I would argue possibly three (I would add Charlie's Glance and Jack's A Legend into the mix, too).
With that in mind, to say I was shocked when the first firm up on Wednesday made him a 4s-on chance - yes, you had to risk £4 to win £1 - would be something of an understatement.
Mind you, the next two firms up made him 2/7, so what do I know? (something I often consider in life)
But the Sportsbook added some balance when making him a 4/9 chance on their opening show and what I strongly suspect is that if you switch the trainers around, then this betting would look a hell of a lot different.
As is often the case, it took the exchange to add some reality into proceedings as the market developed and Jonbon is currently available to back at 1.664/6 as I file this.
I appreciate Good Risk At All was a touch disappointing when beaten by a seemingly, relatively unfancied newcomer of Dan Skelton's on his hurdling debut at Chepstow, and he didn't jump well there, but he posted a huge bumper figure when beating I Like To Move It here in a Listed race last season - a race called "Read Tony Calvin's Tips On Betting.Betfair," no less - and he could prove a major stumbling stick if brushing up his hurdling.
As could Skelton's Boombawn, and the bumper exploits of Charlie's Glance and Jack's A Legend - the former beat Saturday's impressive Ascot winner Our Jester by 5 lengths on his debut here, with subsequent hurdles winners in third, fourth, fifth and sixth - make them players, too.
Bumper form means Charlie's worth a second Glance
The exchange adding some reality into Jonbon proceedings has rather taken a shine off a possible punt, but I just cannot resist tipping up Charlie's Glance - little wonder the opening 25/1 in the marketplace was soon snapped up on Thursday - but the issue was how to get with him.
The obvious avenue would be each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook, but one non-runner would scupper that and they are currently dodging him (rightfully so, I reckon) at 10/1 - he will surely drift there, though - and the exchange each-way market (where original place terms stand once loaded) will not really trade until Friday, so that isn't an option.
So I am going to suggest backing him win and place on the exchange, at 21.020/1 and 4.03/1, or bigger, respectively in the 13:15. The place market should be up by end of play latest on Thursday.
As I have already outlined, the form of his debut success here was mustard, despite the horse hanging up the straight and looking a pretty awkward conveyance. And it could have been that trait that saw him blow out when sent off a 14/1 chance for the Aintree bumper.
A summer off will hopefully have been the making of him - maybe it was simply greenness and inexperience last term, and time was needed - and he is far too big a price given the talent and form he showed first time up.
He is a full brother to five hurdling winners, out of a smart mare of Alan King's.
It is a punt and I can't remember the last time I tipped a hurdling debutant - and the stable form would be a worry - but we know there is a good horse in there and he is worth a small-stakes stab.
Nearly fell for Amour in tricky handicap
Only seven go to post in the new ITV race at 13:50, but it looks a very warm 2m handicap chase to my eye.
Boothill and Mister Coffey have long been regarded as chasers in waiting and both make their fencing debuts here, so it is no surprise that they head up the market.
I am not inclined to take them on but I just wonder if they will drill Not Available out in front - Boothill, very well found in the market, is the only other possible forward-goer in here - to take advantage of his proven stamina over much further, and he is on a fair mark on his Irish form after two fair starts for new connections.
The 10-runner 2m3d197yd handicap chase at 14:25, looks a very tricky race to call, although Fanion D'Estruval is the obvious favourite after his reappearance fourth in an Old Roan that is working out well. And he got dropped 1lb for it, too.
He shaped better than a 151-horse in a couple of occasions last season - indeed, he did at Aintree as well - but this handicap could take some winning.
Harry Fry seems to think a lot of the early punt Phoenix Way (the opening 7s with the Sportsbook was snapped up about this horse who goes well off a break and was tried in Grade 1 company last season) - you can also throw in a recent wind op, too - and I liked Amour De Nuit most of those at double prices.
In fact, the latter nearly tempted me in at around 12s after a good third over hurdles on his return, as he is fairly handicapped on his 2018 chase form and will love the ground, as well as having run well on both hurdles starts at this track, but I suspect he will find at least one of his rivals better treated, so I decided I was trying to force a bet here when there is no need.
Oscar could star in Long Distance Hurdle
The Long Distance Hurdle at 15:00, promises to be a tactical affair with no guaranteed pace.
On The Blind Side looks the most likely leader but, as the betting suggests, he is pretty hard to fancy in this company with a 4lb penalty and I optimistically hoped for double figures about Lisnagar Oscar, who shaped well enough when third on his return at Aintree and who I think would go very close here if reproduced his narrow Rendlesham second under a 6lb penalty at Haydock last season.
However, he isn't the price I was hoping for, as it is undeniable that he can throw in the occasional poor run and has had his issues in recent times. And I say that as a big fan of the horse.
No, give me a big-field handicap any day of the week, especially when there are 15 runners and the Betfair Sportsbook are paying five places, as they are in the finale.
Dolphin has a lot going for him
Dolphin Square looks solid as you like to me and I am happy to back him at 15/2 each-way, with the extra places at 15:35.
A lot of people can't have Mr David Maxwell as a jockey and, being honest, they wouldn't have been converted if they watched him guiding this horse into a narrow second at Lingfield last time. A stronger professional would have got him up.
But the statistics tell you something different, in that he has a strike rate of 25% with 44 winners in the past five years - though I accept plenty of those were short prices - and I find it hard to see him and Dolphin Square being out of the first five here.
The handicapper has played very fair in leaving him on the same mark for that ½ length second last time, his first outing since May, and what this horse needs is 3m and decent ground.
And it just so happens that his best efforts have come at this course, too.
He was 9/2 favourite when just over 3 lengths fourth in this race in 2019 and he is 3lb lower than when 1 ½ lengths second to Dell Arca over track and trip last November.
Everything points to another big run here and, as a 7yo having just his 12th hurdles start, it is not out of the realms of possibility he has a bit of improvement in him.
I was toying with a win-only saver on the forward-going Drumlee Watar at 20/1+, as maybe he resented the first-time visor when stepped up in grade last time and is on a fair mark off 128, but he can be a hard ride and there are two others in here that are likely to harry him, even if he does get on the front end.
PROFIT AND LOSS (FROM APRIL 14)
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Charlie’s Glance at 21.020/1 or bigger to Win in 13:15 Newbury
Charlie's Glance at 4.03/1 or bigger to Place in 13:15 Newbury
Dolphin Square at 8.515/2 each-way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook in 15:35 at Newbury
Spiritofthegames win at 10/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook in Betfair Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday (14:05)
Mister Malarky at 60.059/1 in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday (Guide prices and options given in copy)