Friday ITV Racing Tips: Tony Calvin's going Straight in with a bet at Cheltenham

Cheltenham fence action
Cheltenham is back on ITV Racing on Friday afternoon

We have live racing from Cheltenham and Doncaster on ITV on Friday, and here to run you through the action is our resident tipster Tony Calvin...

"He looks to be ground-versatile, so good or soft, or good to soft, should be fine for him - the Kempton win came on good to soft - and there should be improvement in him after just five starts over hurdles."

Up The Straight at 16.015/1 or bigger in 15:00 at Cheltenham

Thursday night will be the equivalent of adult Christmas Eve for the National Hunt groupies, as Cheltenham returns to our ITV screens - indeed, returns full stop - for the first time since Gold Cup day back in March.

I was going to make a joke about the gleeful jumps posse waking up to full sacks, but I doubt it would have got past the sub.

I am going to start with a bet, instead of my usual race-by-race approach to cards - the small fields of the opening novices' hurdle and novices' chase put paid to that - so I will dive straight into the 20-runner 2m5f handicap hurdle at 15:00.

Form has been franked and should be more to come

Dr Richard Newland won this race last season with Duke Street and he has another big chance with market leader Captain Tom Cat here. This could have been the plan since the summer.

The handicapper left him alone on a mark of 121 after his Uttoxeter novice win under a 7lb penalty back in August, which seems generous given the runner-up has won his last two and is now rated 125. And Cillin Leonard, four from 18 this season at the time of writing and rider of Duke Street here last year, takes off another 7lb.

This is his stiffest task to date on his handicap bow, and his front-running style won't be easy to pull off as he steps up to 2m5f here - the trip has to considered a fairly major sticking point when considering he is the 7/1 favourite - but he has to be on everyone's shortlist, given his profile and potentially lenient handicap mark.

However, my best bet in the race is Up the Straight at around 14/1 on the exchange.

He finished behind Hijack, general second favourite in here, at Fontwell last time but I thought he shaped just as well as Nicky Henderson's runner-up there and is a fair few points bigger.

Going into Thursday, trainer Richard Rowe has only had six runners this season, which is remarkably quiet even allowing for the fact that he probably only has a small string. It is fair to assume they are playing catch-up for some reason.

So for that reason I am inclined to upgrade Up The Straight's fourth on his reappearance earlier in the month, especially as he shaped better than his beaten distance of over 8 lengths would suggest,

In fact, he basically hit the front over the last that day - at which stage he touched 2.26/5 in running - before weakening on the run-in, which I am attributing to lack of hard fitness in bad ground.

You would have liked to see the handicapper ease him a bit in the weights for that run, but he hasn't budged and that is probably understandable given the selection's Kempton 2m5f defeat of Flic Ou Voyou, to whom he gave 6lb, and today's opponent Whatsupwithyou in March has been twice franked by the runner-up of late.

Hopefully, that Fontwell run will have brought him on a good deal and he rates a bet at 16.015/1 or bigger.

He looks to be ground-versatile, so good or soft, or good to soft, should be fine for him - the Kempton win came on good to soft - and there should be improvement in him after just five starts over hurdles. I do admit the trainer form is a worry, though.

Palace could be the pick of O'Brien's pair

I can see the Fergal O'Brien pair of Imperial Elysian and Lungarno Palace going well - the jockey thought the first-named was not suited by a slowly-run race when his winning run came to an end at Perth last time - and I am keen to have a second shot in the race on a quiet punting and tipping day for me.

It seems as though Paddy Brennan is quite keen on Imperial Elysian but I reckon he could be on the wrong O'Brien one.

I hope so anyway, as I am backing Lungarno Palace at 22/1 each-way, five places, with the Sportsbook, with able 3lb claimer Connor Brace in the plate.

He hasn't been out of the first four in three starts here, and they came in 14, 15 and 20-runner handicaps.

The horse reverts to hurdles after two runs over fences, and you can see why, as he hasn't really taken to chasing.

But the good news is that the handicapper has dropped his hurdles mark in line with his chase decline (though to be fair he hasn't run badly on the bare form), and he is now back on the same mark as when a slightly unfortunate ¾ length second over 2m7f at Market Rasen in July.

He looked the winner all day long when taking it up two out there, and was still well in front when meeting the last wrong - he traded at 1.364/11 in running - and the form of that race worked out okay, anyway.

The winner finished a fair second off a 5lb higher mark next time, the third was just touched off by a neck on his following start, while the fourth has won his last two (albeit over fences in France).

Furthermore, Lungarno Palace has run some of his better races at Cheltenham, too.

He finished fourth off a 4lb higher mark in this race in 2018, and finished third at the course the following month, while he ran a remarkable race to finish fourth here in April last year considering he stood still as the tape went up, and was detached from the second-last horse by a good 6 lengths.

He recovered to such an extent that he was third rounding the final turn before weakening (hit 5-1 in running), and to beaten just seven lengths was a seriously good effort in the circumstances.

He likes decent ground so the fact that the course didn't get as much rain as forecast on Wednesday (it is now good, good to soft in places, and not a great amount is now due) is very much in his favour. Apparently, it was walking on the quick side on Tuesday.

Weather Front and Our Power were others that had fair chances at double-figure prices.

Beau could run well from out of the handicap

I like nothing better than a handicap to get my teeth into but I went round in circles trying to eke out a bet in the 2m handicap chase at 15:35.

It is full of progressive, similarly-priced types like Scardura, On The Slopes and Rouge Vif and I found it impossible to favour one, and there are three or four others with very realistic claims, too.

In fact, I wouldn't rule out a big run from Northern Beau, who is 8lb out of the handicap.

I have to leave the race alone in those circumstances - there could be a burn-up on the front-end too, with plenty of forward-goers in here - and the same goes for the novice events at the top of the card.

Ask For Glory looks the right favourite in the opening hurdle at 13:50 but there is no juice in his current price at around 7/4 on the exchange, especially first time up and after a summer wind op.

And if you have a strong opinion in the six-runner novices' chase at 14:25 then good luck to you.

The ground could claim a few non-runners too, if it is deemed too quick by trainers. I wouldn't even rule out even more watering.

Tranchee my idea of the winner in the spring handicap at Donny

We still have some lingering Flat action on ITV though, and the two-day Group 1 meeting at Doncaster gets underway on Friday.

There are a couple of really good handicaps on the box too, starting with the 6f handicap at 14:40.

In truth it is not an easy one to solve.

The handicapper says we should be backing Tinto as he is 5lb well-in after just getting chinned off a mark of 100 at Kempton last week.

Magical Morning Doncaster 956.jpg

He can race off 98 here, as the handicapper had already decided to drop him 2lb before having a change of heart and raising him back up to 103 after the Kempton run, and that is 2lb lower than when ridden from the front and winning at Newmarket in June.

It could be that connections decide to revert to more prominent tactics here, as this race lacks guaranteed pace (King's Lynn in the stall next to him is favourite to lead), and the midweek rain shouldn't have blunted his chances too much given he won on soft at Ascot last October.

He is a perfectly plausible winner, and a decent enough price, at 6/1 but he does not lack for credible opposition, chief among them Tranchee, and the stable wouldn't be having the best season, for all Tinto himself ran well last time and they have had a couple of recent winners.

Tranchee's owner hit the news last week after threatening legal action after his horse finished second to Gulliver at York last time, as the winner's jockey got a nine-day ban and a £1,350 fine after going well over the whip limit of eight strikes.

Good luck with that project, as they say - although you suspect the BHA could well stiffen the whip rules once they get the time - but, all the same, Tranchee obviously put up a very good effort in that 21-runner contest and he just bumped into a back-to-form course specialist (winning his fourth race at the track) who had slipped to an attractive mark.

I think the progressive Tranchee is still fairly treated off a 2lb higher mark here, back on the course where he won previously, but the potential of a slowly-run race worries me for a horse who stays 7f so well, and you will need everything to go right to win this competitive handicap.

And Tranchee was never likely to be missed by the layers either, though odds of around 4/1 on the exchange and with the Sportsbook are not as ugly as they could have been and he'd probably be my each-way bet in the race if forced.

Luckily, I am not.

Fascinating battle between two improvers

The betting for the 1m6f+ handicap at 15:15 suggests this is pretty much a match - well, not quite, but you my gist - as the 11/8 chance Ocean Wind takes on 7/2 poke Opera Gift.

We do have a couple of last-time-out winners in here as well, and Hochfield could make his presence felt if on one of his going days, but you have to love the way that the favourite is progressing.

Stamina won him the day as he powered away when winning the Cesarewitch Trial over 2m2f last time (he wasn't qualified for the main race) but I wouldn't be too concerned about him stepping back in trip, and he could easily defy his 7lb rise.

But he meets an equally progressive and unexposed horse in Opera Gift here, and if that one stays this extra 2f (he was the better the further he went when winning in a good time over an extended 1m3f in the soft at Yarmouth last week) then he could give Ocean Wind plenty of trouble. He is a half-brother to a 1m6f winner, and his run-style gives you every hope he will last home, too.

However, I think the layers have got this one covered in pricing it up as they have, though marginal preference at the odds would be Opera Gift, who is 2lb well-in under his penalty.

Good luck. Back tomorrow.

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