Friday Racing Tips: Blonde catches the eye at Sandown

Has Tony found us a nice-priced winner at Sandown?
Has Tony found us a nice-priced winner at Sandown?

There's a very good card of racing at Sandown on Friday, and there's no-one better than Tony Calvin to highlight the best betting value...

"The last time Illegally Blonde ran on turf in this country was when winning over 5f on soft ground at Nottingham in November and she has the tactical speed to either go forward, or take a lead, however she breaks from stall seven of nine here. And the stable's runners are going really well of late - recent form figures are 32214242."

Recommended Bet
Back Illegally Blonde @ 17.016/1 in the 15:30 at Sandown

Admittedly, the "science of handicapping" wouldn't be my specialist subject on Mastermind but you don't have to be Robert Shaw to know that sharks are dangerous and have big teeth, and the fact that Von Blucher is able to run off a mark of just 86 in the Esher Cup at 13:20 is Jaws-dropping.

Unless I am mistaken, I think we still have a handicapping system that allows horses to be raised in the weights without having stepped out of their box. If that is correct, then I am really struggling to see why the assessor hasn't reached for the plus sign on his calculator when it comes to John Gosden's three-year-old.

The horse was a bit of a slow-burner on his first three starts at two, but that still entitled him to a mark of 84, though connections decided to take in a 1m Lingfield maiden instead of going down the nursery route.

He duly got the job done by 1½ lengths there in a good time, which saw his mark rise to 86, but how it has stayed stationary since is a touch surprising.

Yes, I know that horses improve with experience and you have to take each race on its merits. But the runner-up has subsequently come out and won his next three races, and is now rated 106 after a win in a Kempton conditions race earlier in the month, and surely that has been lost on no-one.

And a further delve into the Lingfield form reveals that, while none of the other first six home has run since, the seventh, who was beaten 21 lengths, came out and won a Wolverhampton maiden from a next-time out scorer on his only subsequent start.

I am normally all too keen to oppose horses at the top of the market but I am quite happy to pass on this opportunity as he could make Jack Hobbs' 12-length win on this card last year, also for the Gosden-Hood axis, look like a hard-fought success.

In fact, I was very tempted to put him up as a bet at around 5-2. One bookmaker quoted him at 3-1 when they opened betting on Wednesday night, and that was very fair.

But who knows how the other unexposed, well-bred 3yos opposition in here has progressed - the Group 1-entered Czabo is an obvious candidate at a double-figure price - though Von Blucher really could be the proverbial blot on the handicap and I couldn't put you off if you want to get with him.

It's looks a very tricky punting card, in truth, and the seven-runner Gordon Richards Stakes at 13:50 features another worthy Gosden-trained favourite in Western Hymn.

He meets some fit and progressive rivals but he beat Postponed in this race last year before acquitting himself with real credit in Group 1 company, finishing third in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes and then predictably finding himself outclassed behind Golden Horn in the Eclipse.

That Eclipse effort was his only defeat in four starts over this course and distance, he acts on any ground, and doesn't have to carry a penalty as his Group 3 successes last season came before August 31.

The only real negative is that he hasn't raced since July - presumably he picked up an injury - but I don't really want to take him on, even at around odds-on. I can easily let him win unbacked, though.

The Classic Trial at 14:20 sees the long-awaited return of the regally-bred Midterm, who is second favourite in the Derby after just a Newbury maiden win. So it was hardly a surprise when the bookmaker who offered him at 7/4 on Wednesday night subsequently cut him into 5/6.

He is clearly well-regarded and I imagine connections will have very long faces if he is beaten here but he has just about achieved the least of this septet in form terms and I couldn't get with him at the odds in a race full of question marks, for all his undoubted potential.

Perhaps the horse most likely to run his race is Ventura Storm, winner of a messy Fielden Stakes - he was half-tempting at around 4/1 - but this has "no bet" written all over it for me.

I am keen to take on Belardo in the 14:55 - I think he is very beatable - but the problem is with what?

Toormore could lead these a merry dance from the front, even with his 3lb penalty, after the 80-rated pacemaker has dropped away. But I'd be lying if I said I had a strong opinion at the prices and was going to have a bet myself.

So for a punt I am having to cheat a bit and focus on Illegally Blonde in the 5f handicap on RUK at 15:30.

She hasn't beaten a horse since coming back from Dubai in February, but that doesn't even tell you half the story as she was only beaten around two lengths in both of those starts over 5f at Lingfield.

She has been eased 2lb in the weights for those runs and she could be ready to strike again now.

In fact, the last time she ran on turf in this country was when winning over 5f on soft ground at Nottingham in November and she has the tactical speed to either go forward, or take a lead, however she breaks from stall seven of nine here.

And the stable's runners are going really well of late - recent form figures are 32214242.

The remaining RUK races are two divisions of a 1m2f fillies maiden and an impossible-looking 3yo handicap to round off the card. Gossip merchants might be in their element in the latter but I am not.

Recommended Bet
Back Illegally Blonde @ 17.016/1 in the 15:30 at Sandown

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