Saturday Racing Tips: Cole set to Harden his World Hurdle aspirations

Warren Greatrex trains Tony's main fancy Cole Harden
Warren Greatrex trains Tony's main fancy Cole Harden

An excellent day of racing is in prospect at Cheltenham and Doncaster this afternoon, and having started the year in good form our man Tony Calvin is confident of landing a winner or two...

"Favourite Saphir Du Rheu doesn't appeal too much at the prices - this is an afterthought and he is unproven over 3m - but Cole Harden certainly does at around 5.04/1 and he is my bet of the day.

Back Cole Harden @ 5.04/1 - 15:35 Cheltenham

I probably won't strike a worse bet this season than backing Jonjo O'Neill at 6-1 for the trainers title in late October - I think he has won about £39 since - but Lost Legend may provide him with some much-needed cheer by taking the valuable Skybet Chase at Doncaster at 15:15.

There was a lot of talk about how the stable had turned a corner after a horrendous winless run when Lost Legend and Join The Clan gave him a Saturday double a fortnight ago, but that proved to be a touch premature, as a lot of his horses since have run like drains.

But at least we know that Lost Legend is fit and in form, and he is worth chancing at odds of 17.5.

The question mark with him is will he stay this longer trip in this company and in soft ground.

Yes, he is a winning pointer and it was stamina and guts that won him the day when he won a 2m7f novice hurdle in 2013, but staying is relative.

I'd just about fancy my chances of beating Racing PR supremo Johnno Spence in a marathon - bang goes the Epsom press accreditation this year.... - but it doesn't mean I stay 26m miles at anything more than (pub) crawling pace.

But there are solid reasons for believing that the step up to 3m may suit Lost Legend, especially on an easy, flat, galloping track like Doncaster.

Firstly, his pedigree gives plenty of encouragement. And it was his stamina and gritty determination that won him the day in a strange race over an extended 2m4f in soft ground at Kempton last time.

The most striking part of that performance was his price drift on Betfair before the race. I had backed him at 6.0 in the morning but come the off-time he had drifted to a Betfair SP of 15.84, some level of weakness in a five-runner race.

Luckily, I always tend to go in again when a fancy lengthens dramatically in price - there is so much nonsense talked about late drifters, and betting markets in general, on our specialist racing channels it is unreal - so when he came from a hopeless position to get up on the line at Kempton it was very welcomed.

He can be expected to have come on a lot for that run, his first since chasing home stablemate It's A Gimme in the Summer Plate in July, and if the course avoids any more rain I'll get increasingly confident of a bold show. In fact, a fine day is forecast on Saturday.

His overall record suggests decent ground suits him well, but he has won on soft and he has only been raised 2lb for that Kempton win.

Who knows, a win here could see Jonjo start a title-winning charge...

Meanwhile, back in the real world I can't see any other bets on the Doncaster card, though Catterick winner Intense Tango was of most interest in the mares race at 14:05.

It looks a cracking card at Cheltenham, even if some of the big races have again attracted small fields, and I am looking for a big run from Cole Harden in the Cleeve Hurdle at 15:35.

I have been nibbling at the horse for the World Hurdle ever since his third to Rock On Ruby over 2m4f110yd here on New Years Day - he still rates a decent bet at around 20-1 for that race - as that performance screamed that a return to this trip would suit.

I was actually a shade disappointed by his earlier second at Newbury but apparently it transpired that he had returned with a bit of birch through his hoof there, and I think that he is well up to winning this.

The Greatrex yard is going through a lean spell at the moment, with a few disappointing, but apparently all the recent blood tests came back fine and it was encouraging to see Alzammaar run well - that was their first runner for 12 days - when just touched off at Warwick on Thursday.

Favourite Saphir Du Rheu doesn't appeal too much at the prices - this is an afterthought and he is unproven over 3m - but Cole Harden certainly does at around 5.04/1 and he is my bet of the day. I'll be backing him for the World Hurdle again before the race, too.

Tap Night would win the 14:25 if returning to the form of his third in this race last year - where many thought he could have finished closer with a more positive ride - as he has been dropped 12lb since.

But you do have to forgive him a series of pretty dire run over fences and hurdles since, and Sew On Target looks a safer betting conveyance in a race full of question marks.

Okay, there are doubts about him, too. He races off a career-high mark and you suspect that he is best over 2m, but he loves Cheltenham and you can't argue with him being raised 7lb for a five length win here last month.

The distance is the big question mark though as he looks to have emptied out on occasions, and if he attempts to force the pace here it could backfire badly.

He does have form over 2m4f here though, and I am hoping that Brendan Powell takes a common sense approach, and tries to take a pull on this keen sort and sit in behind likely pacesetters Little Jon and Annacotty.

I fear the latter if he comes back to form off a mark of 144 in first-time cheekpieces but Sew On Target has plenty going for him, not least the fact that his stable is in such good nick, too, after a slow start to the season and he rates a small-stakes bet at 11.010/1 or bigger.

I like Smad Place getting 8lb from the principals in the Betbright Chase at 13:50 but the price doesn't overly-excite me.

I was gutted to see him run out of the places late on in the Hennessy - trainer Alan King was kicking himself afterwards for not giving the horse a prep race - but that was still a race full of promise, and he loves it around here.

But I think odds of around 3-1 accurately reflect his chance, for all that I think he is the likeliest winner getting the weight from form horse Dynaste.

The novices' hurdle at 15:00 looks a cracking contest, but it doesn't appeal as a betting race to me with so many well-regarded and unexposed horses in opposition.

It's not on C4 but I will be keeping a keen eye on Dell 'Arca in the concluding handicap hurdle. I tipped and backed him in the Lanzarote a fortnight ago, and he wasn't knocked about after looking menacing three out.

The handicapper has dropped him a generous 3lb for that, and there are now races to be won with him off his current mark. I suspect he could be a Cheltenham Festival handicap project, though, maybe for the Coral Cup for which he started favourite and finished a good fifth last year.

Good luck today, whatever you do.

Recommended Bets

Back Lost Legend @ 17.5 - 15:15 Doncaster
Back Cole Harden @ 5.04/1 - 15:35 Cheltenham
Back Sew On Target @ 11.010/1 or bigger -14:25 Cheltenham

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