Saturday Racing Tips: Taquin Du Seuil will relish Ascot's gruelling conditions

Tony Calvin is backing five runners at Ascot on Saturday
Tony Calvin is backing five runners at Ascot on Saturday

In his final tipping column before Christmas, Tony Calvin selects five bets from the action at Ascot and explains why he believes one of the more senior runners in the big race of the afternoon is the one to back...

"The grinding, gruelling conditions could play to Taquin Du Seuil's strengths. If it does turn out to be that testing, then it is all systems go for him at the price; he is four from four on heavy."

All nine of the five-day entries have stood their ground in the Long Walk Hurdle at 14:25, which at least means the Grade 1 race has an each-way shape to it. More of that, shortly.

Unowhatimeanharry beat Lil Rockerfeller by four-and-a-half lengths in the fog in this race last season and is 7lb and more clear of this field on official ratings, but I couldn't be in a rush to back him at around the 15/8 mark.

I have been a little bit underwhelmed by his two efforts this season and, for all he was carrying a 6lb penalty and was meeting a big improver in Beer Goggles at Newbury last time, I was a little bit disappointed that he couldn't reel in the winner after the last.

I know that is a little harsh, maybe, but you have to be when being asked to back at those prices in a race potentially this deep.

There is no shortage of solid Grade 1 rivals against him here, as well as a couple of fast-progressing horses in the shape of Sam Spinner and Thomas Campbell, but I am not totally convinced by the latter duo's handicap wins last time. Not in the context of their current prices in a Grade 1 anyway.

So, what I am about to say next could be seen as a bit of a contradiction - as he is basically the same horse as that pair on official ratings, and is far more exposed - but I think Taquin Du Seuil is the bet, win and place, at 30.029/1 and 5.04/1, or bigger, respectively.

I can't remember the last time I backed a Jonjo O'Neill horse - some stables you just can't read and this yard is number one on my list - but I think the horse has a lot more going for him than quotes of 25/1+ suggest.

He is getting on a bit as a 10yo and has a CV that boasts a JLT win in 2014 among his ten successes, but the years aren't dimming the talent, it seems.

He finished second in the Coral Cup off a mark of 148 and a close fourth in the Liverpool Hurdle on his final two runs last season, and I liked the way he shaped behind Beer Goggles and Uknowhatimeanharry at Newbury on his reappearance, sticking on really well after the last.

On these terms (he is 6lb worse off with the runner-up for a 6-length beating) he appears to have no chance "on the formbook", but he usually comes on a ton for his opening run of the season - he won the BetVictor Gold Cup after a hurdles prep last season - and I think the grinding, gruelling conditions could play to his strengths. If it does turn out to be that testing, then it is all systems go for him at the price; he is four from four on heavy.

Verdana Blue must go close on soft ground

It is good to see a valuable handicap hurdle attracting a field that allows bookmakers to bet to at least the standard four places - so no non-runners please - and 17 have rocked up for the Racing Welfare-sponsored 150k prize in the 15:35.

This is obviously fiercely competitive but the more I looked at the race the more I couldn't get away from the fact that Verdana Blue should be favourite, so back her at 10.09/1 or bigger.

She shaped really well when fifth in the red-hot handicap won by Elgin on her reappearance last month and franked it herself with an ultra-impressive win on her return to the same course and distance last time.

Her rider thinks she probably lost about five lengths when cannoned into at the first that day but she still managed to run out the smoothest of 3-length winners from a horse going for his fifth straight win.

In the circumstances, an 8lb rise is hard to quibble with and she has to go close if handling this softer ground. This will be the most testing ground she will have encountered since she finished tailed off on her debut you can't read anything into that, surely.

The one other worry is that there isn't too much pace in here - Evening Hush could get a solo up front - as she likes to be held up in a strongly-run race, but hopefully that won't be as an issue.

Let's hope so anyway, as I am having a saver on another late creeper in Veinard at 19.018/1 or bigger.

He is 3lb higher than his Irish mark but I am convinced this strong-traveller - no doubt a fan of some of the back-to-lay, exchange traders - has a big race in him when it falls right and I thought he shaped very well under today's jockey at Fairyhouse last time.

He obviously can and does flatter to deceive, as a record of one from 21 suggests - I backed him when he was sixth in the Betfair Hurdle last season - but hopefully he can sting like a bee as well as float like a butterfly here.

The trainer also has a superb record in this race under its old guise, having won it with similarly-priced horses in Cause Of Causes (25-1) in 2012 and Bayan (14-1) in 2014, so I think it is fair to assume this could have been a long-term plan.

Lostintranslation was a surprise withdrawal from the race at the overnight stage of the race - he was second-favourite in the betting and seemingly backed, as well - and ante-post betting is really beginning to get on my wick as Master Dee is also a no-show in the near-3m handicap chase at 15:00.

And don't get me started on Disko not coming over for the King George. What a non-sport this is, sometimes.

I put Master Dee as a bet at 16/1 earlier in the week as I thought he had outstanding claims, but connections obviously think differently - and, to be fair, I did outline the misguided reasons why they may sidestep the race in that piece - so I owe everyone an apology. Or two if you include Disko.

Anyway, in his absence, I couldn't find another bet.

On Tour, who beat Master Dee at Aintree and would, on balance, probably have beaten Gold Present had he stood up at Newbury, is handicapped to win more races but the combination of the trip and ground is slight worry and I can leave the race alone.

Dream bet?

I am going to go in two-handed in the 13:50, with the more obvious of the pair being Dream Bolt at 11.010/1 or bigger.

He was in good form at the start of the summer and he showed the benefit of his first start back since July (at Newbury at the turn of the month) when winning in a fair time at Taunton.

There is no real amazing story to his chance, other than the fact that he is in form, trip and ground will suit, and odds of 10/1+ looked pretty generous to me.

A far more speculative punt is Un Beau Roman at 17.016/1 or bigger.

He has dropped to a very appealing mark, some 10lb lower than when second to Eastlake at Cheltenham last December, and there was much more promise in his run behind stablemate Doitforthevillage at that track last time.

I also like the angle of him stepping up to this near-2m3f trip - he doesn't stay 2m5f but two of his better efforts have come over 2m2f on soft ground on right-handed tracks - and at around 16/1 I have to have him onside.

Why I won't bet on the action at Haydock

I don't particularly fancy anything at the prices in the two Haydock races on ITV, where the races have cut up a bit.

I was looking at a couple but both are pretty obvious and are priced accordingly - and the ground threatens to be atrocious there once again - so I am happy to stick with the five plays at Ascot.

Five is enough anyway, but if you want to know the ones that interested me they were Limited Reserve in the handicap hurdle and Full Irish in the Tommy Whittle. All far, far too obvious, though.

Anyway, good luck all, as ever.

Tony's P/L

Flat +25.85
Nov 4 to Dec 16 inclusive: +7.39

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