Saturday Racing Tips: Astracad to run a massive race at Aintree

Astracad should go well at Aintree
Astracad should go well at Aintree

The National Hunt season is now in full swing and Channel 4 is covering plenty of jumps action on Saturday. Tony Calvin picks out the best big priced runners from the televised cards, but not before questioning the bookmaker practice of guessing at 'industry losses' after a well backed winner lands...

"He looks the pick of the weights to me, and everything is in his favour for him to run a massive race. Hopefully that Cheltenham run, his first since May, would have put him spot on for this."

Back Astracad at 11.010/1 or bigger in the 15:05 at Aintree

Having been one for Betfair for 12 years until recently - and who knows, maybe one in the future, though I wouldn't hold your breath - I probably have to be a bit careful here, especially as I had my fair share of shockers and knockers.
 
But sometimes bookmaker PR reps don't do themselves any favours at all in the credibility stakes, and that was again underlined when it came to Tony McCoy's five-timer at Carlisle on Thursday. 

Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that this would have cost most bookmakers a tidy sum, even allowing for the fact that McCoy also had two losers on the card to help them with acca-busters (for example, one former colleague was let down by AP's last loser for a £33,000 win on a £50 six-fold on his rides). So no arguments there.

What puzzles me though is why do the bookmaker reps throw around wild guesses when it comes to industry liabilities in these situations. 

This was not an isolated incident. My own personal favourite was Don't Push It's Grand National win in 2010, which one rep immediately declared as "black armband day" for bookmakers (though I seem to remember his company's end-of-year figures possibly didn't bear that out), and all sorts of figures were flying around in the Aintree press room afterwards.

Luckily, I didn't have to engage in such guess-ups as on the Betfair exchange the fact and figures - such as Don't Push It returning at a Betfair SP of 19.2, nearly double that of the industry 10/1 SP - were pretty much there for all to see. We won't mention Comply Or Die here, obviously...

But on Thursday evening, we had Coral saying "the industry will be paying out millions to his backers", while Ladbrokes estimated the damage at "nearer three-quarters of a million".

The reason why they relate it to industry, and not their own "losses", is to try and lure the media in with bigger numbers that they are rarely asked to justify. 

It doesn't really wash.

In this age of electronic point of sale, all bookmakers should know their exact liabilities, to the penny, at any given stage - if not before the event, certainly after it - so why didn't Coral or Ladbrokes say McCoy riding five winners cost them £102,010.12, or whatever, in their press statements.

Because if they don't know their own figures - and paying out is different to losses, lads, as you know full well - then they really aren't in a position to speculate on industry totals. It is basically hot air, and should be challenged as such by the media. Or simply ignored.

Aintree 15:05 - Astracad

That National Hunt theme takes me nicely on to the fact that jumps racing gets an airing on Channel 4 at Aintree on Saturday, and I think there is an excellent bet to be had in the shape of Astracad in the Old Roan. Back him at 11.010/1 or bigger.

He caught my eye when staying on well to finish fifth at Cheltenham last week, and it is surprising to see that the handicapper has dropped him 1lb for that.

He strikes me as a well-handicapped horse, and also one that goes well at flatter tracks, too, as he has shown with a couple of smart placed efforts here over fences, and when winning a hurdle over course and distance three seasons ago.

He looks the pick of the weights to me, and everything is in his favour for him to run a massive race. Hopefully that Cheltenham run, his first since May, would have put him spot on for this. The tongue tie is back on for this.

Newbury 14:20 - Cordite 

There is quite a bit of a Mick Appleby love-in in the media these days, headed by the excellent RUK duo of Chris Dixon and Eddie Fremantle. And with very good reason, as he is a trainer going places, and I am also a fully paid up member of his fan club.

And he could just bag himself a big race winner in the shape of Cordite in the Group 3 Horris Hill at Newbury. Back him at 19.018/1 or bigger.

Appleby is taking on the might of Andre Fabre and Richard Hannon here, but in Cordite he has an exciting juvenile talent in the likely conditions on Saturday.

He didn't show anywhere near Group race potential in good ground on his first two starts, but he certainly did when encountering soft ground for the first time at Leicester last time when winning a maiden by seven lengths.

This is a big step up in class but the manner in which he powered clear at Leicester was very impressive indeed, and I think that there is a lot more to come from him in this ground.

Newbury 15:30 - Break Rank and Tigers Tale

Cubanita could go well at a price in the St Simon Stakes at 14:55, but my only other bets on the Newbury card are Break Rank, with a saver on Tigers Tale
 
Break Rank is a versatile performer, acting on good ground and coming here from an excellent second at Kempton last time. But connections feel the key to this horse is cut in the ground, and he will certainly get that on Saturday. 

He may be creeping up the handicap but it is more than justified judged on his recent exploits, he has conditions to suit and looks sure to run his race. He is a bet at 8.07/1 or bigger.

Tigers Tale disappointed in heavy ground in this race last season but was back to form last time and goes in the soft. He is well worth a saver at 10.09/1 or bigger. 

The Racing Post Trophy (15:50 at Doncaster) is a very tricky race to call. If my hand was forced, I would go for Somewhat, as I think his high knee action strongly suggests that soft ground at Doncaster will suit him ideally. I couldn't put anyone off backing him at 10.09/1 or bigger, but the race just looks too tricky to tip with any degree of confidence. 

Nothing screams "back me" in the 1m4f handicap at 14:40 either, though the consistent Sir Bedivere and Ennistown would be my two against the field here.

Doncaster 15:15 - Pearl Blue 

But I am going to chuck a couple of quid at Pearl Blue at odds of 16.015/1 or bigger in the 15:15. She has not been raised for a couple of decent placed efforts on good ground on her last two starts - her first two runs back after a summer break, so she is relatively fresh - which is encouraging as she appears much better on a softer surface

Indeed, her record on soft or heavy ground reads 1-1-2-4-1-8, and one of those wins came in heavy ground over course and distance. And her stable is in decent nick, too.

This is clearly a very competitive race, and I was going to recommend a saver on Kyleakin Lass, but I'll stick with the one selection.

But if four of my five tips win on Saturday, I really hope a bookmaker rep massively overplays how much it has cost the industry. We are all in this game for our own promotion, after all. Even if it is just all for show, and not the correct dough.

Recommended Bets:
Back Cordite at 19.018/1 or bigger in the 14:20 at Newbury
Back Astracad at 11.010/1 or bigger in the 15:05 at Aintree
Back Pearl Blue at 16.015/1 or bigger in the 15:15 at Doncaster
Back Break Rank at 8.07/1 or bigger and Tigers Tale at 10.09/1 or bigger in the 15:30 at Newbury 

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