Saturday Racing Tips: Viva Steve could dominate at Kempton

Tony has three bets at Kempton (above) on Saturday afternoon
Tony has three bets at Kempton (above) on Saturday afternoon

Tony Calvin provides a couple of bets for Saturday afternoon's big race at Kempton, as well as one on testing ground at Newcastle and his thoughts on the flat racing at Lingfield...

Recommended Bets

Back Evening Hush win and place at 8.07/1 and 2.111/10 respectively in 13:30 at Kempton

Back Portrait King at 17.016/1 in 14:45 at Newcastle

Back Viva Steve at 9.08/1 in the 15:35 at Kempton

Back Opening Batsman at 15.014/1 in 15:35 at Kempton

One of my most amusing racecourse memories is my old trade paper colleague and flat-mate Andy Smith shouting him, "Pull him up Scu," as Bonanza Boy went past the winning line for the first time, tailed off and scrubbed along in the 1989 Racing Post Chase at Kempton.

To be fair, there weren't many who disagreed at the time - the horse would have probably traded close to 1000.0 in-running on Betfair had the Exchange been around in those days - and we all watched in disbelief as the horse responded to the unremitting urgings and got up to win. It was one of the more astonishing rides you will ever see.

The top weight in that race was a certain Nupsala, 15-length King George conqueror of Desert Orchid just 14 months previously, but this year's renewal at 15:35 certainly isn't as classy and has attracted only 13 runners for a £100k pot.

Mind you, there were only 11 runners in that race in 1989, so I suppose we shouldn't get too precious on the numbers front.

It is pretty hard to argue with the fact recent course-and-distance winner Double Shuffle heads the market, and he looks the most solid at the top of the betting with similarly-priced horses, Three Musketeers and Irish Saint, both unproven over 3m.

The latter is now very well-handicapped on some of his very smart novice form two seasons ago, though, and is a very big danger to all if seeing the trip out effectively. Rumour has it that this race has been his target all season, and 3m round here could be well within his capabilities, especially on decent ground. He is feared.

The interesting aspect to this race is the lack of guaranteed front-runners, but I expect Viva Steve and Cocktails At Dawn to go on.

Cocktails At Dawn made all at Chepstow last season (gave 8lb to As De Mee, Native River and Blaklion) and has his sights lowered back into handicap company after his poor Aintree run behind Many Clouds in December, but the one I like is Viva Steve.

He isn't sure to go on either but, if he does, he could dominate from start to finish here. He has some excellent course and distance form behind The Last Samuri last season and he made all to win at Ayr in November on his first start for Fergal O'Brien.

They had some lofty targets for him after that but he got balloted out of the Welsh National and he went to Warwick a strongly-fancied 8-1 chance last time, only to make mistakes and patently not see out the 3m5f trip.

The drop down to 3m again is very much in his favour and, off a 7lb higher mark from Ayr on just his third start for a stable having a brilliant season, he gets my vote at 9.08/1 or better.

I have to have a saver on my old buddy Opening Batsman - though he is pushing his luck of late - off a mark of 133, though, at 15.014/1 or bigger.

He disappointed behind Double Shuffle here over Christmas but he can be a very smooth-traveller when on song and is already 8lb lower than when second to Theatre Guide in this race last season, which was just five starts ago.

He may have had enough of the game as an 11yo but he won this race in 2013, he reserves all his best form for this track and trip, and has to be worth one more chance off a basement mark. Furthermore, his jockey isn't bad value for his 5lb claim, as he has showed with two recent wins.

Evening Hush is a worthy win and place bet

Rumour has it that Nicky Henderson thinks Charli Parcs is the best 4yo he has ever had. That is some shout that, if true, and therefore he should win the Adonis Hurdle at 13:50.

However, his price predictably isn't attractive at all, and I am going to take him on with Evening Hush, albeit win and place.

She was no great shakes on the Flat but she was ground-versatile and was very impressive when making all to beat a fair sort, and subsequent winner, by 21 lengths in a very good time at Aintree in December.

She was put in her place by Triumph Hurdle favourite Defi Du Seuil at Chepstow last time but connections don't think she was at her best there, and in any case there was clearly no disgrace in finishing second there anyway.

She has been entered for a few races in recent weekends but apparently this has been the plan for a while and she will presumably try to blitz these from the front, getting 7lb from the favourite.

She rates a win and place play at 8.07/1 and 2.111/10.

The four-runner novices' chase at 14:25 predictably holds no appeal and the same is true of the Dovecote at 15:00, although if forced to play I would side with Peter The Mayo Man, who possibly should have tried to keep closer tabs on Lough Derg Spirit at Musselburgh last time, though Capitaine could get an easy lead here.

Portrait King to be last man standing at Newcastle?

Ole' Doris has probably turned Newcastle's ground rather testing and the Eider Chase over 4m 122yd could well make for grim, slow-moving viewing at 14:45.

In fact, Chris Cook of the Guardian tweeted on Friday morning that the going stick reading at the track is the lowest for four years. And then the Racing Post's Paul Kealy chipped in to say it had only been marginally worse when Companero won the race in a near-standstill by 30 lengths in 2011. Last man standing stuff, then.

Shotgun Paddy can blunder his chances away - his trainer said earlier in the week that he quickly works out how low he can take the fences, and then jumps accordingly, leaving little margin for error - but I do think he is rock-solid and the right favourite.

He is proven in the ground, is a guaranteed stayer - he finished second in this race last season as well as finishing second in the 2014 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham - and ran perfectly well last time, for which he was eased a generous 2lb. He is handicapped to go close.

I would maybe look to have him on your side if you are playing in the race - and Mountainous, re-routed from Exeter on Friday, is another one sure to relish conditions - but for tipping purposes I will just rely on Portrait King at 17.016/1 or better.

He won this race in 2012 and was third last year and, while most of his recent better efforts have been on decent going, he has plenty of heavy-ground form in Ireland.

He shaped with conspicuous promise from sixth in the Becher Chase in December - where he wasn't given a hard time and was 5lb wrong at the weights - and this grinder warmed up for this race when third over 3m over hurdles at Ayr last month under today's 7lb claimer.

Thoughts on the Flat at Lingfield

The Flat returns to terrestrial racing with Lingfield's Winter Derby at 15:15 and it's pretty high-class fare too, with the betting headed by the 120-rated Mutakkyef.

On official ratings he should be winning this with something to spare but this is the first time he has raced on the all-weather, he carries a 5lb penalty for his Ascot Group 2 win, he hasn't raced since finishing third in Canada in September and he meets a lot of in-form, race-fit rivals proven on this surface. Not an easy task, all things considered.

The two most interesting horses against him are probably last year's winner Grendisar in first-time blinkers - his trainer Marco Botti is 14 from 108 with this headgear in the last 10 years - but what has come off, rather than what is going on, could be the key to Convey's chance.

He was a very tricky customer last season - he raced in only one cheek-piece to help keep himself straight, and was just touched off in three Group 2/3 races - so it is no surprise that they have gelded him since.

If that sorts him out then he could very troublesome if getting the breaks from the widest draw, and the horse berthed just inside of him in nine, Pinzolo, is the likely pace-setter.

But I can do without a bet in this race, as the likes of Battalion also make it one with plenty of depth.

The 5f Listed sprint at 14:05 is also on the box but it looks a very trappy heat and I don't have a betting opinion. I hope Royal Birth obliges for a mate who is having a pretty good time of it on the ownership front of late, though.

Recommended Bets
Back Evening Hush win and place at 8.07/1 and 2.111/10 respectively in 13:30 at Kempton
Back Portrait King at 17.016/1 in 14:45 at Newcastle
Back Viva Steve at 9.08/1 in the 15:35 at Kempton
Back Opening Batsman at 15.014/1 in 15:35 at Kempton

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