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Saturday Racing Tips: Mont Des Avaloirs can shock market leaders in Betfair Hurdle

horse jumps
It's a nine-race card at Ascot on Saturday...

Returning to the tipping chair for the first time since a 28/1 winner and placed horses at 50/1 and 16/1, Tony Calvin casts his eye over a superb Saturday's racing at Ascot and Wincanton and picks out two to back at double figure prices...

This horse is a smooth-traveller who also finds plenty, so I think the drying ground is very much in his favour, as will the stiff track be, as well. He ran well under similar conditions when fourth at Sandown last season, and he is an improved performer this term.

Drying ground and the flu-jab situation has taken its toll on the weekend field sizes, but you play the hand you are dealt and we certainly aren't lacking in class, that's for sure.

ITV are showing 10 live races from four tracks, but let's start with the Betfair-backed card at Ascot, which is responsible for half of the terrestrial contests.

Fox on the field

The Grade 1 2m5f Betfair Ascot Chase at 15:55 is the headline act and, while I am not getting involved financially, the market seems to be in danger of underestimating Fox Norton at around the 7/1 mark.

Quite clearly he has his hands full against the three course-and-distance winners ahead of him in the betting, but he was pretty much the equal of them all in his 2017 pomp and he shaped really well over 2m1f here on his reappearance behind the mighty Altior.

That was his first start since the 2017 King George, so he is entitled to come on appreciably for the run, and the drying ground is in his favour.

His 2m4f form is as good as his Grade 1-winning exploits over the minimum trip and, indeed, you can easily argue that his Melling Chase dismissal of Sub Lieutenant on good ground at Aintree in 2017 was a career-best effort.

You obviously have to greatly respect last year's winner Waiting Patiently, for all the ground may be going against him, and the Paul Nicholls pair of Politologue and Cyrname (who may not get it all his own way out in front with Aso and Charbel in here) but Fox Norton looks to be the play in the race if you want an interest.

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I may as well as approach the rest of the ITV races at Ascot in chronological order, though there is an interesting 2m3f handicap hurdle before they come on air, not least because two of the horses that I backed for the original version of the Betfair Hurdle - Ballyandy and Sussex Ranger - both rock up here instead of the two-miler.

But the Grade 2 Reynoldstown at 13:35 is the first ITV offering at the course and it looks a tricky five-runner heat to call.

Top Ville Ben is the daddy going into the race on official figures, but quite clearly his runaway, all-the-way, Wetherby success must have been hard to get a handle on, and three of his four rivals also like to force the pace.

Mister Malarky is the horse who tends to be ridden more patiently - and he looked very good at Newbury - so he could be the beneficiary of any burn-up but small-field novice chases rarely float my boat and this is no exception.

Can Coneygree chase up to Corton?

Coneygree would bring the house down if smashing the opposition from the front in the 3m handicap chase at 14:10, but he is a 12yo now and it remains to be seen if the King George knocked the stuffing out of the old boy and he will have the unwanted attention of Black Corton at the head of affairs, too.

Once again, I found this eight-runner race very tricky to call - last year's winner Regal Encore is fully capable of winning off this mark but his record tells you he is more miss than hit - and the possibility of a non-runner (the drying ground is not ideal for mudlark Smooth Stepper) makes it even less attractive.

King George winner Clan Des Obeaux and Terrefort will probably fight out the finish of the Betfair Denman Chase at 14:45, but the betting tells you that, so let's move on.

Clan des Obeaux King George 1280.jpg

Super Saturday starts here

The Betfair Hurdle at 15:20 is much more like it from a betting point of view, especially as the Sportsbook are tempting us in with an extra two places from the standard each-way terms (they are going 1/5 the odds 1,2,3,4,5).

They clearly think the world of Al Dancer down at Chez Twister and they expect him to win this en route to a crack at the Supreme, by all accounts.
But his market rival Getaway Trump is similarly thought highly-competitive off his mark by his connections, and it is around even money that one of that pair takes the prize.

I must have changed my mind about four times in the last 72 hours about what the bet is in the race, but I thought I had finally locked and loaded on Mont Des Avaloirs at 11/1 each way with the Betfair Sportsbook.

And then they cut the horse to 8/1 just before 1pm, god damn it!

So a win-only bet at [13.0] or bigger on the Exchange it is.

This horse is a smooth-traveller who also finds plenty, so I think the drying ground is very much in his favour, as will the stiff track be, as well. He ran well under similar conditions when fourth at Sandown last season, and he is an improved performer this term.

I appreciate his best effort to date came on soft ground, when a narrow third to Global Citizen and Lisp in a Gerry Feilden that has worked out very well - so a 3lb rise for that is very workable - but I'm firmly of the opinion that better ground will suit him, given the way he tanks through his races.

His trainer believes he wasn't right when a very disappointing 5/1 favourite over course and distance last time, so hopefully we can ignore that run. The handicapper has too, by leaving his mark untouched, which is slightly annoying.

But Lorcan Williams takes 5lb off, and I reckon Mont Des Avaloirs promises to give him a very good spin around. Williams was seen to good effect when easing Dancing Maltaix to victory here in December, and I expect another sit-and-pounce ride here.

Lisp looks a very solid alternative at 8/1 for those looking for an each-way interest, given the five places on offer.

It is disappointing that Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy has declined the opportunity to run in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran, so we can park that four-runner race easily enough now.

A 17/1 shot for Haydock

Let's go to Wincanton next, shall we, where the two ITV races have attracted only five runners apiece which, again, is not ideal at all.

I don't have a worthwhile opinion in the extended 1m7f handicap chase at 13:45 and the same is pretty much true of the Kingwell Hurdle at 15:00, as that Grade 2 has cut up very badly.

I was disappointed to see that Sceau Royal was installed as the favourite, as he was the one I was possibly looking to get with, back over hurdles in his prep for the Champion Chase. He is the classiest horse in the line-up and the course-and-distance winner also finished third in this race in 2017.

But, in truth, it was probably predictable enough that he would head the betting, and he may have most to fear from Vision Des Flos. Not a betting race for me, though.

Yanworth, who won the aforementioned Kingwell Hurdle in 2017, is the class act in Haydock's Rendlesham at 13:55, but he is no betting proposition at his price, first time up, but thankfully (I hope) have another bet for us in the Grand National Trial at 15:35.

Step forward Carole's Destrier at [17.0] or bigger.

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The mudlarks in the field will be disappointed, as it is good to soft at Haydock, with no rain forecast and pleasant conditions expected on Saturday. But that plays very much to the strengths of the selection.

He returned to the winner's enclosure for the first time since December 2015 when scoring at Newbury in December and he ran another cracker off a 3lb higher mark when fourth to stablemate Impulsive Star in the Classic over 3m5f at Warwick last time.

It looked as if he was going to take a hand in the finish between the last two there, trading at [2.66] in running, only for his run to peter out a bit.

But the 2016 Hennessy runner-up clearly stays very well - that 2015 win came in the London National over 3m5f at Sandown - and he remains attractively-weighted on his old exploits, so I am hopeful he can put in a bold show with conditions in his favour.

Best of luck.

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Tony Calvin,

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