Saturday Racing Tips: Six to back on a super Saturday at Cheltenham

Johns Spirit jumps to Paddy Power Gold Cup glory in 2013 - can Tony's selection repeat?
Johns Spirit jumps to Paddy Power Gold Cup glory in 2013 - can Tony's selection repeat?

Tony Calvin has selections for the first six races on Cheltenham's high-class Saturday card...

"In the 2m5f handicap hurdle at 15:35 it could be worth siding with Coup De Grace to small stakes at 18.017/1. He was returning from a lengthy absence when only beating one home on the Flat at Newbury last month and looks fairly treated on his hurdling exploits, which included a soft ground fourth over 2m at this meeting last season."

It was officially good ground at Cheltenham on Thursday evening, but if some of the weather forecasts prove to be accurate in the next 24 hours or so - yes, normal cynicism applies here, but some do look horrendous - then it is possible that we could be looking at genuinely soft ground come Saturday afternoon.

So sitting and waiting until you know conditions nearer the off is a definite betting option.

I hope soft ground isn't the case on Saturday, as my main Paddy Power Gold Cup favourite Johns Spirit ideally wants decent going. But he has two wins to his name on soft, and he simply looks a rock-solid win and place play at 14.013/1 and 4.03/1 in the 14:25.

In fact, you could easily argue that his career-best effort came on soft ground, when just touched off by a head by Caid Du Berlais in this race last season, so perhaps we shouldn't worry unduly.

And that narrow reverse was his only defeat on Cheltenham's Old Course, where his form figures read a pretty formidable 1112. And he remains very fairly-treated, just 1lb higher than that second last year despite some creditable efforts in Grade 1 company since.

He certainly wasn't disgraced in either the King George or on the New Course in the Ryanair, and his pulled-up reappearance effort in the Old Road at Aintree is easily forgiven.

He was probably the best backed horse of the day then and was travelling sweetly enough before a slight mistake was followed by him nearly being put through the rails and shuffled back to last in a sad incident involving Rajdhani Express, after which Richie McLernon pretty much looked after him for another day.

So we can safely ignore that run, connections report him in rude health - though they all say that don't they, or else they wouldn't be running - and the icing on the cake is that he is a hold-up horse in a race that promises to be a proper burn-up with no end of pace-setters in the race.

There are no end of potential dangers in this 20-runner race - Boondooma looked good here last month and any rain isn't a problem, and perhaps this is the day Buywise jumps and picks them up after the last - but I think Johns Spirit is probably the horse most likely to hit the frame, with definite winning possibilities, too.


* * *


Earlier on the Cheltenham card - and the first two races are on RUK only, so I am extending my brief a little here - I am going to chuck a few quid at Wolf Of Windlesham in the juvenile hurdle at 12:40 so if that's the case then I will stick him up as a small-stakes play here at 7.413/2 or bigger. But please note that he is untested on soft ground, so stake accordingly if the weather does turn very nasty.

Now, we are still in the realms of guessing with the youngsters at this stage - especially the expensively bought ex-French jobbies - but I was very taken with the selection when he won at Ludlow on his hurdling debut and at the price I am happy to follow him up in class, even if he was only very modest on the Flat.

It was probably a weak race and his hurdling wasn't ideal, but you had to be impressed with the manner of his 17-length success there.

I actually heard a bookmaker's PR rep say on television earlier in the week that they pay no attention to connections when pricing up a horse - I rewound to make sure I wasn't hearing things - but that's obviously garbage and suffice to say that he would be a fraction of the price if trained by one of the big guns of the training ranks.

But Stuart Edmunds isn't packing a knife to a gun fight, and isn't one to underestimate since he took over Renee Robeson's licence and he is currently two from four in bumpers, and five from 27 over hurdles (0 from 7 in chases). None too shabby.


* * *


The Kim Bailey yard - his form figures in November read 81F174141P161F11P7 - is operating at a near-50% strike rate this month (his most recent faller would have won, too) and I like two of his on Saturday.

First up is Twelve Roses in the 13:15 though if the ground does turn very testing I suspect that he may be pulled out.

The stable have always had a high opinion of this fragile horse, and he went some way to justifying that regard when he finished fifth to Faugheen in the Neptune last year.

But he was off the track subsequently with leg trouble before reappearing at Wetherby last month, and he repaid the faith and patience when defying that lengthy absence.

And time has shown that to be a performance of no little note, with the beaten horses hosing up next time. The runner-up won by 20 lengths, the third won a handicap off 129 by 9 lengths, and the fourth dotted up by 10 lengths. And even the tailed-off fifth improved the best part of two stone when second at Ascot on his next start.

You do the math. Or maths. Whatever "grammar" school you went to. He is worth a nibble at 4.03/1 despite a slight stamina doubt - and some high-class opposition such as French Champion Hurdle winner Un Temps Pour Tout, making his chasing debut here - as he looks a top-class prospect. But, like I said, if the ground turned soft confidence would wane appreciably, and he may be pulled out anyway.


* * *


At a much juicier price, his stablemate Knockanrawley makes a lot of appeal in the 13:50 and he certainly wouldn't mind any rain.

He has recent winning form on good to soft but it is probably fair to say the deeper the better for this one, as he doesn't do anything quickly.

But he does go especially well when fresh, winning first up time up two seasons ago and running an excellent third over an inadequate extended 2m6f last year, and he remains a fairly treated horse off 136. He rates a bet at 13.012/1 or bigger, and as he is a lazy sort who responds to pressure he could be worth having a look at in-running, too.


* * *


Word count is beginning to get the better of me but Sir Mangan won on his debut for Dan Skelton on good ground at Fontwell last month and is a horse that makes some appeal in the 15:00 even off an 8lb higher mark. He is a dual heavy ground winner, so the weather isn't an issue either way. Back him at 10.09/1.

So Fine, returning from a break on a decent mark, is another that catches my eye in this one.


* * *


In the 2m5f handicap hurdle at 15:35 it could be worth siding with Coup De Grace to small stakes at 18.017/1. He was returning from a lengthy absence when only beating one home on the Flat at Newbury last month and looks fairly treated on his hurdling exploits, which included a soft ground fourth over 2m at this meeting last season.

He is a three-time winner over 2m on the Flat, so the step up to 2m5f over hurdles is expected to suit.


Recommended Bets (but keep a weather watch...)
Back Wolf Of Windlesham at 7.413/2 in the 12:40 at Cheltenham
Back Twelve Roses at 5.59/2 in the 13:15 at Cheltenham
Back Knockanrawley at 13.012/1 in the 13:50 at Cheltenham
Back Johns Spirit in the 14:25 at Cheltenham, at 14.013/1 in win and 4.03/1 place
Back Sir Mangan at 15.014/1 in the 15:00 at Cheltenham
Back Coup De Grace at 18.017/1 in the 15:35 at Cheltenham

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