ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Saturday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin is holding out for a hero at Ascot

Tony Calvin
Tony returns with his look across Saturday's ITV cards

"However, I am going you suggest you back Hold That Taught at 12.011/1 and bigger now, even with that reduction to come, despite the fact that he is also 3lb out of the handicap."

There's an outstanding card for the Betfair-sponsored meeting at Ascot on Saturday and Tony Calvin casts his eye across it all, picking out a double figure selection in the Money Back Special race...

If any racecourses are still standing after Storm Eunice has strutted her stuff - and Haydock can continue to take the Newton-le-Willows rain like a sponge and still come out smiling - we have seven races from three tracks to entertain us on ITV on Saturday.

Again, it is quality over quantity in the conditions races - that's a real cut-and-paste job this season - but at least the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase at 15:38 has held up at the overnight stage with all eight standing their ground for the 150k contest. The ground at Ascot looks like being soft.

No value in Fakir

I am not surprised that Fakir D''oudaries has worked himself towards the forefront of the market, but any juice in his price has long gone. He was available at 6.611/2 on the exchange on Monday afternoon but his odds have steadily come down since, and he is in to around the 11/4 mark.

It makes sense.

Rated 163 in Ireland (and 164 in the UK), he is actually the top dog in here on that basis - only just, mind you, with Saint Calvados and Fanion D'Estruval on 162, and the others not far behind - and he will find this easier than when again locking horns with the mighty Allaho, who he chased home in last year's Ryanair, on his last two starts.

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It looks a straightforward enough race to call tactically. Dashel Drasher will go off in front and the rest will form an orderly queue behind him and look to make their bids rounding the home turn.

In addition to Fakir D'oudairies, Fanion D'Estruval was the one I liked most at the five-day stage and, unlike the Irish raider, his odds have lengthened. A 10/3 poke with the Sportsbook om Monday, and a touch bigger on the exchange, he has drifted to 9/2 on the fixed-odds front.

He has failed to cut the mustard in Grade 1 company to date but his 1 ½ length handicap second to Phoenix Way over course and distance last time off a mark of 159, with the third 16 lengths away, was an improved effort and he is probably now just about on a form par with any of these. And the excellent time backed it up, too.

He would represent the best value in the race for me, given his youthful and improving zest as a 7yo, but the problem is he meets seven rivals who all have the similar capability to win this, most obviously Saint Calvados down in trip.

And the fact that the 2018 winner Waiting Patiently (probably the most talented of all of these at his best) is 25/1 tells you how deep this race is.

The race obviously lacks a form stand-out, but it is hugely competitive, and a win for any of the eight wouldn't shock me.

So while Fanion D'Estruval would be my forced choice, it carries little weight as a non-betting nomination, and that is where I currently stand on the race at the moment, for all the near-5/1 on the exchange is beginning to get very tempting.

The six-runner Grade 2 novices' chase at 13:50 features some very interesting horses for the future - chief among then Does He Know, unraced since November, though he has been entered a few times in recent weeks - but nothing for the betting here and now, as far as I am concerned.

I will move on, without the usual waffle.

Hold on, we've found a bet...

I would have dearly loved to have tipped Hold That Taught ante-post on Tuesday in the 14:25, but my hands were tied, as the Betfair Sportsbook were alive to his chances at 8/1 when he was double that elsewhere in the marketplace.

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The race has cut up to just 10 runners, and it could do so further as it looks like Ask Me Early (the current 10/3 second favourite) could be taking up an engagement at Wincanton instead, as that is his first preference. So watch out for the hefty Rule 4, if so.

However, I am going you suggest you back Hold That Taught at 12.011/1 and bigger now - 12/1+ should be attainable on the exchange - even with that reduction to come, despite the fact that he is also 3lb out of the handicap. We are probably looking at 9/1 or so if and when the Harry Fry horse comes out , and that is fair enough. - 12/1+ should be attainable on the exchange.

This horse went off at 17/2 for the Welsh National off a mark of 140 two starts ago, and he now effectively races off 135 here.

Granted, he ran poorly from 5lb out of the handicap at Chepstow - though, in his defence, he did travel well for a long way, before crying enough up that unforgiving straight - and he was also beaten a long way when third at Lingfield last time in a valuable novices' chase.

However, he actually shaped okay to finish third in that novices' chase, in which he had a stiff task against the front pair at the weights, for all the race did fall apart late on for those fighting it out for a place. He was not given a hard time of it there.

In addition, he finished a fair third over course and distance last season, he bustled up Ask Me Early at Chepstow afterwards, and I think he is on a workable mark, despite being 3lb wrong, on his Carlisle win in October. That race has worked out poorly but he did very well to recover from a bad mistake there.

After that victory Venetia Williams (on the in-form Venetia as she is known this season), who won this race in 2019, was at pains to stress how much he has strengthened up since last year, which I was imagine is partly why he went off so short at Chepstow.

Hopefully, he can take advantage of the weight he receives from the classier types, notable among them the 9/4 favourite Fiddlerontheroof (who I like, but not at that price, especially with that likely Rule 4 on top).

I will also look to back Hold That Taught at 3.55/2 or bigger in the three-places market, though there will be a Rule 4 there as well, obviously. That place market should be up on Friday.

Punters willing to take a Risk

Good Risk At All has been all the rage for the 2m3f handicap at 15:00, ever since the betting opened on Monday. He was 5/1 then, and is 7/4 now, though I accept this would not have been a heavily-traded market.

A high-class bumper performer, Good Risk At All does look potentially very well handicapped on a mark of 127, and the step up in trip should really suit, but he clearly has not been missed in the market now and his hurdling does still leave a touch to be desired. And he did go up 3lb for that Warwick defeat time.

On Tuesday, I took him on in the ante-post market with Zacony Rebel each way at 10/1, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook, and I am obviously happy with that position. He is into 6s now,, and that still looks fair - we have lost half of the field from the five-day stage - but I won't press up. Here is the brief case for him, though.

He simply looks a lightly-raced, well handicapped 7yo who has been crying out for a step up from 2m, and his pedigree, as well as his run-style, backs that up.

He got going too late when beaten over 2m at Huntingdon on his penultimate start, was generously left alone by the handicapper after his Ludlow novices' hurdle win under a penalty last time, and he should get a strong pace to aim at with so many prominent races in here.

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His trainer Toby Lawes has banged in 11 winners this season at an impressive strike rate of 25 per cent, and hopefully he will be in the money here at the very least.

I may also look to back him at around 9/2, maybe each way too, in the without favourite market, once that line is up and running.

It looks like Goshen v Adagio in the four-runner Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, with the former slightly favoured in the betting, but it clearly isn't a betting race, or one on which I have a firm opinion.

Such a shame for a 70k pot, but dems the times we punt in, unfortunately.

Haydock has a reputation for regularly providing some of the deepest ground and grimmest racing weather in the country, but I imagine even the regulars, drinks in hands, will be bracing themselves to go in a foot-deep on the lawns on Saturday, such is the amount of rain the course has had yet again.

Unsurprisingly, it is heavy, with plenty more rain to come it seems, and when it gets this testing it is anyone's guess what horses will handle it, even the confirmed mudlarks.

For that reason, I am not going to have a bet and tip in the two ITV races.

The Sportsbook's opening 14/1 about Wholestone in the six-runner Rendlesham at 14:05 admittedly did interest me though, as he can handle the mud and had an excellent reappearance record before blowing out in the West Yorkshire Hurdle first time up last season.

Furthermore, he was the best of these at his peak, finishing third in a 2018 Stayers' Hurdle, and gets 6lb off the top two.

But he is an 11yo now, and he must have had his problems to be coming here on the back of a 455-day lay-off, so I can let him go untipped. I was tempted, though,

Tempted was not a word that I came close to uttering when I looked at the 3m4f Grand National Trial at 14:40

I simply thought any of the 11 runners could win it. And it wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world if they came home alone......

Mint Condition would have been top of my list at the prices if coming here straight from his course win over 2m6f in heavy ground in December, as he looks the sort who could improve for his first start beyond 3m, and he is a well-handicapped novice.

But he is mixing with real grinders here in a race full of forward-goers, coming off the back of a modest run at Warwick, so, like Wholestone, I can let him slide, too.

So, Hold That Taught, it is all up to you this weekend win and place, with Zacony Rebel the ante-post, each-way, back-up.

Go well, trusty steeds. And, for the rest of us, stay safe out there on Friday. Or just stay in.

PACE MAPS FOR ITV RACES

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13:50 Ascot - Lead/Prominent - Fern Hill, Annual Invictus ?, J'Ai Froid ?; Midfield - Does He Know, Doyen Breed, Held Up - Corach Rambler

14:25 Ascot - Lead/Prominent - Ask Me Early, Caribbean Boy, Cobolobo, Hold That Taught, Truckers Lodge, Sojourn; Midfield - Fortescue, Regal Encore ; Held Up - Fiddlerontheroof, Larry

15:00 Ascot - Lead/Prominent - Cap Du Mathan, Highway One O Two, Ballybegg. Piccadilly Lilly, Small Bad Bob, Shantou Express; Midfield - Reserve Tank ?, Good Risk At All ?, Zacony Rebel, Straw Fan Jack; Held Up - Christopher Wood, Easysland, Lucky One ? (has made all)

15:38 Ascot- Lead/Prominent; Dashel Drasher, Fanion D'Estruval, Midfield; Fakir D'oudairies, Lostintranslation, Mister Fisher, Two for Gold; Held Up; Saint Calvados, Waiting Patiently

14:05 Haydock - Lead/Prominent - Molly Ollys Wishes, Top Ville Ben; Midfield - Wholestone; Held Up - Thomas Darby, Third Wind, Emitom

14:40 Haydock - Lead/Prominent - Sam Brown, Enqarde, Blaklion, Bristol De Mai, The Galloping Bear. Lord Du Mesnil; Midfield - Secret Reprieve, Time To Get Up; Held Up - Mint Condition, Sidi Ismael, Kalooki

15:20 Wincanton - Lead/Prominent - Goshen, Llandinabo Lad; Midfield - Adagio; Held Up - Falvoir

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