After a very profitable Royal Ascot Tony Calvin returns with his regular look at Saturday's ITV races, and our resident tipster is very keen on a sprinter at Newcastle...
"He was rated 109 when winning over course and distance in January 2019, beating today's rival Ornate, and he can now race here off just 90. That is his lowest mark since April 2016 (where he won at Wolverhampton off a mark of 89), and I really fancy him."
I nailed my colours firmly to the mythical mast when tipping Smart Champion at 10/1 each-way for the Betfair Northumberland Plate, ante-post, on Tuesday and I see no reason to desert him now in the 15:35.
One aspect of his chance that we couldn't assess at that stage was the draw, so I was happy to see him berthed in seven, as the stats in recent years suggest you would rather be low than high here.
Granted, he needs to be more sprightly away than he has been on his last two starts - and you don't want to be coming from too par off the pace around here - but that still hasn't stopped him delivering a brace of career-bests.
Indeed, if he can break a little better and race a bit handier than usual, then he could prove well ahead of his mark.
I don't think there is any doubt that we are dealing with a horse on an upward curve anyway, as he beat last year's Vase winner Carnwennan far more convincingly than the ½-length winning margin suggests here in February, as he had to overcome trouble in running that day and was very strong at the line.
His stamina was again firmly in evidence when he stuck on stoutly, from well off the pace, in the 2m4f Ascot Stakes last week. And, looking back at the video again, he probably gets up and wins in another 100 yards or so.
He could be considered a little unlucky there - even though he doesn't do anything quickly - so I am not bothered by a subsequent 2lb rise.
And his trainer David Simcock's horses have all (bar one winner going into Friday's racing) shaped as if badly needing their first outings since lockdown.
If you haven't already played, then he would remain my number one choice in the race at [8.0] or bigger. His slow starts do worry me, but that is the only negative I can see.
Lots of dangers but I'm gutted about a non-runner
There are, of course, some serious rivals, chief among them the Wolverhampton 1-2 of Australis and Caravan Of Hope. And you have to respect the claims of fellow market leader Rainbow Dreamer, too.
Course specialist Cosmelli, a goof fifth in this race last year and who won the Vase out of stall 19 two years ago, also looks a pretty solid each-way proposition at 16/1+.
He was nearly my each-way saver, especially with the Sportsbook paying six places. I couldn't, and wouldn't, put you off him.
I was going to look towards the bottom of the betting, as I tend to do, and put up Technological at a three-figure price on the exchange.
I had formed a decent 350-word case for him, full of impressive headgear stats of new trainer Milton Harris, then he was pulled out at 1.40pm on Friday afternoon!
Oh well, they will have to keep until he runs next.
I will rely on just the ante-post play on Smart Champion.
Encore the bet of the day
I really fancy one in the 5f handicap at 14:25 and Encore D'Or is worth a decent each way bet at 16/1, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook. I wouldn't lay him at 10s myself.
His two runs since lockdown has been perfectly respectable efforts, and the handicapper has dropped him a generous 5lb for them, so I think he is now primed to run a massive race.
He travelled beautifully before getting tired when a 22/1 chance at Newmarket on his reappearance, his first run since September, and he wasn't ideally positioned on the track when seventh at Doncaster last time.
The first six home were drawn 8-6-9-10-11-12, so he did best from the low drawn horses, as he came out of four, and I saw enough in both those turf runs to suggest he still has something to offer at eight-years-old.
Furthermore, all of his best efforts have come on all the weather, and as a strongly-run 5f is assured here with Caspian Prince and Copper Knight - they could be better off riding him with more restraint here and producing him very late, as they did in his course win - so I think he will be in his element.
He was rated 109 when winning over course and distance in January 2019, beating today's rival Ornate, and he can now race here off just 90.
That is his lowest mark since April 2016 (where he won at Wolverhampton off a mark of 89), and I really fancy him.
There could also be an element of him needing a run or two to put him straight now he is getting older too, though the Newcastle win did come after a three-month absence, so that is another postive. Certainly, the profile of his performances from 2017 to 2019 suggest as much.
For all I like Smart Champion, I think Encore D'Or is the bet of the day.
I would like the forecast rain to arrive to quicken the surface up a bit, as he has disappointed on standard to slow at the track before (though he wasn't ideally drawn, too), but that is hopefully a minor issue.
Kent my only bet at Newmarket
I nearly stuck up Major Jumbo win and place at 6/1+ in the 13:50 - he looks very solid after that comeback third in the Palace House, but you can make a case for quite a few - but I will stick with just the three investments at Newcastle, as the six-runner Group 3 Fillies' race at 15:00 does nothing for me.
That is pretty much the case for the three ITV races at Newmarket, as the firm ground has decimated field sizes there.
But I will recommend an investment at [7.0] or bigger on my old favourite Vale Of Kent in the Group 3 7f contest at 14:40.
It is a bit annoying as I was poised to put him up at 12s ante-post here on Tuesday, but I decided against it, as he also held an engagement at Windsor on Sunday.
However, I am happy to take the shortened odds, especially now that ante-post jolly Mohaather has not been declared, as this has the look of an ideal set-up for him.
I won't bore you, again, with my thoughts on his comeback third over 1m here, but that was full of promise clearly, and he proved that by running a blinder when fourth in the Hunt Cup.
He is drawn close to the stands' rail here and he is ideally positioned to blast from the front, and he could prove hard to peg back, stepping down to 7f on his favoured fast ground.
Favoured at the time of writing anyway, but they did water 8mm on Thursday despite showers and rain forecast in the next 24 hours or so.
He does have a serious pace rival in Mubtasim - and On The Warpath has gone forward in the past, and maybe Turjomaan will revert to setting the pace with a visor on - but he is drawn in two, and hopefully the selection can get on the lead on the rail.
Frankie Dettori has form figures of 1024 on the horse, so he knows what to do - he went from the front on him when the duo landed the Bunbury Cup on the July course last season - and I just think he has an ideal set-up here (though, admittedly, I would have preferred Mubtasim not to have run).
You should maybe consider an in-running lay on him at around evens, but I will go with the straight, no-trade bet myself.
That's about it really. I did have a look at the Irish Derby, but it looks an absolute minefield to me, with virtually all the 15 runners having the capacity - as Kevin Blake tells us - to make giant strides forward to bridge the gap with the form horse, Queen's Vase winner Santiago.
Not for me, but I will be rooting for Rachael Blackmore to cause an almighty shock on rank outsider King Of The Throne, and I doubt I will be alone there.
If you fancy all of Tony's selections to finish in the top 3 then you can go to Horse Racing Specials on the Betfair Sportsbook and back the Tony Calvin Treble at 33/1.
*price correct at time of publication and subject to change.
Arm yourself with all the essential Newcastle racecourse information in our handy guide.
Encore D'Or at 16/1 each-way, four places, in 14:25 at Newcastle
Vale Of Kent at [7.0] or bigger in 14:40 at Newmarket
ALREADY ADVISED ANTE-POST
Smart Champion at 10/1 each-way, four places, in Betfair Northumberland Plate