Tony Calvin discusses the ITV races at Newbury on Saturday, recommending a bet on a runner that will love the quick ground, and picks two to back at Ayr...
"I know there are less exposed horses than Good Birthday in the field – and predictably they are at the top of the market - but hopefully none are better handicapped, and he rates a really good bet at 10/111.0 or bigger."
If you have already attended six parties with him this season and come away with little more than a very expensive, regrettable hangover (are there any other kind?) then look away now, but I reckon Good Birthday is ready to come good in the Dubai Duty free at Newbury at 14:15.
Chance to come Good?
He is in the Cambridgeshire next week and he may need a penalty to get in - though I suspect he will be fine regardless, win or lose - so hopefully we can be assured he will be off for his life here. I am not for one moment suggesting he hasn't been this season, but he looks to be coming to the boil rather nicely, and is now on a very exploitable mark.
He finished third to the very well handicapped pair of Lord North and Beringer in the big 1m1f handicap last season, and is a very healthy 8lb lower here.
That is because he has run some shockers this term, but his last two starts have been far more encouraging, especially his recent third to another well treated duo in Omnivega and Win O'Clock at Kempton.
The winner is a seriously progressive handicapper going places - let's just hope it isn't America, Australia or Hong Kong - and the runner-up went into the race 6lb well-in under a penalty.
So for Good Birthday to be beaten one-and-a-half lengths, just a neck behind Win O'Clock, was clearly a hugely encouraging performance. I bet connections could not believe their luck when their horse was left on the same mark.
He shaped even better than the bare form too, as he didn't quite finish his race off over 1m3f there, and he is patently best at 1m2f or shorter. And now we have Silvestre De Sousa taking over from a 5lb claimer here.
Good Birthday also has an excellent Newbury record in his two starts there, winning and then finishing a length third to Headman and Sinjaari - he does have a nasty habit of bumping into a couple of thrown-in performers - in the ever-competitive London Gold Cup from the widest draw last season, a race in which De Sousa probably didn't excel tactically when making his ground up too quickly from the rear in one lung-bursting move.
Decent, quick ground is fine for him, and he looks set to play a massive role here, for all I would have liked him to be drawn a touch lower than 11 of 13.
I know there are less exposed horses than him in the field - and predictably they are at the top of the market - but hopefully none are better handicapped, and he rates a really good bet at 10/111.0 or bigger.
So, with the opening 12/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook on Thursday on Thursday only shaved into 11/1, I have to tip him there, and each way too, with four places on offer. In fact, 8/1+ is a bet (I think he will shorten), and a good one at that.
I may as well stick with Newbury now I have started there, and the ITV coverage kicks off with 5f Group 3 contest at 13:40.
The 111-rated Equilateral is probably the one to beat if running up to his best but that is certainly not a given looking at his record, and I am not sure whether a quick turnaround from his Curragh run last weekend is ideal for him either.
Despite a rating of just 96, Wise Words will no doubt tempt many after an excellent return at Doncaster last week.
But she seems a classic type of a horse that everyone saw shape well after meeting trouble in running and her odds of around 7/1 don't quite reflect the task she has on the book in this higher grade - though it is not a shocking price by any means, for all there is no each way angle now we are down to seven runners - she is quite obviously the most likely improver here.
There is no surprise to see the 1m3f Group 3 race at 14:50 cut up to just four runners after a disappointing show at the five-day stage, but it is a fascinating little race all the same, with improvers in Extra Elusive and Gifts Of Gold taking on the old lag (said in the nicest possible way) Desert Encounter, and the seemingly regressive class horse of the party (once, anyway), Elarqam.
Given that three of the field could try and go forward, then this could set up nicely for Desert Encounter, winner of this race in 2019 and 2017 (he was half-a-length third in between in 2018), but picking the bones out of this one is hard enough before you add in what is potentially a messy tactical race.
The Mill Reef at 15:25 is an absolute cracker this year, no doubt aided by the decent ground on offer. It lacks a stand-out performer but all are really promising types, and I couldn't rule out anything.
The spectre of a non-runner does loom large for each-way backers with the dead-eight though, so please bear that in mind if playing win and place, as it would not be the biggest surprise if one of the youngsters was pulled out if the going quickened up unduly.
One firm made Alkumait their 18/1 outsider on Thursday and I wouldn't have been in a rush to lay that given the way he stormed home in a good time from a subsequent winner at Goodwood last time - in fact, I would have cocked a deaf 'un if anybody wanted a bet at those odds - but this is one of these typical two-year-olds races for me in which there are too many unknowns. And, anyway, the 18s has gone.
I could have cried when I saw Stone Of Destiny storming home on the near side at Doncaster that Saturday, as I had a proper go on the runner-up Danzeno, and thought he had it before belatedly clocking the horrible vision rattling home on the stands' rail.
The owner-trainer-jockey combination of the winner owe me one after that, so let's hope they can get Good Birthday over the line at Newbury.
Back Batt to bounce back at Ayr
It is no shock to see that winner among the market leaders under his 5lb penalty in the Ayr Gold Cup at 15:40.
He is officially 1lb well-in but I prefer the claims of another last weekend winner, Curragh scorer Mr Lupton, of those at the top of the market.
Neither is particularly shouting "come and get me" at their prices of around 9/1 though, and I am going to chuck a few quid at Another Batt at 19/120.0 or bigger.
He is another turning around quickly after running at Leopardstown last week, and I admit I have recent history with this horse.
I very nearly tipped him at a big price when he won on his stable debut for David Barron at Thirsk in August, and that stung. In fact, he looked to win in spite of himself that day (I will leave it there), and won far more snugly than the head margin suggests.
So, naturally, I had a go on him when I saw he was running in Ireland last Saturday but his jockey decided to change tactics on him there, riding him prominently, and it backfired, as he was second turning in but got swamped in the straight.
I think we will see far more patient tactics on him here and, just 3lb higher than at Thirsk, he could easily bounce back.
He was rated 12lb higher than this after winning in Dubai in January 2019 (was produced late on) and, interestingly, Barron has asked the jockey who rode him there, Connor Beasley, to take the ride on Saturday in a rare outing for the stable.
The horse has won on his only start here (on good to soft), and a more patient ride over a strongly-run 6f could be ideal for a horse who stays 7f/1m. He has enough pace around him from his stall in six, too.
A fair few people thought they had a potential top-notcher over 6f and 7f on their hands after San Donato's run in the Sussex Stakes, so they will be puzzled that he is in the 1m2f Doonside Cup at 13:55.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of that move, this seven-runner race is easily swerved. The times suggested Ayr was soft on Thursday, so that would encourage supporters of the favourite Addeybb, but it can only have dried out in the last 24 hours.
Umm Kulthumm is the short-priced favourite in the 15:05 and maybe rightly so after her Lowther Stakes third. But she is not floating my boat at around 2/1 and 9/4 in a race that a few of her rivals are not far off her in form terms, so I will switch to the far easier task of solving the puzzle that is the 25-runner Ayr Silver Cup at 14:30.
Gordon could coax Arbalet home
In fact, some clearly think it is pretty straightforward, as King's Lynn isn't that much bigger a price than Umm Kulthum, as he is just around a 9/2 chance after his Doncaster run last time.
Of course, he bumped into one in Starman there - the winner has since bolted up in Listed company and King's Lynn was actually dropped 2lb by the handicapper - and the well-regarded colt has the sexiest profile in here by some way after just three starts.
He has the potential to bolt up, but against that he lacks experience against battle-hardened handicappers and has only raced on fast ground so far, and I can't get overly-enthused about him at the price.
Most likely winner? Yes.
Best bet in the race? Hopefully not.
Exactly who of his 24 rivals gets the better of him wouldn't be the easiest task you could be set, but I am going to chuck a few quid on Arbalet at 22/123.0 or bigger. His chances increase the more the ground dries out.
He finished last of five at Chelmsford last Sunday and he didn't seem to be enjoying life there at all, hanging badly and being a touch moody it seems, so the cheekpieces have gone on for the first time here.
I suspect Josephine Gordon getting on board him again could be the key to an improved show though, as she has form figures of 21152 on the horse, with the fifth coming in the Jersey Stakes and the most recent second coming in a half-a-length defeat in a 16-runner 7f handicap at Ascot earlier in the month.
He would have won there, in my humble opinion, had he not been continually hampered in the final furlong, so I think he is well handicapped off just a 1lb higher mark.
Now, there are negatives, chief among them possibly his draw in two as there is no great pace around him, but he can plough his own furrow if needs be, as he did at Ascot - and he is likely to be ridden prominently again over a trip arguably short of his best - and Gordon could just coax him home.
Current Season P&L: +19.6
(June 1 - September 18 inclusive)
Preivous P&L: +303.4
April 14 2017 to end of racing March 2020 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)
Good Birthday at 11/1 each-way, four places, with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:15 at Newbury
Arbalet at 22/123.0 or bigger in 14:30 at Ayr
Another Batt at 19/120.0 or bigger in 15:40 at Ayr