A week before the Epsom Derby it's a relatively low key Saturday for ITV Racing, but Tony Calvin still has four tips for you to consider at Haydock and Beverley...
"And, although he probably has little in hand of the assessor off 90, after going up 7lb for that 4 ¾ length win last October, he has run well off higher marks in the past and this looks an ideal set-up for him."
As I remarked in my ante-post piece on Tuesday, owner Kirsten Rausing basically had nine fingers wrapped around on the trophy of Haydock's' Pinnacle Stakes of the five-day stage.
However, it could be the tenth digit will be the one needed for her to pick up the prize.
She had Albaflora and Alpinista among the original eight entries, priced at evens and 11/8 respectively, and Oriental Mystigue also in there for good measure.
A vice-like grip in betting percentage terms.
But with Albaflora (who was backed into 4/6 during the week) not being entered, and Alpinista pulled out after being declared due to a bad scope, Oriental Mystique has been re-routed from the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown on Thursday evening, an engagement from which she was withdrawn on account of the going.
She is going to face basically the same ground at Haydock this weekend - though the weather this week has been better than forecast and we could even get good to soft on Saturday now - but at least she now goes there with a big chance of landing the Group 3 contest at 14:55.
So, the going looks like being much better at Haydock than looked likely on Tuesday, but the combination of 1m4f and dig in the ground is presumably a concern for connections, given she was entered over 1m2f at Sandown.
Her best form - a Group 2 second last season and a third at Goodwood on her return, both over 1m4f - makes her the obvious bet in the contest at around 3/1 on the exchange, but she has not looked the strongest of finishers in those races.
Timeform called both of those contests as having taken place on good ground, so the conditions are a slight worry, too. I was tempted but I will let her go untipped and unbacked, especially as this race was obviously an afterthought.
Lots of ticks in right boxes for Cold Stare
My decision not to stick up Cold Stare for the 6f handicap at 14s on Tuesday (there was 20s available in a place at the time) has backfired somewhat, as he is a considerably shorter price now in a handicap that has stood up pretty well from the five-day stage in the 13:45.
It is the old-age punting dilemma here. Do I desert him after missing the fancier prices?
I ummed and aahed and decided he would be my saver in the race at 10.09/1 or bigger win-only on the exchange, as he has a lot going for him. I wouldn't go lower than 8s myself.
He is in form (I thought he shaped really well over 7f at Goodwood last time and like the angle of him stepping down in trip in this bigger field) and well-handicapped - 2lb lower than his last winning mark last season, and 5lb lower than when winning this race in 2019 - and clearly he goes really well here and in soft ground.
And, while I pay little heed to jockeys, the booking of Oisin Murphy is clearly no negative, other than it may have shaved a point or so off the horse's odds (a high-profile rider also comes at a price to the punter).
Focus in on Hyper at a track he loves
My main bet in the race is Hyperfocus though at 15.014/1 or bigger. The Betfair Sportsbook are offering five places but both of my tips look more accustomed to win-only bets in this race, I feel, especially now the general 20/1 in the marketplace on Thursday has evaporated.
I was expecting that though, and he'd remain a bet for me at 12/1+.
Hyperfocus was well beaten on his return at York and does have a boom-or-bust profile, but the one consistent thing about him is how well he goes here with course form figures of 11317, and he was probably disadvantaged by his draw (14 of 14) in that seventh here in October.
There isn't much pace in here and this forward-goer - all his best form has been when getting on the lead - could take early control here and he could make a bold bid to make all.
He is only 1lb higher than when winning by 2 lengths here last September and his York run earlier this month hopefully wasn't as bad it appears in the form book, as he was drawn away from the action on the far side and clearly not much was expected of him there as a 50/1 chance (BSP 77.35)
Two bets in a 6f handicap. So much for staying away from sprint handicaps!
Tarboosh can swoop late and conquer
Tarboosh was the one I seriously considered putting up at 8/1 in my ante-post column on Tuesday and he has shortened too much now he has been confirmed for the 6f Listed race 1t 14:20, and each-way punters now get four places with the Sportsbook.
So I am happy to get with him at 6/1, four places, now.
The case for him remains the same as it was on Tuesday, with the added bonus that we have lost six of the 18 five-day entries.
Tarboosh was beaten ½ length by El Astronaute in this race when it was held at Doncaster last season, and he also finished third in it the year before, so he is a big runner on a track he clearly goes well at (he has been beaten a neck here before, and also finished second to the then 90-rated Dakota Gold off a mark of 102 here in 2018).
He does carry a 3lb penalty for an impressive Listed race win on good ground at Doncaster last October, but he is still third-best in here on adjusted official figures (and narrowly so, too, behind El Astronaute and Moss Gill), and there was a ton of promise in his return at Musselburgh.
Having his first start after a wind op (not the first one he has had), he shaped very well from off the pace to finish sixth, and the other aspect of that performance is how weak he was in the betting, going off at a Betfair SP of 28.027/1. It was a very much a performance that screamed a means to an end.
Expected to be a lot sharper here, for a trainer who won this race with Final Venture in 2017, he will do for me. And Paul Midgley's horses are belatedly hitting some kind of form after a very quiet 2021 to date, with Van Gerwen winning at 8/1 at Ripon on Thursday night.
One further aspect that seals the deal is there is a shedload of pace in here, which could play to his hold-up strengths - he will be coming late, if at all - on ground that he enjoys.
Ejtilaab can go well from stall one but no bet
I thought the 7f John Of Gaunt Stakes at 15:30 was really tricky, so nothing is doing there.
I counted six that liked to go forward in the 7f handicap at Chester at 14:40 and the market was never going to miss one of those, Ejtilaab, coming out of stall one. He is actually an okayish price at around 4/1 and bigger on the exchange, if not exactly generous.
He did really well from his wide draw when fifth in a strong handicap over course and distance last time - the second, third and sixth (Another Batt) have won since - and he has to be a major force off a 1lb lower mark, if trapping well.
But he has pace immediately on his outside with Alexander James in two and Hey Jonesy in three, and that worries me when playing at his sort of price. No bet.
Byron's the Choice in Beverley handicap
Juvenile races tend to leave me pretty cold so I can easily give Beverley's brace of 2yo races a swerve, especially in the prevailing soft (heavy in places) ground - for what it is worth, Guilded in the 14:00 looks a fair price at 20/1 after shaping better than the bare form at York last Saturday and The Gatekeeper appealed most at 5/1+ in the 15:10 - and concentrate on the 7f96yd handicap at 15:45.
There is plenty of probable pace in here too (six of these have gone forward in recent outings) and I am going to side with a closer in Byron's Choice, who I thought shaped very well on his return at Thirsk when going off at 100/1.
I know he was 11th of 15 but he was beaten only five lengths after being dropped in last soon after the start, and he certainly caught my eye (and presumably the handicapper's as well, who left him on the same mark) over 1m there, especially as he is much more suited to this shorter 7f (and change) trip.
He is ground-versatile but his form figures on soft read 32010 - he has never raced on official heavy, but Timeform called it that when he sluiced in at Catterick last October - and his course record is a more impressive 223, with the first of those a ½-length second in this race off a 1lb higher mark back in 2019.
And, although he probably has little in hand of the assessor off 90, after going up 7lb for that 4 ¾ length win last October, he has run well off higher marks in the past and this looks an ideal set-up for him.
It took him three outings to hit form last year (the first two starts were over 1m, mind you) but he is usually ready to rock second time up. Indeed, his runner-up spot in this race came after a reappearance run to blow away the cobwebs (that was at Thirsk, too) while he won on his second seasonal start in 2017 and 2018.
Hard luck stories are part and parcel of the betting game around here, but I really like his chances at 14/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook at 10/1.
In fact, he is my bet of the day at his current price. It was very annoying that the 14s, 12s and 11s went on Friday morning but he'd remain a bet at 8/1+, so the 10s will do. The well-related favourite Sibaaq could be a major stumbling block, hence the each-way play (and I may even try to back my selection without the favourite when those markets appear at 5/1+).
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Back Cold Stare in 13:45 at Haydock at 10.09/1
Back Hyperfocus in 13:45 at Haydock at 15.014/1
Back Tarboosh in 14:20 at Haydock at 6/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook at 7.06/1
Back Byron’s Choice in 15:45 at Beverley at 10/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook at 11.010/1