The penultimate day of the St Leger Festival is already upon us and tipster Tony Calvin returns for a couple of bets on the ITV Races...
"But I am going against my better judgement and putting up Austrian School at [11.0] or bigger in win, and around [3.0] in the place."
Back Austrian School in 15:00 Doncaster
The opener is a minefield
The third day of Doncaster's St Leger Festival doesn't get any easier, and Friday kicks off with a real minefield of a Group 3 fillies and mares race at 13:50.
When I first start looking at the race, I thought Anna Nerium was a fair enough price at around 9/2 and just about the most likely winner, but the more I delved, the deeper and more competitive it got.
Outside of Group 1 company this season, Anna Nerium's form figures are 121, and she was probably unfortunate not to win when a ¾-length second to Wilamina at Epsom in June.
Her victories topping and tailing her season to date have been impressive, even though she carries a 3lb penalty for her Goodwood win last time, and Wednesday's rain will have been very welcomed by connections.
There is a lot to like about her chances, but this does look a strong Group 3 in which you can make a case for a fair few.
Laugh Aloud looked a potential Group 1 performer when winning at Epsom last season and she shaped well on her Sandown reappearance - expect a more aggressive ride on her with that run under her belt - and no-one failed to see how unlucky Dancing Star was at Goodwood last time.
Throw in recent Tipperary runner-up Dan's Dream, also carrying a 3lb penalty for her Fred Darling win earlier in the season, Aidan O'Brien's hardy Hence (has a similar profile to last year's winner Music Box) and Ellthea, and it quickly became a race where my betting interest in Anna Nerium waned.
Especially when I came across the claims of Ellthea; she is actually the one who interests me most at 8/1+.
We have not seen her since a Group 2 run in France in June - she has presumably been waiting for this easier ground - but the level of form she showed when winning a soft-ground Group 3 at Naas and when fifth in the Fillies' Mile last season make her a live danger to all.
And she was beaten only 2 lengths on her reappearance on good ground in the French 1,000 Guineas.
She is also a course winner as well, having won the nursery at this meeting last year. I was tempted but the drying ground just put me off in such a tight heat. Any unexpected rain before the race on Friday, though, and I will be backing her.
Flying Childers and Doncaster Cup up to the favs
I was in no massive rush to oppose Rumble Inthejungle, recently bought by Cheveley Park, in the Flying Childers at 14:25, as he looked the part and then some when winning the Molecomb easily from Life Of Riley and Soldiers Call at Goodwood last time.
It was a performance too late for those of us who backed him at big prices for the Norfolk, but we can't hold that against him.
The easier ground could be a negative I suppose, and that is something for backers of the favourite to consider, and he does face three or four horses who have shown a similar level of form to date.
It's a very tasty renewal, no doubt, but I wasn't expecting Semoum to be available at 40/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, and that is worth a speculative punt, or similarly win and place on the exchange.
Jockey Luke Morris was gushing in his praise of the horse after he narrowly landed an Ascot nursery off a mark of 80, and was adamant he would outrun his 33/1 price in the Gimcrack last time.
He did that all right, trading [2.6] in the run before dropping away from the furlong marker. He could have done without Wednesday's rain but it will probably be good by race-time if they get no more and I think the step down to 5f for the first time could really suit him on the evidence of the York run.
Thomas Hobson is my idea of the winner of the Doncaster Cup at 15:35, but he isn't a betting proposition at the prices.
Back to School
I don't have any argument with Walton Street and Reverend Jacobs heading the betting for the Mallard at 15:00.
The trainer was probably kicking himself for turning out Reverend Jacobs quickly under a penalty at Pontefract last time, and it looks like the horse needs some time between his races. He has had a five-week break since Pontefract, and the ease in the ground won't be an issue.
But I am going against my better judgement and putting up Austrian School at [11.0] or bigger in win, and around [3.0] in the place. He is also 10/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, and that is probably the best place to back him.
He has failed to kick on from his early-season brace of victories, and has been a beaten favourite in six of his seven starts since. He was only 5/2 in the other reverse, when second to St Leger-bound Raymond Tusk over 1m3f at Hamilton.
So he is something of a bookies' darling, despite never really running a bad race and creeping up the handicap as a result.
In fact, he is also an in-running layers' dream as he again traded at odds-on (1.13) when beaten by stablemate Soldier In Action at Goodwood last time.
However, that was a very solid effort against a horse thrown-in on his back-form, and he is actually 2lb well-in here, as well as getting the very handy 10lb 3yo allowance.
The world and his partner has had him marked down for a big staying handicap all season and hopefully he can finally deliver it here. This trip on a galloping track with a bit of ease in the ground - it was too soft for him over course and distance in June - could just be his optimum conditions.
He is one of three or four in here that like to go forward, but I'll settle for a prominent position in a strongly-run race, ta.