ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Thursday ITV Racing Tips: Tony Calvin's backing Lion to roar at Newmarket

Newmarket race finish
We're off to Newmarket and Pontefract for Thursday's ITV Racing action

"...while he clearly has plenty to find form-wise, he has a much better chance if judged on the clock, as his Mallard win at Doncaster last season came in a really good time."

Sleeping Lion at 21.020/1 or bigger in 15:35 at Newmarket

Newmarket's Cambridgeshire meeting starts on Thursday while the ITV Racing cameras will also be at Pontefract. Tony Calvin has a tip from each venue...

It is a case of spot the runner in ITV4's six races from Newmarket and Pontefract - this is disappointing stuff, let's make no bones about it - and that always makes eking out a bet that much harder.

With the eight-runner 1m2f Pontefract handicap immediately losing a runner after the 10am decs were made on Tuesday morning - the horse was declared in error! - only one of the televised contests offers three places for each-way punters, and I doubt bookmakers will be expecting bumper turnover as a result.

But, on a scale of 1-100 in terms of racing's financial woes at the moment - and it could not be grimmer for the sport at the moment, but we won't go there now - that doesn't even register.

Chance taken on Lion with doubts over market leaders

Newmarket runners have declared on good to firm ground and you suspect it will need a lot of rain to make any dent in it, but some forecasts suggest they could be getting up to 14mm from Wednesday morning onwards up until the start of racing on Thursday (they already had 4.5mm by 7:30am on Wednesday), so it could well ease a touch.

I am still working on the basis of quickish ground though - if the rain was not forecast, you imagine they would have stuck on about 5mm daily anyway - and I hope that comes to pass, as I am going to take a chance with Sleeping Lion at 21.020/1 or bigger in the 2m Listed race at 15:35.

He is also an industry-best 20/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook if you want to back him there.

Now, let us get the negatives out of the way.

First up, he comes here after a frankly appalling run when last of eight at Doncaster, a race he won last season and which looked tailor-made for him to shine in once again.

Secondly, he is 18lb shy of Mildenberger on official ratings and, thirdly, he is yet to win in four attempts over 2m.

Not the most bet-inducing start to a tipping case I readily admit, but I think this race looks ripe for an upset.

You have to assume form horse Mildenberger has had a problem as we have not seen him since an excellent second at Newcastle on June 6, and the other form horse, last year's winner Withhold, has a 3lb penalty and is certainly not one to trust, having run poorly in four of his six starts this season.

Next up in the betting is Ghostwatch, a disappointment in the Ebor last time, and Ranch Hand, who is at his best on good or softer, so hopefully you begin to get where I am coming from as regards this race being more winnable than it first appears.

The Doncaster run from Sleeping Lion takes some forgiving - and the trainer himself was mystified by the lack-lustre showing - but perhaps the horse was a touch under-done there after a five week break (he shows little at home, apparently), and that shouldn't be the case here a fortnight later.

This track should play to his strengths as he is best with a stalking ride in a small field on a long straight and, while he clearly has plenty to find form-wise, he has a much better chance if judged on the clock, as his Mallard win at Doncaster last season came in a really good time.

He may be pulled out if they get a lot of rain and the ground eases significantly, but he is a small bet at 16/1+ as it stands.

A few appeal but no further bets at HQ

It is a tough betting day, and the five-runner nursery at 13:50 is a case in point.

The numbers suggest this should be far more straightforward than it is, but the betting on the quintet ranges from 2/1 to 6/1 and I couldn't get a handle on it. Maybe, Mark Of The Man at around 6s is the answer as he is improving and proven over the 1m trip, but he is vulnerable to a better handicapped rival.

The nine-runner 6f handicap at 14:25 at least gives each-way punters a chance to strut their stuff.

The one that appealed most in here is Flippa The Strippa, a fair 13/2 chance with the Betfair Sportsbook at the time of filing.

She was rated 94 last summer after good runs in the Queen Mary and at Goodwood but the subsequent downward spiral was arrested when she finished second, albeit in a bunch finish, on turf at Lingfield last time.

She was raised 1lb for that ½-length second but that only takes her back up to a mark of 87, so she is well positioned to kick on again now.

However, she undoubtedly got the run of the race when making the running on the stands' rail last time, and she will not get that luxury here with four other pace rivals - though I admit her record certainly suggests she does not need to lead - so I can just about resist backing her at around 6/1 on the exchange.

All eyes will be on impressive Ascot winner La Barrosa in the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at 15:00.

However, the tracker and sectional posse can stand down as, predictably, he trades at around even money as he steps up in class, and that surely is a defensive price that will deter many.

Indeed, the Betfair Sportsbook have dangled that imaginary carrot in offering the form and clock choice Yazaman (the higher-rated Ventura Tormenta has a 5lb penalty) at 4/1 and that makes some appeal given the body of his work in Group 2 company, and a good run at Doncaster last time.

He is probably the bet in the race at 4/1, but it is a race that I can pass on by, as La Barrosa, who physically looks the part by all accounts, could be the real deal I guess.

Iconic my only Choice at Pontefract

The aforementioned seven-runner contest at Pontefract at 14:05 - memorably called the Simon Scrope Dalby Screw-Driver Handicap - looks a horrible little affair on first viewing.

The outsider of the party Iconic Choice definitely interests me most at the prices though, as she returns to the scene of her length second in a Listed race here in July, and she is the best handicapped horse in the field on that run, having been dropped 8lb for three, poor subsequent outings over 1m.

It was those recent efforts that I had trouble in squaring off if I was going to tip her here, as she has only beaten two of 26 rivals since her second at this course two months ago.

But she actually ran pretty well at Haydock on her penultimate start (and maybe wasn't ideally positioned on the track at Ascot last time), and I am going to take a chance on her at 23.022/1 or bigger.

I like the fact that the daughter of noted stamina influence Sixties Icon is going up to 1m2f again and the rain that is due to hit the track - they could get a shedload from Wednesday night onwards - could well see it turn good to soft or worse, which will not be an issue for this heavy ground winner.

She is also an industry-best 22/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook if you want to back her there.

That is where my betting interests end for the day, as the six-runner 1m4f handicap at 14:40 is probably best left to Dark Jedi and he has not been missed in the market.

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