Tony Calvin Antepost Tips: Sand could have us Raising a glass in Bunbury Cup

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Newmarket's July Festival is the big meeting later this week
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Newmarket's July Festival is the highlight towards the end of the week, and our resident tipster Tony Calvin has a 20/1 tip for you in Saturday's Bunbury Cup...

"He doesn't have the potential improvement of the 3yo, and disappointed on his only previous start here, but he is simply a very solid proposition when getting his conditions in these big 7f handicaps."

Raising Sand at 20/1 each-way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook in Bunbury Cup

It is fair to say the old tipping form has dipped a bit since a decent Royal Ascot - it is important to be honest and acknowledge the many troughs as well as the occasional peaks - but, anyway, the hectic terrestrial racing schedule doesn't give you much time to lick your wounds in this game.

In fact, horse racing can be a bit of a 24/7 grind.

So you patch yourself up, stick to the tried-and-tested selection process, and crack on.

Hats off to ITV and Sunday racing

After the Eclipse card at Sandown on Sunday, there is a renewed clamour for more high-class cards on the Sabbath, and you can see why.

The tracks may not want it as they claim they struggle to sell the vital cash-cows that are the hospitality packages, but it seems to work well enough in other sports - and most people do tend to have more spare time at weekends - so I think the argument is simply one of stale racecourse finances versus a fresh opportunity to showcase the sport.

Mind you, when I first joined the Racing Post in 1987, there was no Sunday racing, and all staff loved that fact, and a few of us liked nothing better than having every Saturday off and an all-dayer of cards, punting and drinking in the local wine bar (RIP, Winners) in Raynes Park.

Those were the days.

The content on ITV Racing wouldn't be aimed at someone like me - that makes me sound a bit of a pompous arse, but so be it, that is nothing new - but you can't argue with their Derby viewing figures of 2.3 million and I doff my cap to the team given the amount of shows they have recorded, often from home, since racing returned on June 1.

Mark Johnston-esque. In all respects!

I think there was a spell where they did nine in 10 days in mid-June, and that is just a phenomenal workload, and accomplishment, in broadcasting terms, if nothing else, especially with such a small, core team of broadcasters.

Rain good new for some but not for others in Friday's competitive handicap

There is racing on ITV on three days this week, so they are busy bunnies again, with top class action from Thursday through to Saturday's Group 1 card at Newmarket (normal service is resumed on Sunday though with Hamilton, Lingfield and Bangor), and a bit of jumps thrown in at Market Rasen on Friday, too.

I will focus mainly on Saturday's races here, mainly because any Thursday/Friday ante-post chat will be dead and buried by 10am on Wednesday morning due to 48-hour declarations - indeed Thursday's action became day-of-race markets as of 10am on Tuesday morning - but the 1m6f bet365 Trophy handicap at Newmarket on Friday (3pm) does look a tasty-looking heat.

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Ryan Moore is jocked up for Themaxwecan, and he has to be on everyone's short list after his good fourth at Royal Ascot.

He has good course form and the fact that he went up a harsh-enough 1lb for that Ascot run - he was beaten 5 lengths - doesn't concern me. He also doesn't have any other entries this week.

But the big worry if you are backing him ante-post - as well as the fact that he was a mystifying no-show for the Northumberland Plate - has to be the rain that is forecast from Tuesday afternoon into Friday (it is currently good to firm), as this horse would like it to remain on the fast side.

The current levels of predicted rain look pretty hefty on some forecasts, so you have to hold fire on backing him given his fast-ground profile.

Even though Vis A Vis's two best Flat runs on turf since joining Neil Mulholland have come on fast ground, you suspect that his connections wouldn't mind any of that rain for their horse. His action suggests as much, too.

He handled cut fine when trained in France, and I just think he looks a very well handicapped horse on the same mark as his fourth in the Cesarewitch over 2m2f in 2018.

I don't think stepping down to 1m6f will be any problem for him, though the main issue surrounding him is clearly his level of fitness, as he hasn't been seen since running over hurdles in March 2019 and has presumably had a setback or two since.

But it he is fairly straight here - and he won after a fair absence on his stable debut at Sandown in June 2018 - then I can see the 25/1 chance going really well on just his fourth outing on the level for the yard.

Again though, he is probably not one for backing ante-post, with question marks about the ground and, more pertinently, his fitness, or even whether this is an intended target.

Christopher Wood needs seven to come out to get a run but this 143-rated hurdler would certainly be another to note if he does, as he went up just 3lb for his 1m4f Pontefract win last month (off 85, a race in which the fourth has won subsequently) and he really will be suited by this extra 2f. If the rain arrives, his chances increase, too.

The horse does have two alternative engagements at Newmarket and Ascot on Saturday, though, and Megan Nicholls is already jocked up in all three races.

I will be all over wherever he runs in the coming days, but where that will be is anyone's guess. I hear Friday could be the favoured plan at the moment, but I imagine the weather will dictate the destination.

Tomfre has lots going for him in Saturday's Bunbury Cup

Anyway, on to Saturday's action, where the Group 1 July Cup takes centre stage at HQ at 15:35.

It doesn't look like my type of betting race at the moment, with precious little separating many of the 15 entries on official figures - Commonwealth Cup winner Golden Horde heads the market on the exchange and with the Betfair Sportsbook - so I will focus more on the handicaps.

The 7f Bunbury Cup (4.10pm) fits the bill and two that immediately jumped out at me (actually it was three but I can't keep on banging about Vale Of Kent, who won this race last year and comes here off the back of a near career-best at Epsom at the weekend, every week) were Tomfre and Brian Epstein.

Tomfre is the only 3yo in the line-up, which makes him an interesting proposition from the get-go, but there are several layers to his claims beyond that.

One negative is that he is taking on some hard-knocking older handicappers in a big field here, and another could be that he went up 4lb for losing last time, but the rest is all sweetness and light.

Touching upon that 4lb rise for the short-head reverse, I don't think it was necessarily that harsh.

Yes, the handicapper probably took an overly-buoyant view of that Sandown form - and the third didn't advertise it when finishing last of four on his only subsequent start, with the fifth doing little to boost it since either - but hopefully he is proved correct.

And he was probably unlucky not to win there (a comment that could apply to the fourth as well, admittedly) in a race run in a decent time, as he had to be taken back a couple of lengths around 2f out when short of room (he was travelling powerfully at the time), and he flew when finally getting daylight close home.

He is two from two on the July course, is ground-versatile - he has won on soft and good to firm, so I am hoping the weather can do what it wants - and he strikes me as the sort who could relish delayed tactics in a strongly-run race.

I was hoping Brian Epstein would side-step an engagement in a 1m handicap at York on Thursday and come here instead, as I have him down as more of a 7f performer, as he may have underlined yet again at Royal Ascot last time.

But he has been declared for York on Thursday on Tuesday morning, so my interest in him was decidedly fleeting.

The more rain the better for Sand

Sir Busker did us a favour in Brian Epstein's race at the Royal meeting, but he is possibly more of a miler and I can see him still being 10/1 on Friday, while it is odd to see Raising Sand entered up at Newmarket when there is an Ascot meeting being staged on the same day (though the only suitable race for him there was the Group 2 over a mile).

The more rain that falls between now and Saturday will obviously be in his favour - even if the forecast is half-right (20mm+ is expected by some), he should be okay - and he clearly ran a stormer when first home on the far side in the Hunt Cup. He was majorly disadvantaged by his track position there.

That was an excellent first effort of the season on good ground then, especially as it is turning out to be a very strong renewal this year, so a 1lb drop in the weights is a bonus for this 20/1 poke.

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The first two home in the Ascot race filled the top spots (in the reverse order) off higher marks at Sandown on Sunday, while the third, Pogo, bolted up in a Listed race at Windsor. And our old mate Vale Of Kent ran so well at Epsom, too, last time after his Newmarket blow-out.

Nicole Currie is already jocked up on the 8yo, and I imagine everyone will be all over him on Saturday if the current good to firm ground at Newmarket turns to good to soft (or hopefully even worse) by the weekend.

Of course, he may not be risked if it remains on the quick side, but it surely greatly helps his cause that the course put 12mm on last weekend and were still surprisingly watering on Monday given the forecast, adding a further 10mm on.

I was going to go with Tomfre at 12/1 but the 20/1 about Raising Sand, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook, has to get my ante-post betting vote.

He doesn't have the potential improvement of the 3yo, and disappointed on his only previous start here, but he is simply a very solid proposition when getting his conditions in these big 7f handicaps.

C'mon the rain.

He will be half those odds on Saturday, given a wet week. And even on good, watered ground, he should be okay (even if his odds don't change that much), so I will take my chances.

There is some good class action at Ascot too, with the Group 2 Summer Mile and some interesting and competitive handicaps.

But I will end it there. Back on Wednesday afternoon.

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