ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin Racing Tips: Saint Segal can deliver a late festive gift on Monday

Tony Calvin - Kempton
Tony Calvin is after more big priced winners on Monday

"The bare form isn't great in Grade 1 terms admittedly, especially as the runner-up was stuffed subsequently, but horses from this operation often improve massively for their initial outing."

Fresh from backing the winner of the King George at 33/1, Tony Calvin returns with a look at the action at Chepstow and Kempton on Monday, picking out three to back...

Those who schedule and work for ITV racing are no fans of spending Christmas at home it seems, as we have four consecutive days of terrestrial action from Boxing Day to the December 29, inclusive.

A bit of overkill perhaps and I don't recall it being this busy work-wise in the past - and they aren't scrimping on the number of races they are showing, either - but, in my current enforced state of sobriety, it probably suits me just fine.

It is amazing how your work ethic increases without alcohol, and hopefully a sharper clarity of thought will bring winners, too...

It would have helped further, of course, had the BHA had the common sense and foresight to declare for the 27th four days ago, as they did in Ireland, to give us sad souls looking for work on Christmas Day a head start - though that would have been too much to ask, obviously - but the fields have held up pretty much, as expected.

Shiskin versus the rest

We will start with the race many feared wouldn't materialise, that of Shishkin versus the rest in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase at 14:30.

When I say the rest, there weren't ever going to be many lining up against him, as the Grade 2m chase only attracted five at the five-day stage, but among them is the recent Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen.

So, even in receipt of 3lb, this is no cakewalk for the hugely talented Shishkin, given his well-advertised bad scopes and generally underwhelming antics at home, prior to perking up at the start of this week it seems.


This wouldn't be an easy task for him at his race-fit, peak novice form last season, so those backing him here first time up are taking plenty of chances at the price.

And the fact that Nicky Henderson had Altior beaten in this race in 2020, and even the colours of the mighty Sprinter Sacre were lowered in 2013, should perhaps exercise even more caution.

Watch the race would be my advice, and the same applies for the four-runner Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at 13:20, though perhaps Solo may just give Edwardstone more trouble than the official ratings suggest.

Coded Message looks to be the answer

Betfair Kempton.jpg

The 3m mares' handicap hurdle at 13:55, looks a very tricky affair (only 7lb separates top and bottom weights) but Coded Message looks to have a very solid chance.

Unfortunately, not a very solid each-way chance with just the seven runners on another very disappointing day numbers-wise at Kempton.

They key to solving this little puzzle will surely be the race won by Tequila Blaze by four-and-a-half lengths at Ascot, with Coded Message back in fourth, Go Mille Go fifth, Martha Brae fifth and Get The Appeal seventh of the eight.

You can make a cogent enough case for either of those coming out on top in their re-match on revised terms - Tequila Blaze, who won that in dominant fashion, is the most obvious, especially as a 5lb rise is very fair - but Coded Message arguably has the most convincing profile, especially with her trainer having won with three of his last eight runners (he has only had six this season).

I am not so sure that Mr Charlie Case (7) keeping the ride is a good or bad thing - he is nought from three on the mare - but jockeys don't bother me, and he is claiming for a reason.

He didn't appear to do anything wrong to my untrained eye last time or when third in this race last season, and he is certainly sitting on a well handicapped mare now, and one who can be expected to come on appreciably for her fourth at Ascot on her comeback.

She has never won first time out (she won on her second start in 2018) so I take a lot of encouragement from her bold showing there - she hit 3.55/2 in running, having gone off at 11.77 at BSP - and she was dropped 2lb for it, too.

She is now 2lb lower than when winning this race by 10 lengths on soft ground in 2019 so, as much as I fear Tequila Blaze, she is a bet at 5.04/1 or bigger. In fact, 7/2+ is very fair, too.

Can Real Steel it?

The other Kempton race on ITV is the 3m handicap chase at 15:10, and the out-of-form Real Steel could hold the key to this race.

Rated 166 at his peak in Ireland, he has basically shown nothing since his debut third for Paul Nicholls at Ascot in November 2020 (though he did run better than it looked last time) but he has slid down the weights faster than the fat dad at a water park ride, and now races off 145 here.

If this is the end-game of a Nicholls plot, then he will take this off a mark of just 145, especially as I don't think this £26k-to-the-winner pot will take that much winning.

But I can't tip him on the back of a guess-up, especially when he should be 80/1 on his most recent exploits and not his current price of around 8s on the exchange.

Outside of him, I struggled to get betting-excited by any of the others - well I did give a chance to five or six, chief among them the favourite and last year's runner-up Cap Du Nord, but none stood out at the prices - in truth, so I will pass.

I may have tipped Cap No Nord, unlucky enough to bump into Royale Pagaille here last season, small-stakes, each way, four places, if the initial 5s had lasted, but uncles and aunties, and all that.

Over to Chepstow then, which I will take on chronological order, starting with the 2m3f98yd handicap chase at 13:05.

They had 31mm on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so it is soft and threatening to get deeper.

Recent course winner and heavy ground scorer When You're Ready rightly heads the betting at around 3/1, and chief market rival Paint The Dream also scores well on course and going form at 11/2.

I have no objections as assessing them as the most likely winners, but I am not sure I want to be playing at the front end in this 11-runner handicap, so I will say no thanks and move on.

The 3yo hurdling division is holding out for a hero at the moment on this side of the Irish Sea and a 12-runner Grade 1 Finale Hurdle, full of unexposed, lightly-raced winners on worsening ground at 13:40, wouldn't normally be a punting port of call for me, but I will make an exception here, for all I was very impressed with the favourite Forever Blessed winning a bad race at Sandown last time.

Jane Williams' horse worth siding with

The horse in question is Saint Segal at 11.010/1 or bigger. He is also 10s on the Sportsbook if you want to bet there.

Jane and Nick Williams may be training in their own names these days but they have a similar MO when it comes to sourcing and nurturing young talent from France, and Jane's Saint Segal was pretty impressive on his racecourse bow at Bangor.

Betfair Chepstow.jpg

The bare form isn't great in Grade 1 terms admittedly, especially as the runner-up was stuffed subsequently, but horses from this operation often improve massively for their initial outing. As you would expect from National Hunt-bred horses with no Flat experience.

I remember Williams' Honneur D'Ajonc was probably about to win on his second start at Kempton on this day last year but for falling at the last (as was possibly Galice Macalo at Aintree in 2019, in fact) and I am going to back him to small stakes here.

There is nothing doing for me in the seven-runner handicap hurdle at 14:10, so on to the biggest betting race of the day, the Welsh National at 14:50.

Captain can steer home in front

I am not going around the houses mentioning every horse in here, so I am going in straight in through the front door and suggest backing Captain Drake win-only at 34.033/1 or bigger on the exchange. I think you will comfortably get 40/1+ given his profile.

I can't recall the last time I tipped a horse from 8lb out of the handicap and this is one inconsistent sort too, but hopefully a switch of headgear will rekindle his enthusiasm after a couple of modest shows this season.

Trainer Harry Fry describes him as a "little big of an enigma and he has his own ideas about the game" so I think first-time blinkers could just be the ticket.

If it is, this 2020 Midlands National runner-up certainly has the right conditions here - a trip and testing ground - and, even though he is 8lb wrong, he actually races off the same mark as when a 6-length fourth to, Secret Reprieve in this race last season (when he was tried in first-time cheekpieces, which possibly augurs well here).

Granted, Fry's record with a blinkers switch is not great - it is rare but no successful as he is 0 from 6 since 2014 - but I think he has the right recipient for him here.

It is a minimal-stakes day for me, but good luck.

Recommended bets

Tony Calvin 2021 P/L (FROM APRIL 14)

Staked: 227pts
Returns: 457.06pts
P/L: +230.06

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