It may not be top graded action at Catterick and Leicester in front of the ITV cameras on Tuesday but there are still winners to be found, so Tony Calvin is on the case...
"I think it was mission accomplished at Donny, as he shaped quite well under a quiet ride, and I bet connections couldn't believe their luck when he was dropped 4lb for it."
To be honest with you, if this was a normal Tuesday, I wouldn't even bother to look at the racing from Catterick and Leicester.
Firstly, because I tend to take the start of the week off from a punting perspective - outside of my ante-post columns, that is - as I think it is important to give yourself some time away from gambling.
A lot of what you read about in these betting masterclasses is the bleedin' obvious but, from a general health and clear-your-mind perspective, I believe this downtime is vital.
And, secondly, because the racing is generally unappetising low-grade fare!
But, being the professional I am, I felt duly bound to look at the four races ITV has served us up from the above two tracks.
You never know, where there is muck, there is brass, and all that.
James could be Just the ticket
Let's start with Catterick then, as we have two double--digit handicaps to go at, and I am actually going to take a flier in the 3m1f handicap chase at 13:25 with the 12yo Justforjames at 21.020/1 or bigger. 16/1+ would be acceptable, too.
One look at his profile tells you he has to be a win-only bet, as his completion level leaves a lot to be desired, as does his beaten distances, in the main, when he does consent to finish.
An initial glance at his return effort at Sedgefield is hardly bet-inducing viewing as he was always in rear and was labouring when pulled up 4 out.
But, having watched the replay, I thought he actually travelled okay for much of the contest under a kind ride and I suspect the handicapper thought the same, as he only dropped him 1lb.
And this is a horse who can run like a drain on his reappearance anyway, and that was his first start since June, though to be fair he did win on his return in 2016 and his third here last November wasn't a bad effort.
Hopefully, he will strip a lot fitter here anyway and this course and distance winner is only 2lb higher than when winning at Cartmel three starts ago (under today's regular claiming pilot), so we don't have to go back too far for a performance that gives him a better chance than his current odds suggest in this very poor 0-105.
I expect soft ground looking at the forecast but he is ground-versatile and has won in heavy, so the weather can do what it wants. In fact, given his dour nature, a slog in deep ground could be the order of the day.
Going for some Natural History at Leicester
The 0-115 2m3f handicap hurdle at 14:00 holds zero betting appeal, so off we trot to Leicester.
Similar comments apply to the televised 2m4f mares' handicap chase at 14:45 but I am going to give Natural History a small-stakes spin after what I saw from him at Doncaster last time.
He was available at 15/2 when the betting opened up, but I am happy to back him at 7/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook. 6/1 and bigger is fine, too.
He may have been beaten 18 lengths that day but I got the impression that the primary task for the jockey there was to get him settled and enjoying his racing once again after a series of disappointing efforts after winning at Plumpton in March 2021, including when running a stinker when pulled up after never going a yard when a 6/4 favourite at Fontwell last month.
I think it was mission accomplished at Donny, as he shaped quite well under a quiet ride, and I bet connections couldn't believe their luck when he was dropped 4lb for it.
Now, I know this is becoming increasingly irrelevant perhaps, but this horse was rated 101 on the Flat after signing off in that sphere with a second in a heavy-ground Group 3, and he is now down to 118 over hurdles.
It gets incredibly deep on the hurdles tracks here, so he will need all his mud-loving qualities from the Flat to shine - he handles decent ground well over hurdles, and is more versatile than they once thought in that regard - and I think he is worth chancing in what is admittedly a decent six-runner handicap featuring some in-form and progressive opposition.
Quality racing but not bets at Leopardstown
ITV bring quality to the fore in four races from Leopardstown, the highlights of which are the Grade 1 action from the Christmas Hurdle and the Savills Chase.
It will be disappointing and surprising if the runaway Betfair Chase winner As Plus Tard cannot win the latter race at 14:20 but his odds-on price tells you that.
The Chriistmas Hurdle at 13:45is a fair bit trickier and I couldn't see an obvious angle into it, looking at the prices. It didn't help that I could easily envisage five of six of the 11-strong field winning it.
One thing I do know what to do when betting is cutting and running when the facts dictate, and they say there is not a hope in hell in me having a bet in this race, so I can hardly tip.
So just the two small-stakes bets in England in a column about half of its' usual size. No excuses there though, given the nature of the races.
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