Saturday Racing Tips: Five cool bets for a hot afternoon

Ascot Racecourse
Tony Calvin has four bets at Ascot on Saturday afternoon

It's a fairly quiet Saturday afternoon on the punting front for Tony Calvin, but our man still manages to select five bets from the televised cards at Ascot and York...

"I am going in two-handed in the 1m handicap at 14:25. Escalator should be the clear favourite and I think the 11/2, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook rates an each-way punt."

Quite a few horses that I fancied fell by the wayside at the overnight stage on Thursday morning, and we are also on "thunderstorm alert" at Ascot and York, - though they didn't materialise when local flood warnings were in place on the week of the Derby meeting last month - so I am definitely not going overboard on the punting front this weekend.

There is a certain Glorious Goodwood around the corner, too - sorry, we don't call it glorious any more, do we - so I am sure I can handle a lightweight betting Saturday.

Cracksman's woes leave King George looking wide open

We may as well kick off with the main race, the King George at 15:40, which is a bit of a head-scratcher on many levels.

I have already done money on the race, as I backed no-show Cliffs Of Moher ante-post, and he is an absentee along with stablemates Kew Gardens and Nelson - the former is under the weather and the latter was one of the pace angles in the race - and Group 1 performers Bateel and Waldgeist.

The positive for Ascot and the sponsors is that Cracksman has been left in the race - for now, at least.

Connections will be on weather watch for him, as they believe he wants a bit of ease of the ground, or good at a minimum, to be seen at his best.

And his best, namely a 7-length defeat of Poet's Word in the Champion Stakes over 1m2f in soft here in October, would be enough to take care of these.

I'm no expert on these things but Ascot reported a going stick reading of 7.2 on the round course on Friday morning (the straight course is much quicker), suggesting it has already seen a fair bit of watering, so that would have encouraged John Gosden.

The problem is that, going aside, the horse was very laboured in beating Salouen in the Coronation Cup and apparently got a bit "colty" and amorous before his second to Poet's Word in the Prince of Wales's last time.

That Ascot second was not a bad effort by any means - they pulled a street clear of Hawkbill and Cliffs Of Moher, who both ran well in the Eclipse - but he wasn't at his peak.

And this gives hope to the rest, most notably the Sir Michael Stoute pair of Crystal Ocean and Poet's Word, who are the most obvious beneficiaries if the Gosden colt doesn't rock up in the same form as Ascot last autumn, or indeed the Ganay on his return. Or rock up at all, given the rain is looking increasingly unlikely as I write.

And the "will he, won't he" run also kills each-way betting on the race for now, as there are only eight runners at present.

In addition to Cliffs Of Moher, I also punted, to a lesser degree, Salouen each-way at 33/1 in the ante-post market, but I am not expecting a return on that investment now, to be honest. He could get the run of the race from the front, though, now that Nelson isn't in here.

Coronet looks solid, Hydrangea is unexposed at the trip and would love any rain, while Ryan Moore believes Irish Derby runner-up Rostropovich, the only 3yo in the field, is overpriced at 25/1. He is the other possible pace angle in the race.

But, at this stage, I am happy to sit the big one out. It is hard enough trying to predict what will go off favourite, let alone win.

The 13:50 is up for grabs too

The opening 2yo race at 13:50 is just as difficult to get a handle on, though I often feel that way about juvenile races that are full of unknowns.

Angel's Hideaway sets the form standard but her six rivals are all queuing up to progress past her, and the betting suggests that runaway Newmarket Listed race winner Royal Intervention could be the best among them.

But Scintillating looked very good on her Newbury defeat, Aquarius beat a subsequent winner on her debut, Nicki's Angel and Chapelli will be well suited by this extra furlong and the outsider, The Mackem Bullet, is no forlorn hope.

Indeed, the 25/1 that the Betfair Sportsbook put up on Thursday afternoon was taken and you can see why. She may be rated only 82, but she was very impressive at Carlisle and the 5-length runner-up won well at Epsom next time.

But I can leave the opening race alone.

Two bets for the 14:25 at Ascot

I am going in two-handed in the 1m handicap at 14:25. Escalator should be the clear favourite and I think the 11/2, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook rates an each-way punt.

His trainer Charlie Fellowes is just back from his honeymoon, and his progressive 3yo could well give him a nice return present.

He has gone up 16lb for his two recent successes, and 10lb for his latest win at Newmarket, but the runner-up bolted by six lengths at Sandown on Thursday and Fellowes have a big improver on his hands.

My other bet in the race is Simply Breathless at 21.020/1 or bigger on the exchange.

She doesn't look a straightforward ride. She hung left to the far rail when spread-eagling her field at Newmarket on her penultimate start. And she again looked a bit tricky when third over course and distance, albeit on the round course, here last time, when a wide run throughout didn't aid her cause.

I think you can mark her performance up there - he did go up 1lb for it, too, though it looked quite a strong handicap (the fifth, George, won well at Chelmsford this week) - and maybe Gerald Mosse will come to the stands' rail from the widest draw in 15. This armchair jockey would, anyway.

Firmament is worth chancing in the 15:00

Quite a few in the Gigaset at 15:00 would like some rain. Flaming Spear, Makzeem, Burnt Sugar, and Shady McCoy ideally prefer a bit of ease, and so does the horse that most interests me.

That horse is Firmament at 16.015/1 or bigger.

It is probably no surprise at all that the horses I mentioned above (bar Hunt Cup fifth Flaming Spear) all ran well in the Bunbury Cup last time, as they heavily-watered at Newmarket.

And unless that rain does materialise, or Ascot put buckets on, then I imagine one or two may not turn up.

Firmament will be hoping the taps come on with a vengeance if nature doesn't intervene in this dry spell. He has some excellent efforts on fast ground, including a valuable York success and an excellent course-and-distance second to Dutch Law here, but his overall record suggests rattling-quick is not his preferred surface.

But he is so well handicapped now, some 10lb lower than when fifth in this race last season (he has a lot of good Ascot form), that he has to be worth chancing now after his good run in the Bunbury Cup.

The first-time cheekpieces is an interesting angle with him, too - although some may see it as a desperate measure for the 6yo - and the trainer is a better-than-average 4 from 24 with this option since 2016.

There are clearly plenty to fear here, perhaps chief among them Flaming Spear and Rip Orff, but I have to have Shady McCoy on my side, too.

We were with him at a big price when he ran a blinder against a draw bias in the Bunbury Cup last time, and that tells you he is ready to strike.

This course-and-distance is 2lb well-in here, and Silvestre De Sousa gets on him for just the second time here. He should be backed at 13.5 or bigger, and the Sportsbook's 12/1, five places, is fair enough if you want an each-way punt in this 29-runner handicap.

Growl has the talent to shine

I would have been very willing to punt Get Knotted at around 3/1 in the opener at York at 14:05, were it not for the menacing presence of Culturati.

Cultarati is clearly a very good horse on his day but fragile to judge from his profile, and he is a live danger to Get Knotted, who the handicapper has treated very kindly this season as the horse goes for a hat-trick in this race.

It is a race I can leave alone - Arcanada has course form figures of 412 and he could prove dangerous off the front if burning off his two pace rivals early doors - and the same applies to the Group 2 York Stakes at 15:15, where Elarqam stands out on his Guineas fourth.

But he has to put a poor Curragh run behind him, and prove his stamina, and this looks a trappy race at the available prices. There could well be an upset, but I can't see an angle into the contest.

A few that I was interested in the Dash at 14:40 were taken out on Thursday.

However, in their absence, Growl is worth a few quid at 10.09/1 or bigger.

The handicapper has done him a real favour dropping him 3lb for his midfield run in the Wokingham last time - he ran better than his final placing suggested there - and he is now a whopping 10lb lower than when fourth in the Stewards Cup in the soft last August.

His course form is a worry but is this ground-versatile can build upon that Ascot run last time then he clearly has the talent to shine off this mark. It doesn't look the strongest of renewals to me.

Good luck.

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