Saturday Racing Tips: A trio of selections for the return of the flat season

The Lincoln at Doncaster
Tony Calvin expects Via Via to go well in the Lincoln

Tony Calvin returns to Saturday tipping duty with a look ahead to the traditional flat season curtain-raiser at Doncaster and a decent card at Newbury...

"I can see Fire Brigade drifting from his current price of 6/1, Ryan Moore or no Ryan Moore on board, and he isn't even weighted to turn around his Silver Cambridgeshire form with Addeybb."

Cowell runners of interest in opener

Flat turf racing is back, for the time being at least, with an excellent two-day Doncaster meeting this weekend, and a very tricky 6f Listed race at 13:50, sets the ball rolling.

Lancelot Du Lac is just about favourite at around the 7/2 mark, as befits the highest-rated horse in the race and one who comes here after a recent win at Wolverhampton - indeed that handicap success off a mark of 107 was nigh on a career best - and whose Stewards' Cup win came on soft ground.

But he has only 2lb in hand of Perfect Pasture at these weights, and they are only two of five in here that like to go forward or make the running, so this could conceivably be set up for a closer.

Three of the more obvious beneficiaries if a strongly-run race does come to fruition - and that is no gimme - are Blue De Vega, Mr Lupton and Danzeno, especially as they are drawn alongside the probable pacesetters.

Danzeno often doesn't help himself at the start and Blue De Vega is the more interesting anyway. The 2016 Irish 2,000 Guineas third makes his turf debut for Robert Cowell here after two all-weather runs, and a strong pace over 6f on this ground could just see him in a very good light.

He has shortened a fair bit in the betting this week, though - he was 20/1 in a place on Monday - and, on balance, this is a race I can probably leave alone.

I was actually nearly swayed by the each-way claims of Visionary at 25/1+, too, even if he is the second lowest-rated horse in the race, and some 13lb shy of Lancelot Du Lac on official figures.

His best form has come in these conditions, namely 6f in the soft, and the Cowell stable is operating at a 29 per cent strike rate this season. A gelding operation and first-time cheek pieces could help, too, though the trainer is only two from 16 with this option since 2016.

Murphy could work magic again

The Spring Mile at 14:25, looks a ridiculously competitive race, and one chock full of unexposed horses, in many guises.

I don't know where to start, to be honest. Original Choice needed a win in Wolverhampton's Lincoln Trial in order to get into the big one, but he was withdrawn on the day with a vet's certificate. It is no surprise to see him vying for favouritism.

But the ones around him in the betting have even sexier profiles. You couldn't have a better one on a teenager's bedroom wall than a John Gosden 5yo making only his fourth start, and having his first outing since beating the subsequent 115-rated Group 2-winning Prize Money at the 2016 Guineas meeting.

Taqdeer is 8lb higher and has been gelded since we last saw him, but the layers were never going to be overly-generous with him, despite the likes of What's The Story, Kynren and Cymraeg Bounty, to name just three, in opposition.

What's The Story bolted up here over 7f in the soft last season and has had a prep, and everything about him suggests this extra furlong will suit, and who knows where the progression of Kynren will end or what improvement Olly Murphy can wrestle from Cymraeg Bounty?

Betfair Ambassador Murphy has been sensational over jumps and in this sphere, too, since taking out his licence last year, a large chunk of his MO being improving new recruits from other yards, and it will be fascinating to see what he can do with this 6yo, who was progressive for Iain Jardine (and his current owner) when we last saw him in 2016.

Murphy puts a hood on this versatile performer for the first time - he has winning form from 6f to 1m2f, including on soft - and he has only done that three times in his career to date. One obliged at 3/1, and the other two were placed at 5/1 and 11/2. The winner (Calipso Collonges) is now on a five-timer since the headgear has been applied.

But the more I looked at this race the more confused I got. I also think there is a case to be made for Sir Roderic off his falling mark after a wind op, but he is detached from the pace in the race in stall two - all the potential runners are drawn 16 and upwards - and Oisin Murphy could have his work cut out.

Cymraeg Bounty makes most appeal at around 14/1 given Murphy's midas touch, but he could run a career-best and finish sixth here. It's a gutless pass from me.

Intern could be answer to Mile puzzle

The Doncaster Mile at 15:00, has a lot less runners but is equally tricky from a betting point of view.

I am pretty confident that Zabeel Prince will end up as the best of these this season and he really was very impressive when winning at York last season and he probably found the race coming too soon for him when disappointing in the Balmoral eight days later.

He gets 3lb from the form horse Tabarrak but the Roger Varian yard has been quiet and is not firing on all cylinders just yet (0 from 10 runners this year, though six have been placed, thanks largely due to Atletico) and Zabeel Prince's price of around 15/8 is hardly bet-compelling.

If there is a bet in the race it could be Intern at around the 8/1 mark, as apparently he has been targeted at this race and 1m on soft ground on a galloping track is expected to suit last year's Sandown Classic Trial runner-up.

However, I am not going to have a bet for the sake of it.

Via Via touted to relish conditions

I am going in at least two-handed in the Lincoln at 15:35 - I am toying with a third as I write, and it really is that kind of race - and first up is Via Via at 50.049/1 or bigger.

With only nine starts under his belt, he is one of the least exposed in the line-up, and he has a lot going for him already. Initially, I nearly passed him over on account of the soft ground. His worse run came in that going, albeit on his debut over 5f, and he has been kept away from it ever since.

But connections apparently think testing conditions will suit him, and his pedigree certainly gives you encouragement. He is a half-brother to the good-ground horses Australia Day and Gwafa (though the latter won on soft) but he can number What A Charm and heavy-ground Irish Group 3 winner Marjalina among his other siblings. So, maybe these conditions will see him improve.

He certainly looks fairly handicapped on his Newmarket third to Bravo Zolo and Lord Glitters in November - he is 6lb better off for 1 1/4 lengths with the runner-up, who is a quarter of his price and hails from a stable without a winner in 2017 (0 from 73 going into Friday's racing) - and he also has winning experience over a straight track at Newcastle, as well as that run at HQ.

No doubt like many of these, he has said to have impressed in his recent work, and his trainer has his horses in good form this year. He will do for me at the price.

I can see Fire Brigade drifting from his current price of 6/1, Ryan Moore or no Ryan Moore on board, and he isn't even weighted to turn around his Silver Cambridgeshire form with Addeybb.

Addeybb is actually 2lb better off, having been Fire Brigade ½ length, in that Newmarket race and the vibes around William Haggas's horse are very positive.

I think he could go off favourite, so the current 7/1 is probably fair, and Haggas is a man to have on side in big handicaps like this. Indeed, he has won this very race a couple of times since 2007.

But I can't bring myself to put him up at the price in a field of this depth - though I honestly wouldn't put you off if you had a bet on him to at least cover your stake on others - and one of the three that I earmarked in my ante-post column on Monday us still interesting me.

Cheekpieces the difference maker for Leader

Grey Britain has actually been nibbled at during the week, as was mudlark Mitchum Swagger before the market cooled on him in the last 24 hours, but I was initially going to stay loyal to London Protocol at 75.074/1 or bigger.

He certainly lacks the obvious profile of the market leaders, or the likes of a Ballard Down or Leader Writer, but I can see him outrunning his odds for sure.

He ran well on this card last year when eighth in the Spring Mile on his reappearance, and the fact that he encounters softer ground and has had a run this time around are obvious positives.

As I said earlier in the week, two of his three career wins have come over 1m on soft ground, and at least the fruitless two runs in Dubai earlier this year have seen him dropped 1lb and hopefully put a fitness edge on him.

He does lack the scope of others in here though and could get swallowed up if attempting to make all from his midfield draw, so I finally came back to Leader Writer as my second bet in the race (mind you, I am likely to have a throwaway tenner on London Protocol at the huge price).

He is not an easy horse at the stalls it seems - he refused go in four times in France, by all accounts, and his current trainer loads him himself - but he showed at Ascot last September how talented he is when he consents to race.

He bolted up that day (in first-time cheekpieces) in a race that worked out pretty well - the fourth, Afaak, went on to split Addeybb and Fire Brigade in the Silver Cambridgeshire - and a 5lb rise didn't do justice to his dominance that day.

It is obviously a little concerning that he blew out in the Cambridgeshire afterwards, but he returned to run an eye-catching race from off the pace at Lingfield last month (he was drawn 10 of 10 and always on the back foot), without the headgear, and the return to a galloping track on soft ground will clearly suit.

The pieces are back on, he will hopefully be a lot sharper for the run - his trainer reckons he was only "85 per cent" there - and he rates my other punt in the race at 15.014/1 or better. It was annoying to see the 16/1 go early this morning but 14/1 is still very fair.

Side with Oscar Rose at Newbury

Over at Newbury, I don't have an opinion in the opening 3m2f handicap chase - though the fact that Tom Lacey has won with six of his last nine runners clearly makes Thomas Patrick interesting - and it was disappointing to see Shine Baby Shine head for Ascot on Sunday instead of the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 14:40.

In her absence, I think the favourite Oistrakh Le Noir, who was among the market leaders for the Fred Winter before narrowly missing the cut, could take a lot of beating. But the betting tells you that, and then some.

Lady Of Lamanver, demoted to second after "winning" this race two years ago, has a good chance after a decent second here in January, and Petticoat Tails is another with an obvious claim in the following mares race.

It is a devilishly competitive race, but I am going to side with Oscar Rose at 9.08/1 in the 15:15.

You can ignore her Taunton defeat at odds of 4/9 last time as her saddle slipped after the first, and Paddy Brennan performed miracles to get her so close at the line.

However, and I better be careful here, I think the jockey would have been rueing what might have been when fourth to Woolstone One at Doncaster the time before.

To be fair, the horse's laboured jumping on the inside didn't help matters one iota - and nor did being hampered by a faller early doors - but the mare finished to telling effect when switched towards the stands' side in the closing stages and may have won with another furlong to go.

We know what a good bumper horse she was, and I think a mark of 119 underestimates her ability. Her efforts at Chepstow and Ludlow earlier in the season also mark her down as well treated, too, but her winning chance rests on that eye-catching Donny run.

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