Tony Calvin explains why he's adding more strings to his betting bow in the Lincoln on Saturday and selects two other bets on the Doncaster card...
"Good ground, or even quicker, is fine for Masham Star and, while he may not have the sexy profile of a horse having his first run for a new yard or a lightly-raced profile, he has a much better chance than his price suggests."
The complexion of the Lincoln changed slightly after Thursday's draw, as what little pace there is in the 22-runner 1m handicap is low, and the majority of the market-leaders are on the other side.
I suppose you could easily argue that the fact the likes of my ante-post selection South Seas being drawn right alongside the favourite Auxerre and fellow ante-post gamble Saltonstall, with Kynren nearby, is a positive for all concerned, as they will take each other into the race.
But the jockeys on all of these fancied horses will have to be mindful not to let the contest develop away from them - I can't see any guarantee pace in a double-digit stall, though Raydiance in 13 did go from the front over 7f here in September - and that is a concern.
Saltonstall looks a useful second bet in the Lincoln
I nailed my colours firmly to the South Seas mast at 16/1 each way on Monday and I am very happy with that position.
He is having his first start for the excellent Philip Kirby, who has banged in eight winners over jumps recently (though he hasn't had a winner on the Flat since December). He had a setback when his new recruit Blaklion was scratched from the Grand National on Friday morning, though.
Kirby has inherited a well-handicapped horse from Andrew Balding (was bought for 150,000gns last October) and I am not bothered about the drying ground for this former Group 1 juvenile runner-up, as one of the reasons I like him for this prize was his eye-catching run on fast ground off a 5lb higher mark than this at Sandown last July.
However, I am keen to have at least one new, second string to my bow in this race, and the obvious port of call - I still can't have the favourite, Auxerre, as a 4/1 poke in this field, unexposed or not, and I strongly suspect that I will place-lay him for a few quid - is Saltonstall at around the 10/1 mark.
The fact that his new trainer said he was "gutted" to see his stablemate Master Speaker finish a good third in the Irish Lincoln last Sunday speaks volumes about how he rates this horse's chance here. You rather get the impression he thinks Saltonstall would have dotted up there.
He is running here, instead of at Naas last weekend, because the owner is UK-based, and he looks to have very strong claims.
Connections seem concerned about the drying ground for him - and he did blow out on a quick surface when sent off at 10/1 for the Hunt Cup when with Mick Halford last season - but it surely won't be as rapid here, and he did win a decent and valuable 1m handicap at the Curragh last season (beating Master Speaker, in fact) on good.
And he is just 2lb higher here from a stable that had four winners in a week in the middle of this month (their last four runners may have been beaten, but two ran screamers in third), so this 44,000 euros acquisition at the sales in November could well pay back that purchase in one fell swoop here.
I suppose the sensible thing to do would be to have one horse running for you from either side of the draw, and Humbert, from stall five, certainly fits the bill. He's another stable-switcher to a yard with a brilliant recent record in this race. I made the case for him a fortnight ago when he was 25/1 but stupidly kept my powder dry.
He has everything you would look for in a possible winner, including good course form at this meeting - though he undoubtedly would prefer more cut - and his stable are just hitting a bit of form at the right time.
But I am content with South Seas each-way, ante-post at 16/1, and Saltonstall as a fresh, win-only, interest at 11.010/1 or bigger in the 15:35 as my plays at the top of the market.
Looking for a bigger price?
If you are looking for a bigger price, then Masham Star at 40/1 each way with the Betfair Sportsbook is the place to turn.
I was going to leave him alone from a tipping perspective, but I will be backing him and I couldn't live with myself if he won without me putting him up here. So he should be backed.
He looks set to take the field along from stall three, which will put the pressure on his 5lb claimer Andrew Breslin, who is 0 from 15 this year, though he has had some near-misses of late, to be fair.
But if he gets the fractions right, then he could lead these a merry dance for a very long way, and maybe even hold on.
The 5yo is one from two at the track, and finished off last season in rude health when winning a Group 3 in Italy by four-and-a-half lengths over 1m on heavy ground.
Now, the handicapper upped him 7lb to a career-high mark of 103 for that - and that win may have flattered him - but, against that, I thought he shaped really well when fifth off this revised level to Zwayyan on his return at Wolverhampton (he has been dropped 1lb since, but unfortunately that doesn't kick in for this early-closer).
He could never get to the lead from a wide draw there, and the leader took him very wide around the final bend, so for him to be beaten just over two lengths was a very pleasing return to action.
Good ground, or even quicker, is fine for him and, while he may not have the sexy profile of a horse having his first run for a new yard or a lightly-raced profile, or a winter in Dubai under his belt (as a couple of recent winners had), he has a much better chance than his price suggests.
He has some excellent big-field handicap form - and he ran better than it first appears when he was 12th under today's jockey in the Cambridgeshire, as he was bang in the firing line 2f out before his stamina ebbed away over 1m1f - and a top-five finish is certainly not of the equation here, for all that it appears he has little in hand of the assessor.
Mark Johnston has started the year in great form too, and is going along at a 20 per-cent strike-rate.
Come on Eirene
It's just as well that I don't fancy anything strongly enough in Kempton's three ITV races to put up a bet, as I have badly over-written already and there is plenty more to say about Doncaster.
For what it is worth, Pipes Of Peace came closest to a financial interest at around 20/1 in the 1m3f handicap, I do think Matterhorn will take a lot of beating in the Magnolia Stakes, and Moon Trouble is of obvious interest on his debut for Mick Appleby in the 6f handicap.
But let's get back to Donny, as there are more bets to be had, namely Eirene each way at 11/1 in the opener at 13:50.
She has a bit to find with one or two of these on official figures, her stable is yet to really catch fire this year (though they have had two winners in March) and she probably wouldn't want the ground to ride on the quick side.
But, against that, she will be fine on good going, she has a great course record (track form figures of 123) and there is enough pace in the race to bring out the best in this strong-traveller.
A reproduction of her narrow second to Dancing Star over 7f here last September would see her hard to kick out of the frame, while she tanked through the race before flattening out in the closing stages in the Nell Gwynn on her reappearance last season.
A strongly-run race over 6f on decent ground could turn out to be her optimum, and I want to see a ballsy, patient ride from Robert Winston and her being delivered in the last 50 yards or so.
One to nibble on
No bet for me in the Doncaster Mile, but I think Petrus looks well worth a sizeable nibble at 10.519/2 or bigger, win-only, in the Spring Mile at 14:25.
He is 10/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook at the time of writing, and an each-way bet, five places, is an equally good option if the price is still available when you read this. Unfortunately the 12/1 across the board went early on Friday afternoon.
I was nearly tempted by Al Jellaby but the selection has a very interesting profile.
Brian Meehan won this handicap in 2009 with seasonal debutant Manassas, who was having his first start after being gelded, and Petrus has also had the chop since we last saw him.
He also wears first-time cheek pieces, and Meehan is a very handy 6 from 32 when adopting this headgear strategy since 2016 (Bacchus actually represented the same owner-trainer combination when winning first-time-out in initial cheek pieces at Newbury in 2017).
If the combination of those two factors allow Petrus to return to his best then he is handicapped to win off this mark, some 2lb lower than when a length third on fast ground at Ascot in July, a race that worked out well.
The winner was second off a 5lb higher in a 17-runner York handicap next time, the runner-up beat the aforementioned Al Jellaby two starts later (was beaten a neck in between), and the fourth, fifth and sixth also obliged subsequently. A useful juvenile back in 2017, he will take all the beating on that Ascot form.
The fact that the stable is winless, and has had very few runners, in 2019 (just 13, of which only one was placed) is an obvious concern, but it's a risk I am willing to take at 12/1 given the many positives.
The final piece in the winning jigsaw could be the fact that he has potential front-runners either side of him from stall three - Sands Chorus goes forward from four, and Calvados Spirit in two occasionally forces the pace - so the race could set up very nicely for him.
This column's profit and loss total +203.4
April 14 2017 to March 29 2019 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)
Eirene at 11/1 each way in 13:50 at Doncaster
Petrus at 10.519/2 or bigger in 14:25 at Doncaster
Saltonstall at 11.010/1 or bigger in 15:35 at Doncaster
Masham Star at 40/1 each way, five places, in 15:35 at Doncaster
South Seas at 16/1 each way, ante-post, in Lincoln at 15:35