Tony Calvin returns with a look at the ITV cards at Kempton and Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, and picks out five to back...
"The Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at 14:25 looks wide-open... Having a strong betting opinion is difficult in these circumstances... but I am tempted by Petit Palais at double-figure odds."
I mentioned in my ante-post column earlier in the week how much I associated Saturday's Kempton meeting with the old Racing Post Chase in the 80s and 90s - it was always a great works day-out - and, while new sponsors have come and gone, the 3m handicap chase at 15:35 remains a valuable pot to land.
Can't ignore red hot Nicholls form
It was disappointing to see the 16 five-day entries reduce to just 10 runners on Thursday morning - the first prize is only a bullseye shy of £57,000 - though the race still has a competitive air about it.
I did consider the outsider Walt, but the form of the Neil Mulholland yard is a fair worry for me, which is something that isn't any concern for the horse I like.
I am always loathe to play at the top of the market but, in the final analysis, Paul Nicholls' Adrien Du Pont (who runs in the colours of last weekend's runaway Betfair Ascot Chase winner Cyrname) looks to have a favourite's chance to these eyes and he should be backed at [7.0] or bigger.
For all that you have to respect Glen Rocco, and Double Shuffle has dropped to a very exploitable mark, I kept on coming back to Adrien Du Pont, and not just because of the form of the Nicholls yard.
Basically, the selection looks to have improved markedly for a combination of 3m and decent ground, and there could well be plenty more to come.
He was a 147-rated hurdler at his best and mixed it in good novice chase company last season, but the first indication that 3m could well be his bag came at Ascot in November.
He was beaten just over six lengths on his first venture over 3m that day, but he actually shaped a fair bit better than the bare form indicates.
He was only three lengths off the leader when he lost his back legs on landing over the last, and he stayed on really well when getting re-organised.
A step down in trip on soft ground didn't suit at Newbury next time but the strong-travelling swagger was back over course and distance in December.
He has gone up 7lb to 151 for that success, but he beat the hat-trick-seeking Just A Sting there, with similarly in-form horses in third and fourth, so I am pretty confident he can defy the rise now his best trip has been established.
This race was immediately name-checked after that win in December, and hopefully the short-term plan will come to fruition. A possible lack of pace in here is a concern - Didero Vallis and Walt may go forward - but I can live with that.
Tom George's Double Shuffle has dropped to a dangerous-looking 154 - the stable's Nacarat won this race off that mark in 2012 - and he is clearly weighted to go one better (or go very close to doing so) than his second in this contest in 2017 if reproducing his King George best on a track he loves.
The ground and drop in class will suit, and the stable is also in fair form, and he is the one I fear most at the prices.
Petit Palais tempting in the Juvenile Hurdle
There is another disappointing turn-out, numbers-wise, for a novices' chase at 13:50, and as a result the four-runner Grade 2 Pendil makes for precious little interest. At least for this betting-driven soul.
The Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at 14:25 looks a wide-open affair with so many unexposed types in opposition - and Nicholls introduces two decent, and likely, sorts from the Flat in Ecco and Red Force One (the stable have won this race a few times in recent years, including with newcomers Zubayr and subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar) - and it is little surprise that it is 5/1 the field in places.
Having a strong betting opinion is difficult in these circumstances - there are just too many unknowns - but I am tempted by Petit Palais at double-figure odds.
He was rated 84 on the Flat after just three starts for John Gosden, after which this half-brother to Guineas winner Galileo Gold was snapped up - bargains are always snapped up - for just 26,000gns at the sales in October.
He certainly looked to have some engine when winning well in a fair time on his debut at Ludlow, and the form appears to have substance too, as he beat a horse who was rated 136 by the UK handicapper after coming over from France, and the third, Scaramanga, was just nipped (yes, I know, I am juvenile) on the line at Taunton earlier in the week.
I was going to give the race a miss because Petit Palais' jumping was far from fluent at Ludlow, and a similar display could cost him dear in this more intense environment, but I am sure the in-form George, who won this race with Baby Mix in 2012, would have been working on this area at home since. Or I hope he has.
Back him to small stakes, win-only, at [11.0] or bigger.
Rouge Vif can paint the town red
If you listen to what his trainer has been saying - I swear I saw an interview where he compared him to an early Altior - then Angels Breath will go down to the start and come back at least six lengths clear in the Dovecote at 15:00.
He undeniably looked some tool at Ascot in December and was said to be "electric" in his schooling earlier in the week, but the fact remains that he only jumped four hurdles on his debut and has to give 5lb away to some decidedly useful rivals, four of which are ranged between the 136 and 142 ratings bracket.
Angels Breath, third favourite for the Supreme, surely has a bigger job on here than quotes of around even money suggest, and I have to recommend another modest wager on Rouge Vif at [13.0] or bigger.
He would have very little chance if he turns in a performance similar to the one that he did when winning at Newcastle last time, albeit under a 7lb penalty - it looked as if something was ailing him there, maybe it was the soft ground - but his earlier second over course-and-distance gives him leading form claims.
A two-and-three-quarter-length second to Mister Fisher, giving the winner 5lb, was an effort that earned him an official rating of 142 and the first and third are very smart sorts who won their next starts.
If he bounces back to that level on better ground here, then this front-runner could take some reeling back, though admittedly there are a couple of pace rivals in here. He is worth an interest at 12/1+.
Two big priced ones to back at Newcastle
A healthy 16 runners line up for Newcastle's Eider Chase at 14:40 and all the fancy prices have been taken about Vicente during the week. He was 14/1 in a place on Monday but is now the 6/1 favourite.
That window of opportunity has closed then, and I am going to take a betting interest in the other two horses that I mentioned in my ante-post column on Tuesday.
Back Mysteree at [26.0] and Raz De Maree at [36.0]. Or bigger obviously.
Clearly both would prefer softer ground and are getting on a bit, hence their prices, but at least Newcastle had some unexpected rain earlier in the week and it is currently good to soft (soft in places) there. It will be drying out from hereon in, though.
To put it simply, the reason why I am chancing Mysteree is because of his record in this race, most obviously - he won it in 2017, having finished fourth the previous season, as well as obliging in his only other start at the track - and a rapidly-falling handicap mark.
He is back to the same mark as when winning this race by four lengths two seasons ago, having been dropped a hefty 6lb in one hit after his ninth in the Welsh National last time, and hopefully the first-time blinkers replacing the cheekpieces will see him buck his ideas up, too.
He may have gone at the game at the age of 11, but two of Michael Scudamore's 11 winners this season have come in the last six days, so I am content to have a pop at the price.
Raz De Maree isn't so obviously well-weighted, as he is 5lb lower in Ireland, but he is still on the same mark as when winning the Welsh National last year and Conor Orr takes 5lb off.
He is no spring chicken at 14yo but he ran okay when fifth in that race at Chepstow last time, and he also has a Midlands Grand National second on his CV, so this 4m122yd will be right up his strasse.
Clearly age, and maybe ground - though he won a Cork National on good in 2016 - are against him, but his price underestimates his form claims. Again, I am happy to chance him at the price (he was also 33/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook at the time of writing).
A word about Lingfield...
There are two races from Lingfield on the ITV coverage, but unfortunately the channel have been rewarded with a seven-runner race featuring a heavy odds-on favourite in the Winter Derby at 15:15.
That wouldn't be many people's idea of an ideal market, particularly as the wildly-impressive Cambridgeshire winner Wissahickon looks a class apart and is actually 3lb better off with main market rival Big Country after easing past him by half-a-length over course and distance last time.
The favourite will have to seriously underperform not to continue his winning run here - Big Country is probably the most likely beneficiary if he does - but clearly we can't go anywhere near him at the price.
The 5f Listed race at 14:05 has just the six runners and I've no argument with Encore D'Or heading the market at around the 5/2 mark. It's another "no bet" race, I am afraid.
Tony Calvin P&L
April 14 2017 to 16 Feb 2019 inclusive (all recommended Exchange bets are settled at BSP)
Back Petit Palais at [11.0] or bigger in 14:25 at Kempton
Back Mysteree at [26.0] or bigger and Raz De Maree at [36.0] or bigger in 14:40 at Newcastle
Back Rouge Vif at [13.0] or bigger in 15:00 at Kempton
Back Adrien Du Pont at [7.0] or bigger in 15:35 at Kempton