Saturday Racing Tips: Distingo the standout on stormy afternoon at Ascot

Runners clear a fence at Ascot
The grandstand at Ascot where TC will be holding tight to his drink on Saturday

Weather permitting Tony Calvin has a quartet of promising bets to recommend at Ascot on Saturday afternoon including one that could upset the favourite in the Betfair Ascot Chase...

"It won’t surprise you to hear that I won’t be tipping Cyrname at 2/5, so Riders Onthe Storm is my idea of the bet in the race at 4.216/5 or bigger."

Given the wind and rain set that will sweep the country this weekend, it is probably looking heavy odds-on that at least one of the three ITV meetings will be called off.

Ascot have already announced an 8am inspection on Saturday due to the forecast high winds and, as anybody who has been racing there will testify, 40mph+ gusts around that grandstand could make for significant wealth and safety concerns.

Your drink could blow over, for one, and that is no laughing matter at racecourse prices.

Still, we have to work on the basis of all three courses racing - however, all the ITV courses at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton are inspecting at 8am - so here goes.

Ascot RAIN.jpg

Small field Grade 1s normally make as much appeal to me as watching Sky Sports Racing and punting on early-morning racing at Angers or Fontainebleau - it almost makes me nostalgic for the 1990s trotting from Sterrebeek (one for the oldies, that) - but every so often one gets the betting juices flowing.

No, not the guff from the French provinces, but the Betfair Ascot Chase at 15:35, of course.

Let's not beat around the bush here. Four runners for a £150,000 prize the turn-out is not great in anyone's language.

And, to turn the Dublin Racing Festival argument on its head, where are the Irish this weekend?

As it is, the 149-rated Traffic Fluide is assured of £7,995 for fourth if he gets around (which is why he runs here in preference to the 3m handicap chase on the card) and Janika was a touch underwhelming in the Clarence House Stakes here last time, for all a sub-2m test in a steadily-run race was never going to see him to best effect.

It won't surprise you to hear that I won't be tipping Cyrname at 2/5, so Riders Onthe Storm is my idea of the bet in the race at 4.216/5 or bigger.

Why I'm taking on the favourite in Ascot Betfair Chase

Of course, Cyrname is unbeaten over this course and distance, and those victories include a 17-length win in this race last season and that defeat of Altior in November. If he runs up to the form of either of those performances, then he is probably a good thing and a bet at 1/5, let alone 2/5.

But I am far from convinced that he will relish ground as testing as seems likely on Saturday - the going stick reading at Ascot earlier in the week suggested it was far deeper than the official verdict of soft, and the weekend weather clearly looks pretty foul and wet - and you had to be concerned with Harry's Cobden's comments after he got off the horse after the King George second at Kempton.

"Never going from the start" was the gist of it, which is presumably why he could never get to the front and dominate from the outset, so you can't put that below-par performance solely down to the 3m trip.

Perhaps a series of three top-class performances have simply taken their toll on him - and his natural exuberance means he doesn't give himself an easy time of it - and it is possible that the defeat of Altior, in ground as testing as he ideally wants it, bottomed him.

He has had another seven weeks ago since Kempton for Paul Nicholls to freshen him up - and no-one can maintain a top-class race horse at its peak like that man - but I think he is vulnerable on Saturday, and Riders Onthe Storm has looked one impressive up-and-comer since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies this season.

He may have been racing off a mark of just 140 at Aintree but he bolted up there from two classy performers who have both landed good handicaps since, and he was just as impressive when brushing aside his rivals in heavy ground here last time.

That certainly wasn't the most solid piece of form you will see in terms of a Grade 1 prep, but he dotted up, and the way he travels through his races give you every hope he can sit handy when Cyrname presumably goes to the front and confront him up the straight, if not sooner.

We are probably on a loser if a peak-form Cyrname rocks up, but I think that is far from certain and I am paying to find out at 3/1+

Red Indian warrants small stakes bet

The ITV action at Ascot hopefully starts with a superb Reynoldstown at 13:50 in which I am firmly in the Sam Brown camp with the ground set to ride very deep.

The only problem is - and it's a pretty major one given this is a tipping column - is that his odds of around 5/2 are hardly any giveaway bargain bearing in mind he faces four pretty tasty rivals. He undoubtedly has made a big splash in his Lingfield and Haydock heavy ground wins though, and he looks a fair old tool in these conditions. It is a watch-only race, though.

Give me a handicap and it is game on, however.

Well, it wasn't immediately so in the eight-runner 3m handicap chase at 14:25, as the spectre of a non-runner looms large in these circumstances for each-way punters, though at least the four entries holding alternative engagements this weekend all have this race as their first preference.

My two, win-only, against the field are among that quartet (if you are going to bet each-way the exchange market, where original places stand, is probably the best option) and they are Red Indian and course favourite Regal Encore.

I will probably end up dutching (backing them both) the pair but for the purposes of this column I am siding with Red Indian at 6.611/2 or bigger.

I will be keeping stakes small though, as I am a touch concerned by the combination of the trip and worsening ground for him, but it's only 2m7f180yd, and not the extended 3m1f he appeared to empty out over at Haydock last time (traded at 2.02 in running).

However, it could well have been lack of peak fitness to blame there on his first start since April, and he seemed to stay 3m all right when a 14-and-a-half-length fourth in a very hot Kauto Star, so perhaps I am worried about nothing as regards stamina.

He is certainly a very well-handicapped horse on that Kempton run, and an earlier Ayr win on heavy ground, and Ben Jones taking off another 3lb is another positive.

Pair of bets for the 15:00 handicap hurdle

I stuck up Garo De Juilley win-only at 33/1 ante-post on Tuesday in the 2m3f58yd handicap hurdle at 15:00 and I am more than happy to put him again, each-way to small stakes, at that 22/1 now, especially as the Betfair Sportsbook are paying five places (against the industry standard of just three).

He was still 33/1 but the price was cut after he was nibbled at on the exchange around 1pm on Friday.

The suspicion is he would want better ground but his best run over fences this season came on heavy, and his stand-out run over hurdles - a 13-length sixth to Paisley Park in the Grade 1 Long Walk here last term - came on soft.

He was rated 140 after the latter run, and won the valuable Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October 2018 off 134, so he has to be considered a very well handicapped horse off 132 on his return to hurdles.

He is a tricky sort but Paddy Brennan tends to get a good tune out of him.

Ascot Jump 956.jpg

I didn't put up Distingo ante-post as he was jocked up at Exeter on Sunday, but I am delighted he has come here, and I going to having a fair go at him at 16/1 each way, five places.

He ran a good race at this track last season when third to Jolly's Cracked It over 2m, and the handicapper has been very generous with him for his two runs this season, dropping him 5lb.

He ran well when sixth to Mack The Man first time up at Sandown and again shaped far better than his beaten distance would suggest at the return to that track last time. In fact, I thought he was coming to win the race there between the last two (he hit 2.2 in the run).

On both occasions his finishing effort was a touch weak, so the step up to 2m3f here is perhaps not an obvious avenue to go down.

But he is a half-brother to Stayers' Hurdle runner-up Supasundae, as well as the stable's 2m4f performer Twenty Twenty (and he was second of 16 over 2m2f in France himself, where he also was a dual 1m4f winner on the Flat) and I love the re-application of the visor for the first time this term.

He won first-time-up in this headgear at Kempton back in Match 2018, when he really took off after the last, and it could just help concentrate his mind once again if and when he hopefully comes there with a winning chance up the straight.

I really like his chances at 16/1, and he would be my bet of the day.

Thoughts on Haydock

The 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur ran like a horse whose connections (who have won this race three times in recent years) were waiting for the Aintree weights to come out again when fifth in the Becher back in December, and he has been eased 1lb since, and given a full MOT, it seems.

He has had a wind op and first-time cheek pieces are tried here, so I think he would have an excellent chance in Haydock's 3m4f97yd handicap chase at 15:15 were it not for the heavy ground.

I can't back him in these conditions - again, it will be a watching brief to see if the meeting beats the weather - in which I expect even the winner to be in walking mode after the last.

Elegant Escape is another horse to have had his breathing tweaked since his slightly disappointing Welsh National sixth, and there are no problems on the trip and ground front with him.

But a mark of 162 makes life very tough for him, and I simply couldn't get a betting handle on this race, with at least four others having their charms.

It may be the biggest betting race of the day, but I won't be adding to the turnover.

Haydock stand 956.jpg

The other ITV race at Haydock is the six-runner Rendlesham Hurdle at 14:05 in which The Worlds End's chances have improved markedly following the defection of UnowhatImeanharry and L'Ami Serge at the overnight stage.

He doesn't have a straightforward task at all under his 6lb penalty in what will be bottomless conditions - though he has handled hem very well this season - but he is probably the most likely winner.

I won't be having a bet in the race, though, even if Clyne most interested me at the prices at 6/1+.

And finally, Wincanton (possibly)...

We also have Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle at 14:45 on the box, though apparently the locals aren't too confident of racing if Storm Dennis rocks up, as expected.

Indeed, the course also an 8am inspection planned because of the high winds.

There would hardly have been a bet struck on the ante-post market for this race but Fusil Raffles was the favourite earlier in the week and he is a no-show. He would have been one to take on, too.

The race still has a very trappy look it, though Ch'tibello would probably be the one I would side with if forced.

He found the race coming too soon after his excellent reappearance run when an underwhelming fifth in the Christmas Hurdle, but this is a race easily ignored for betting purposes even if the meeting gets the green light.

I hope Ascot is on, or else I will have drawn a tipping blank.

And written this for nothing.

Good luck.

Profit and Loss Total

+281.6
April 14 2017 to Feb 14 2020 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)

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