Tony Calvin discusses Saturday's ITV racing action, reemphasising the case for his ante-post pick in the John Smith's Cup at York as well as adding a saver and a bet for a later race...
"Baltic Baron lacks the scope of the market leaders - and he is vulnerable to a real live one, so I want to back him win and place - but he is on a very fair mark and hopefully the longer trip will see him step forward."
There is little doubt in my mind that this year's renewal of the John Smith's Cup at York on Saturday promises to be well above average - a few lurking around the 100-mark, such as Solid Stone and Harrovian, could well turn out to be Group-class performers - and I am hoping that my 12-1 ante-post recommendation Great Example is the horse most ahead of the handicapper.
The case for the horse remains the same as it was on Tuesday but I will re-state it here, with a fresh thought attached.
Delightful draw makes Great Example even more appealing
Since Great Example was stepped back down to 1m2f, he has confirmed himself as one progressive performer.
He was very impressive when beating a dual subsequent scorer easily by two-and-a-half lengths at Nottingham last July, and he shaped like the best horse in defeat in his two subsequent outings.
He twice showed a telling turn of foot to seemingly put those races to bed - and traded [1.22] and [1.01] in running in the process - before getting overhauled late on.
As the [1.01] gubbing suggests, his latest Newbury half-length second to Caradoc on fast ground was the most striking example (and I can't have the winner confirming the form on 1lb worse terms, for all his recent Epsom run was full of promise), as he really took off on the rail at the 2f pole, taking three lengths out of his field, before getting nailed just before the line.
I think he was comfortably the best horse in that race, so a 4lb rise doesn't concern me.
His trainer wasn't overly-effusive about his chances when asked earlier in the week - he was happy enough with him but said he is no morning glory - but given his occasional waywardness last season (he can hang, and look an awkward ride) I am taking it as a positive that they haven't gelded him since Newbury (the Godolphin operation are not slow to cut).
I am hoping that indicates they believe they could have a good one on their hands after just seven outings (and he has a very likeable pedigree, too), and of course Cieren Fallon's 3lb claim is effectively a 3lb bonus.
Expect the Group 1-winning claimer to be delivering Great Example much later than his jockeys did last year, and hopefully on the far rail, too, in case he needs straightening up.
To that cause, I am delighted with his draw in six, the stall that last year's winner, Pivoine, came out of. Hopefully, Fallon can replicate that ride, and sit handy on the inner just off the pace, and make his winning run on the outside, close to home.
If you haven't already played, then he remains my number one selection for the race, and I was tempted to leave it there, as you can make a case for bundles in here.
Saver with good course form
But the more I looked for a saver, the more I eschewed the claims of the sexier merchants and focused on the claims of the frustrating and inconsistent Baltic Baron, who has not won in 10 starts for present connections (in fact, he has only won once in 20).
He blew out in the Cambridgeshire and occasionally travels less than kindly in the rear for his riders, but maybe the step up to 1m2f (the furthest he has gone before resulted in a Listed race second over 1m1f110yd for Andre Fabre, with the winner going on to take another three races in that grade) will suit.
The 1m2f trip certainly should on pedigree, as he is out of a 1m6f winner and is a half-brother to a whole host of middle-distance winners.
And he has often shaped that way on run-style over 1m too, notably when fifth at Goodwood last season (met trouble in running, as well) and when a strong-finishing fifth in a Hunt Cup last time out.
That Ascot form is working out very nicely, and he did come home well from the rear to be nearest at the finish that day, and a subsequent 1lb drop in the weights is an unexpected, if minor, plus. And he has good course form, off a higher mark than this, too.
He clearly lacks the scope of the market leaders - and he is vulnerable to a real live one, so I want to back him win and place - but he is on a very fair mark and hopefully the longer trip will see him step forward.
Angus Villiers may not have progressed as many thought he would after being lauded by one and all last season, but he remains fair value for that lingering 5lb claim, for all he could have his work out cut from stall three given the horse can start slowly and take some stoking up early.
To that end, the re-fitting of the visor - which Baltic Baron wore when finishing that good fifth at Goodwood (though this is the first time the tongue tie-visor combo has been tried) - could help concentrate his mind better than the cheekpieces he sported at Ascot.
Back him at 16/1 each way, five places.
Those who read my ante-post piece on Tuesday will not be in the slightest bit surprised to see the 1m5f188yd Group 3 race at 13:55 cut up from just 11 entries to five runners.
Indeed, if the ground remains on the quick side - and I really hope York do not water - then Ranch Hand may also be withdrawn, even if the fifth horse home is guaranteed £1,076.
The form horses Communique and Moonlight Spirit (both available at 6/1 on Tuesday if you successfully shopped around) both like to go on, so this could be an interesting race tactically. It could be that unproven stayer Communique will want to set his own steady pace, but I doubt that William Buick will be having any of that on the Godolphin horse.
The obvious big potential improver past them is recent Newmarket 1m4f winner Universal Order, but he is a tricky sort who has not excelled in both starts over his trip.
You can't rule the other pair out - particularly last year's King Edward VII third Eagles By Day, having his first start for David O'Meara - so, in short, this is a no-bet race all over.
The 5f Listed race at 15:05 did not look my cup of tea on first viewing either - these point-and-shoot jobbers rarely do - but I had a good look all the same.
There are a few solid-as-you-like sprinters in here, such as El Astronaute and Major Jumbo, and improvers like Que Amoro, but this race could revolve around how straight the 9yo Alpha Delphini is for his return.
The 2018 Nunthorpe winner hasn't been seen since chasing home Battaash in the Temple Stakes last May, and that is why the clear form choice is available at such a big price here - one firm made him a whopping 11/1 on Thursday - but I wouldn't be in a rush to lay him at anywhere near those odds, especially as his record when fresh isn't that shoddy.
However, it is not a race that gets me going, all things considered.
Elector gets my vote in the 15:40
Elector really caught my eye on his first start for O'Meara over 1m2f at Doncaster last month - he wasn't given at all a hard time after travelling kindly for the first mile or so - so I was initially disappointed that connections didn't keep him at that trip, instead of targeting this 1m4f handicap at 15:40 as I think a strongly-run 1m2f handicap would be ideal for him.
But a look at his record suggests it is far too early to have him down as a weak finisher over this trip.
Indeed, you could argue that his best effort actually came over 1m4f when he was beaten just six lengths in the 2018 King Edward VII Stakes - and he got hampered close home there too - and he stuck on well enough when third over 1m3f at Kempton later that year, those two starts being the furthest he has raced over to dare.
A 70,000gns purchase out of Sir Michael Stoute's stable in October, he is very fairly handicapped if fully seeing out this trip - indeed, he is back on the same mark as when beating Jazeel over 1m1f on fast ground at Newmarket last May - and he didn't run badly when third to two well-handicapped horses in Wissahickon (racing off just 94) and Berenger here back in 2018.
Back him win-only at [10.0] or bigger on the Exchange, as I am worried about the trip.
Before I move over to the other ITV meeting at Newbury, I will put in a good word for a couple of headgear stats, starting with Clareyblue in the 12:45.
His trainer Martyn Meade is six rom 21 since 2015 when using first-time blinkers (Advertise being the most high profile winner), and the horse certainly looked like he needed them at Windsor last time.
And in the last at 16:10, Jennie Candlish puts first-time cheek pieces on Glenamoy Lad. He is well handicapped on his summer 2019 form and the trainer is five from 24 since 2016 when going with the sheep skin.
Make of those what you will.
Thoughts on four races at Newbury
The four ITV races at Newbury didn't look much cop from a betting point of view at the five-day stage, and they have lessened in appeal since.
The market is predictably all over Meade's Method in the 6f Listed race at 14:15, as not only has the form of his Doncaster win taken a big boost (the runner-up was a close second in a Group 2 at Newmarket last week) but that impressive win came in a good time, too.
But backing short-priced juveniles is not my bag at all, and it is incredibly easy to walk away from even-money chances like this.
Next up is a disappointing turn out of six for a 25k 1m fillies' handicap at 14:50. My interest in the race was ended when I saw Sandringham sixth Huboor was put in at the 7/2 mark, though I suppose I was being optimistic in hoping for much more.
Vivid Diamond put in a below-par effort at Newmarket on her reappearance, but it wouldn't be the greatest surprise were she to bounce back and win the 1m4f Listed fillies' race at 15:25.
Despite the handicapper hastily dropping her 2lb for that run, she is still the highest rated in here, with the best speed figure, and she is definitely the one to beat on her Park Hill third last year. And odds of around 7/1 are fair.
However, this is a trappy little race, with some less exposed fillies in opposition, and I never feel inclined to force a bet.
The Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at 16:00 is not much easier to solve either.
The 3yo Repartee was always going to be popular with the layers - more so than his bare form would suggest - against old stagers like The Tin Man, winner of this race in 2016, but maybe we are all ignoring the obvious with James Fanshawe's 8yo.
He did disappoint when a 6/4 chance in this contest last year, but he shaped okay on his return in the Diamond Jubilee and he is a three-time Group 1 winner, after all. And he doesn't need to come on that much from his Royal Ascot run to be right in the mix here.
There is enough pace for this closer to aim at too, but I just worry whether he will have the zip at the business end, and I ended up being equally drawn to Keystroke (who finished third in this race last year and has first-time pieces) at 20/1+ on the exchange.
So I will just stick with the ante-post play, and the two fresh York bets. Here is hoping O'Meara has a good day there.
Oh, I should mention we have Classic action with the Irish Oaks at the Curragh, where I would favour Cayenne Pepper over Ennistymon at the head of the market, but I won't be having a bet myself, as it stands.
Profit and Loss
June 1-July 8 2010 Inclusive: +28.13
Previous P/L: +303.4
April 14 2017 to March 15 2020 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)
Baltic Baron at 16/1 each way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:30 at York
Elector at [10.0] or bigger in 15:40 at York
ALREADY ADVISED ANTE-POST
Great Example at 12/1 win-only in 14:30 at York