Tony Calvin provides his best bets for the Greatwood Hurdle on the final day of the Cheltenham November Meeting as well as a selection for the Southern National...
"The booking of 5lb claimer Bryony Frost, who rode a brilliant race to win the Badger Ales on Present Man, is a big plus, too, and the former winner of this race looks well overpriced at 20/1+."
Tony Calvin on Old Guard
There would have been a few groans when punters woke up to the news on Saturday morning that there was a non-runner in the 16-runner Greatwood Hurdle at 15:00, as the standard each-way terms with the traditional fixed-odds bookmakers now shrink to just three places.
However, the Betfair Sportsbook were offering an enhanced five places anyway, and they are sticking with that offer, which is very generous (however, check that is still the case before betting if there are more non-runners in the interim), so look to take advantage there.
Luckily, for Exchange players, "their" market was already up and running before the withdrawal, which means that four places remain on offer in the standard market but with a suitable reduction factor attached, so bear that in mind when backing and laying.
Elgin can go well after Ascot success
I thought the Greatwood was a pretty difficult puzzle to try and unlock but I landed on Elgin, who rates an each-way bet at 12/1 with the Sportsbook and/or [13.5] or bigger win-only on the Exchange.
Connections were apparently undecided about running the horse earlier in the week, presumably with his disappointing effort in the Supreme here fresh in their minds.
But I think they have made the right decision to give him the go-ahead because I thought he built appreciably upon his reappearance fourth to Misterton at Chepstow when winning at Ascot last time.
He showed a really good attitude to get into contention up the inner on the bend there and he was well on top at the line. A 5lb rise looks bridgeable to me, and don't forget what a good novice he was last season, with a win over Mohaayed in the Dovecote and a second to Neon Wolf in a Grade 2 at Haydock.
The "wild card" of the race is Jenkins, who could well prove to be very well handicapped off 137 if returning to the form of his Newbury defeat of Bags Groove, Captain Forez and Pingshou last November. He was a smart bumper horse, too. But, as his price suggests, he has a bit of a reputation, too.
Whether that is justified, we will soon see - and the trainer reckons he has ironed out a "few issues" - but the fact of the matter is, that since Newbury, he has blown out behind Elgin at Kempton, was very unimpressive in a Ffos Las win (where his jockey reported a breathing problem, though the horse has apparently not had a wind op since) and he failed to show up in the race my selection won at Ascot earlier in the month.
He may well win but I can't have him at the price.
Old Guard could take another Greatwood
I can see the Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger going well back at this course - he is a fair price at 16/1 - and I have a lot of time for the Paul Nicholls' pair, too, and Old Guard gets my second selection at 20/1 each-way, five places, and/or [25.0] or bigger on the Exchange.
He is only 4lb higher than when beating Superb Story in this race two years ago, form that worked out really well, and he has returned to form this autumn after apparently having his wind done in the summer.
He finished a promising seventh in a strong Silver Trophy on his return, and that form is working out very well - dual subsequent winner Bags Groove was a place behind him there - and then he beat his stablemate San Benedeto (who went on to finish second in the Haldon Gold Cup) at Kempton last time.
The booking of 5lb claimer Bryony Frost, who rode a brilliant race to win the Badger Ales on Present Man and again on Black Corton on Saturday, is a big plus, too, and the former winner of this race looks well overpriced at 20/1+.
Fergal has ideal profile for Southern National
I don't fancy anything else at Cheltenham - though I nearly took punting aim at Sir Valentino in the two-miler - but Fontwell's Southern National is also on ITV4 at 14:05, and I am struggling to see past - as well as spell - Fergal Mael Duin. He rates a bet at [6.0] or bigger.
In short, he has a near-perfect profile for the race.
He is two from three at the track, and the one defeat came when he finished second in this race last season off a 4lb higher mark. He hasn't shone since, but he has come down 8lb in the weights as a result, and he won first time out last season under today's jockey. I imagine he has been targeted at this race again, and he is a very solid 5/1 chance.
Back Elgin each-way, five places, at 12/1 Betfair Sportsbook and/or [13.5] or bigger on the Exchange in the 15:00 Cheltenham
Back Old Guard each-way, five places, at 20/1 Betfair Sportsbook and/or [25.0] or bigger on the Exchange in the 15:00 Cheltenham
Back Fergal Mael Duin at [6.0] or bigger in 14:05 at Fontwell