ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Boxing Day Racing Tips: Tony Calvin has 12/1 and 13/2 bets on King George day

Betfair Tipster Tony Calvin
Tony has two tips for Boxing Day's ITV Racing action

The ITV Christmas Racing continues at Kempton, Aintree and Wetherby on Boxing Day, and our resident tipster Tony Calvin takes a look at all the contests and has two selections to consider...


Kempton - 14:30: No Bet

After some recent unedifying spectacles in what suspiciously looked like unraceable conditions, it is going to be a pleasure to watch top-class chasers going at it on near-good ground in the King George at 14:30 on Boxing Day.

The ground is currently good to soft, good in places at Kempton, and only around 3mm or so is now currently forecast up to race-time.

The Real Whacker may have preferred softer ground - and of course Gerri Colombe has stayed at home due to the going, while we also lost the Betfair Chase winner Royale Pagaille with a foot problem on Friday - but racing is at his best visually when horses are racing at speed and not clambering over fences in slow motion.

Those sights are thankfully reserved for Chepstow on the 27th.

Given his relatively sparce racing profile and recent problems (he missed Cheltenham after suffering an abdominal bleed in February) Allaho was a dangerous ante-post project, but the money came for once he was confirmed for the race and he now trades at 6/42.50 with the Sportsbook, with Bravemansgame at 2/13.00.

Bravemansgame was the very marginal favourite when the ante-post market was suspended on Saturday morning, though.

Allaho 1280.jpg

There is no doubt in my mind (well, a little) that Allaho is the most talented chaser in training (including his stablemate, the aforementioned Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs) when at his peak and his runaway wins in the 2021 and 2022 Ryanair were the best chasing displays at the Cheltenham Festival in those years.

His Punchestown Gold Cup win over 3m on good to soft ground in April 2022 was arguably even better.

He return from a 561-day absence to win the Clonmel Oil Chase last month was not universally applauded but if he rocks up here at his best then I think he will take all the beating.

However, he doesn't have to be that far off it, on an alien course, for you to make a cogent case for four of his five rivals (sorry, 2020 winner Frodon) and I'll let him go unbacked and untipped at his current odds.

When I had my ante-post look at this race on Wednesday - you can read it here - I was very much in the Allaho camp as the most likely winner and Hewick as the most lively outsider at 20s and bigger on the exchange.

As I said on Wednesday, Hewick is another horse for whom the better the ground the better his chance, and he certainly has a form squeak, one bizarrely that is based on non-finishing efforts in the Gold Cup (fell 2 out on what was probably softer ground than ideal) and off a mark of 163 in the Kerry National (trading at odds-on when unseating at the last).

We haven't seen him since an underwhelming run in the Galway Plate in August, and trainer Shark Hanlon is generally having a jumps season to forget with 10 winners from 243 runners at a strike rate of four per cent. He is only 1 from 53 on the Flat, too.

A further slight worry is the potential pace in the race (which is considerable, even with Royale Pagaille out) may not allow him to get anywhere near the lead - he likes to race prominently, if not head the field - and the speed here may take him out of his comfort zone on his first start since August.

In short, I can see him finishing in the first three, but can I see all of the top guns in the market underperforming to such an extent that he wins?

I have no problem backing horses that I don't necessarily think will win as long as the odds compensate for the doubts - as the price is everything - and I have to say the Sportsbook's opening 18/119.00 gave me food for thought.

Apparently, his absence since Galway in the summer is by design but it would be one hell of a training performance by Big Ginge to cop this after such a break , especially as the horse also doesn't have a very good record this fresh.

I was tempted but Hewick was trimmed from 18s to 16s with the Sportsbook on Saturday morning. and I will sit this one out.

Kempton - 13:55: No Bet

I know the Christmas Hurdle at 13:55 has never been the strongest Grade 1 but it really is a crying shame that no hurdler even rated 150 is taking Constitution Hill on.

At least all six entries confirmed at the overnight stage, though whether Nemean Lion turns out again after his planned run at Ascot on Saturday must be open to doubt.

Mind you, there is £1,742 on offer for sixth so they may decide to come here for that minimum payday rather than pop him over a few hurdles at home.

I am sure many will see it as a virtual walkover and that his price of 6s-on is money-buying (and it does seem too big), but that is a ridiculously dangerous phrase to use (and act upon).

Indeed, Nicky Henderson has had Epatante and Buveur D'Air beaten in this race at odds of 1/51.20 and 1/41.25 respectively in recent years. I readily accept that only a non-completion can see him beaten here though, even if all the vibes haven't been 100%.

Feel free to check out the "Lengthen Your Odds" and "Betting Without" markets on the Sportsbook nearer the time, but it's a race that is easily ignored for betting purposes.

However, I got to thinking on the Racing Only Bettor podcast recorded earlier.

What would you do if you had to do either of these things. Have £6,000 on him to win £1,000, or lay someone the same bet?

Tricky one, that.

The obvious way out of it would be to do both, and come out flat!

Kempton - 12:45: No Bet

Your Christmas Day hangover will hopefully have cleared by the time the first ITV race comes on air at 12:45 and the 2m4f+ novices' handicap chase has been trimmed from 11 to eight at the overnight stage.

Russian Ruler looked a big price at 9/110.00 with the Sportsbook on Friday as he was always going to run here once Nicky Henderson's other entry, Persian Time, took up his engagement at Ascot on Friday (and won it, if possibly fortuitously) but the race has held up pretty well.

Now, he does look a very tricky character and any horse who has already had three wind ops by the age of 6yo probably needs treating with some caution.

Indeed, he has already been beaten after trading at 1.041/25, 1.42/5 and 1.51/2 in running in his short career to date.

However, there is surely little doubt that a mark of 127 is begging to be exploited if they can keep him sweet after a reappearance run of glaring promise at Newbury.

The fact that he was given a kids' glove ride to finish a never-nearer fourth to Djelo (another winner at Ascot on Friday) there suggested that the priority there was to ease him back gently after that latest breathing tweak, and this may well have been a plan for him for some time, given Henderson's record in the race.

He has only won it twice since 2015, but he has a had few run well in defeat and his 2015 scorer Full Shift used that Newbury race to successfully prep for him for this, as did last year's winner Balco Coastal. As did the 3/4 -length runner-up Mister Coffey in 2021.

The Newbury to Kempton progression looks a very significant one, therefore.

So do I tip and back him at his shortened price of 9/25.50?

If you do back him, then you have to be worried about those three wind ops and his ability to find under maximum pressure, as he will surely need to in this competitive handicap.

And he does have his stamina to prove upped to 2m4f for just the second time, with the first attempt proving rather unsuccessful at Newbury last season.

And I have just noticed that they have done away with the tongue-tie he has worn on his last four starts, which was off-putting as well.

I swayed one way and the other and, for all the positives, there are an equal number of negatives, I decided the trip worried me most, so I am giving him a swerve.

However, the way to play him may be to back him pre-race and stick in an in-running lay at just over evens, so exchange punters may want to consider a trade.

Kempton - 13:20: No Bet

There were nine at the five-day stage for the 3m Grade 1 Kauto Star novices' chase at 13:20 and we lost three on Saturday morning. Three significant ones, too.

It promised to be a belter when we saw the decs on Wednesday as Willie Mullins had Klassical Dream and Grangeclere West in here and Gordon Elliott had Imagine, in addition to Il Est Francais coming over from France.

However, the Irish have stayed at home, and that has taken some gloss off the race.

It could still be a real cracker though, and Giovinco interested me most.

Il Est Francais could be a class apart and hard to catch, but the drying ground will be in Giovinco's favoyur (he has actually won on ground Timeform described as good to firm) and I imagine Stephen Mulqueen (doesn't he host Catchphrase?) will stalk and make his move between the last two here.

Circumstances, to an extent, dictated that he locked horns with Stay Away Fay earlier than ideal at Sandown last time and that is one horse you want to engage in a battle as late as possible, as he is a proper grinder and street fighter (Giovinco traded at 1.4740/85 in running when seemingly travelling much the best up the straight).

Even though he was beaten, I took plenty of positives from the run and this strong traveller could well be suited by the track, ground and pace here.

However, I was hoping for bigger than 9/43.25, as Hermes Allen clearly has to be greatly respected, too.

Aintree - 13:05: Back July Flower

We have another Grade 1 at Aintree at 13:05 in the shape of the re-directed Tolworth Hurdle, and 10 of the 14 five-entries confirmed on Saturday morning.

The going at Aintree is currently soft, good to soft in places, but it will probably be at least soft if the current forecast holds true.

They had 2.6mm on Friday and they could have another 11mm before Boxing Day, so if they were hoping for better ground than this race normally took place on at Sandown in January then they may not have got lucky.

I was all set to tip Greatwood Hurdle runner-up Lookaway here. I assumed he bypassed the Betfair Exchange Trophy to come here and I found it hard to believe he was as big as 8s in the ante-post betting given he was the best horse on form and on the clock.

Something must be wrong with him though, as he is a no show here, so I had to have a re-think.

The French raider July Flower must be of interest here, getting the 7lb sex allowance and coming here off the back of two wins and a second to a hotpot in a Grade 1 last time.

I'd be lying if I said I was confident in my reading of the form though, and the home team are represented by some very promising types.

However, Timeform actually have her 15lb clear on their adjusted ratings, which suggests her opening Sportsbook price of 12/113.00 was exceptionally generous.

I have to recommend her at that 12s, and indeed anything upwards of 8s is surely a bet if those Timeform ratings are any guide, though apparently the French may not be a great bunch this year.

A guess, but an informed one.

Back July Flower to Win 13:05 Aintree @ 12/113.00

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Wetherby - 13:35: Back Karl Philippe

We also have the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby at 13:35 and a mere six remain from 16 at the five-day stage.

It is currently soft, good to soft in places, but they could possibly get another 9mm before Boxing Day so, again, we are looking at soft all over.

Karl Philippe was the one I was drawn to at the prices.

However, you have to very concerned by his stamina at 3m (in the likely ground), as the only time he has raced beyond 2m4f he has blown out over 3m1f at Cheltenham and Aintree.

That may be a touch harsh, considering he finished seventh in the hottest of Ultimas last season at 66/167.00 - and the Aintree race was hotter than this, too - and this would be a much weaker handicap in terms of class and depth.

He shaped well enough over 2m4f at Newbury on his return, got dropped 2lb for it, and his best performances have come at this track, including when second over 2m3f at this meeting last season (he is 5lb lower here).

He has won and finished a head second on his two starts on heavy ground (should it turn really bad) and I am willing give him a small-stakes spin, even with the stamina doubt gnawing away at me.

I did go back and have a look at how he stuck on in the straight in the Ultima and I was satisfied that he was worth chancing here. In fact, he is my best bet on a very quiet day.

The small field may help in that regard , I guess, though there are a couple in here that like to press the pace.

Good luck and have a good one over the Christmas period.

Back Karl Philippe to Win 13:35 Wetherby @ 13/27.50

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Get all our Boxing Day previews and tips here.


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PROFIT AND LOSS (Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season); to be updated

STAKED: 31
RETURN: 36.6
P/L: +5.6

PROFIT AND LOSS (April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season)

STAKED: 202
RETURNS: 168.9
P AND L: -33.1

*Exchange bets settled at Betfair SP for fairness

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