ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Boxing Day Racing Tips: Tony Calvin Presses up on Hitman to outgun L'Homme in King George

Betfair tipster Tony Calvin
TC has three more bets for Boxing Day

Tony Calvin restates his faith in his King George antepost picks, recommends a bet in earlier race at Kempton and one at Wetherby on Boxing Day...


Intuition. Inclination. Hunch. Guess.

We are increasingly driven by data in horseracing and rightly so, but there is still ample room for good old-fashioned gut-feel in betting, and I am going to stick to my instincts that tell me that Hitman and Millers Bank are going to improve mightily for the step up to 3m and give the others plenty to think about in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day at 14:30.

You can probably add pig-headed to the intro, perhaps.

Antepost pair are still best bets

I have advised backing them at 6/1 win-only and 50/1 each way ante-post respectively in the lead-up to the race and - while the further rain due on Christmas Day (19mm forecast on one site) worries me more than a touch - they probably still represent the best punting opportunities in the race at their current odds.

Friday rain means soft ground

Less than a week ago, I thought we were looking at a minimum of soft ground, and maybe even deeper, but things began to brighten dramatically on Wednesday and it then looked like being good to soft.

Ideal, I thought.

Then the course copped an unexpectedly large load of 16.8mm of rain on Friday morning, while the Christmas Day outlook worsened at the same time. It now looks like minimum soft ground, again, and that is the current description after a 12:30pm course update on Friday.

In isolation, soft would be fine for my selections, who both handle testing conditions very well, but it's certainly a worry in conjunction with the trip, make no mistake, and little wonder they have taken a further walk in the market.

Hitman should relish testing conditions

My pair could have done without that Friday morning downpour then, and any more significant rain to boot, and I fully appreciate that they both need to find plenty of improvement. They are the lowest-rated horses in the line-up but Hitman, in particular, really caught my imagination at Haydock last time.

Yes, I know he was beaten on his reappearance off a mark of 159 in the Old Roan (but only narrowly in a very strong handicap) and he only won a Graduation Chase over an extended 2m5f at Haydock, but I loved the way he sauntered home in soft ground there, and I really can see him relishing the step up to 3m.

He had the pace to finish second in a Tingle Creek last season and I am fully buying into the fact that he is a 6yo going places and is a Grade 1 winner in waiting.

He reminds me a little bit of the stable's Clan Des Obeaux, who won this race at the same age, although to be fair that one had admittedly raced over 3m1f previously, albeit inconclusively.

Hitman 1280 x 763.png

Now, the step up to 3m for the first time could well be his biggest weakness and accentuate the belief that many feel he has a soft underbelly, but it may also prove to be his biggest strength, and allow him to shrug off that nearly-horse status.

In short, I remain a believer.

I tend to laugh at suggestions that horses build confidence by winning easily in lesser races, but I am willing to be proved very wrong here. He is the youngest horse in the race, and the one that I believe has the most progress in him as he struts his stuff over 3m for the first time.

In hindsight, I took a bad price about him at 6/1 last week - well, it was bad in the sense that L'Homme Presse is now rocking up and taking a sizeable chunk out of the market, and all nine from the five-day stage stood their ground on Friday morning - but I am happy to press up at 9.08/1 or bigger on the Betfair Exchange.

Back Hitman Boxing Day 14:30 Kempton @

9.0

I could have done without the rain, but the drift (though he was 7/1+ on the exchange earlier in the week) has gone too far. Add belief to the earlier list at the top of this article.

Millers Bank is a risk worth taking

The case for Millers Bank is harder to make but that is why he is getting on for eight times Hitman's odds on the Betfair Exchange. And, as we all know, winning at this game is all about price, and risk to reward.

I think there is potentially a lot of the latter, but I will decline the invitation to press up on him here, though he remains 50s with the Sportsbook. I obviously couldn't, and wouldn't, put you off, though.

Sure, Millers Bank is an 8yo and rated just 155, but he is a Grade 1-placed novice hurdler with only nine chase runs under his belt and he has shaped as if another try at this 3m trip is well worth it.

He blew out behind Capodanno over 3m60yd at Punchestown in April but that was only 19 days after his 10-length win in, an admittedly soft, Grade 1 at Aintree, and he has more than hinted that stepping back up in trip could pay dividends after staying efforts over 2m4f at Huntingdon and Carlisle this season.

He looked a grinder there, and connections clearly believe headgear will help him, as he runs in cheekpieces for the first time here. The trainer is just 1-13 with this initial move since 2016, but has had five seconds, one of those at 20-1, and a 50-1 third.

The horse has also form figures of 122 at Kempton, so the track holds no fears, and I think both he and Hitman are going to get great tows into the race with the likes of L'Homme Presse, Frodon, Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor in here.

Of course, patient, waiting rides mean nothing if the tank is empty when they are asked to make their moves turning in - and the above quartet will be fully wise to the fact that they won't want to cut their own throats - but it certainly isn't hard to envisage all of those left at the business end will have targets on their backs from 2 out.

I'll take my pair over the favourite

L'Homme Presse is the one to beat, as he clearly sets the form standard.

He is 5lb and more ahead of the field on official ratings, the ground will be no concern (Timeform called it good when he won the Rehearsal Chase of a mark of 164 on his return, and far deeper is obviously hunky dory, too) and I personally don't believe his inclination to jump left on right-handed tracks is too big a worry.

I wouldn't want to lay him at around 9/4 on the Betfair Exchange myself, and I also have a lot of time for Royale Pagaille on the ground, but I'll stick with my ante-post pair.

Tipping any more than two in a nine-runner race would be a bit off, though I will probably ensure I don't lose if Royale Pagaille cops, even if this is a big ask for him first time up after missing the Betfair Chase last month with a setback.

Another one that will enjoy stepping up

We are struggling for numbers elsewhere on the ITV action at Kempton.

I won't waste your valuable time by discussing how brilliant Constitution Hill is and how far he will win the Christmas Hurdle by at 13:55 - though I fear we may be discussing his participation on the day if it turns heavy - and the only saving grace of yet another small-field novices' chase at 13:20 is that we at least have a cracker for the Grade 1 Kauto Star.

However, I can't see a bet. I rarely can in these races.

Regular readers will know what is coming in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle at 12:45, and I make no excuses for siding with Not So Sleepy at 12/1 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook.

Back Not So Sleepy Boxing Day 12:45 Kempton @

13.0

That is a big price given his form credentials - and he was 14s in a few places on Thursday - and what I believe is the likelihood he will relish his first step up to 3m.

I feel a theme developing in this tipping column.

For a horse that has finished placed in three Cesarewitchs (I wasn't sure how to pluralise that, sorry) dating back to 2019, I am amazed that it has taken until now for Hughie Morrison to try 3m. I wish he had done sooner anyway, as I wouldn't have done my money on him in successive Champion Hurdles.

I guess the fact that he can be a bit of a tearaway has deterred him - and to be fair his sole run over 2m4f over hurdles at Aintree in 2021 was underwhelming - but surely any horse that has shown his level over 2m2f on the Flat in the fiercest of staying handicaps must have every chance of lasting home over 3m over hurdles.

And, form-wise, he is basically on a par with any of these.

He ran a perfectly good race on his return when third in the Fighting Fifth, despite some less than fluent hurdling, and I can definitely see him bustling up this lot on ground that will suit. In fact, Goshen and Miranda would worry me more than fellow old-stagers Champ and Paisley Park. Any 10s or bigger is fine for Not So Sleepy.

And finally... one at Wetherby

We also have the Rowland Meyrick from Wetherby on the box.

There were 25 in the race at the five-day stage in the 3m handicap chase at 13:35, and while we are down to 12, it remains a meaty contest to get stuck into.

I suppose I should look for a handicapper trying 3m for the first time here too, and Fanion D'Estruval arguably fits that bill, as he ran no sort of race when seventh in the 3m2f Coral Gold Cup, his first start beyond 2m6f, on his reappearance.

He looked like he was going to be pulled up there, as he never went a yard from the start, so he actually ran a remarkable race to finish seventh, beaten 19 ½ lengths.

In the horse's defence, he was positioned widest on the course and at the back once the race finally kicked off - we had lengthy shenanigans at the start, which necessitated a false start and a subsequent walk-in - so maybe that affected his mindset and levels of interest.

Dropped 1lb for it and with 5lb claimer Lucy Turner again taking the ride, I am expecting a better run here - certainly a more interested one - especially as there was talk beforehand he would need the run there, too (though he was relatively strong in the market at 16/1, with his Betfair SP of 21.61).

His Grade 1 third to Fakir D'Oudairies on soft ground in the 2m5f Betfair Ascot Chase last February not only suggested a mark of 159 is exploitable, it also hinted 3m could well be his trip, as he was coming back for more at the death there.

It's a deep race and there are plenty of dangers - I couldn't believe it when Zanza opened up at 25s with the Sportsbook on Friday morning, and he was duly cut into 16s, then 12s, then 11s - but I am happy to back him at 13.012/1 or bigger.

Back Fanion Destruval Boxing Day 13:35 Wetherby @

13.0

He carried 11st 12lb to victory at Newbury last season, so he can hump big weights. The Sportsbook's 11/1 is clearly fair, but I think you will get 12/1+ easily enough, win-only, on the exchange if patient. He was actually 16s in a place on Friday morning.

I should add the going at Wetherby is currently good to soft, though plenty of rain is forecast throughout Friday.

I'll leave it there for now, though I will post on my Twitter handle @tony_calvin if anything catches my eye on any non-ITV action or over in Ireland, where they had the good sense to declare their final fields for both the 26th and 27th.

Quite why the UK waits until Boxing Day to declare for the 27th is as mystifying as it is short-sighted.

Have a good 'un.

Recommended bets

Profit and loss (from March 26)

Staked: 295 Returns: 469 P/L: +174.0 Previous (April 14 2021 to March 25 2022) P/L: + 183.1 All Betfair Exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP for sake of fairness

Get all the latest in the Weekend Briefing

GET £40 IN FREE BETS MULTIPLES WHEN YOU SPEND £10 ON THE BETFAIR SPORTSBOOK

New customers only. Bet £10 on the Betfair Sportsbook at odds of min EVS (2.0) and receive £40 in FREE Bet Builders, Accumulators or Multiples to use on any sport. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.