ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Friday ITV Racing Tips: Tony Calvin's best bets for Chester

Betfair tipster Tony Calvin
Tony has four recommended bets for the final day of Chester's May meeting

We've reached the final day of Chester's May meeting, and our resident tipster Tony Calvin has a quartet of bets for you to consider on the afternoon...

  • 11/26.50 Dancing Magic one of best bets of the day

  • Mashhoor could be hit or miss but is a bet at 12/113.00

  • Two handed in Chester Cup at 10/111.00 and 16/117.00

Chester Cup Superboost

Day three of Chester's May meeting brings the feature race of the week in the Chester Cup.

Today we are boosting the favourite Aztec Empire to finish in the top 7.

You can back the Andrew Balding trained horse to finish in the top 7 in the 15:40 at Chester at the Superboost price of 1/12.00 from 2/71.29.

Not nearly testing enough ground this year for the 2023 Chester Cup champ Metier to defend his race, though the course lightly watered on Tuesday to avoid good to firm going. There was no mention of any further irrigation on the BHA site update on Thursday morning though, which was welcomed.

Mother Nature should have her way in the absence of extreme conditions, as the fast-ground horses have hardly had a fair shake of the weather in recent months - and watering on good ground is not such a scenario - but I suppose this is the age of appeasement when it comes to racing surfaces (rightly or wrongly, Wednesday's fatal injury to Hidden Law will probably underline that direction of travel) , and the track has to maximise numbers.

And I'd be the first one bitching if we had a spate of even smaller fields than we get already. And there is a fair bit of padding already needed to get this to a three-day meeting.

Chester - 13:30: Back Dancing Magic E/W

I'll deal with Chester in chronological order, as it makes things nice and neat for the reader. And especially so when the opener at 13:30 - predictably perhaps to regulars - provides one of my four bets on the day.

It has been thin gruel trying to eke out punts this week, but Dancing Magic stands out to me as the best (and certainly the most solid) bet of the day, and I am loving William Buick getting on the horse for the first time, which suggests they are looking to strike now and not wait for a more valuable handicap down the line.

I hope it does anyway.

I don't tend to take too much notice of jockeys, as the majority are equally capable, though you have acknowledge poor jockeys' records and exercise a certain amount of personal judgement in that framework.

I wouldn't be the biggest fan of Jim Crowley and I thought he gave this horse a quiet enough ride when he was sixth in the Spring Cup on his return.

I am not saying he would have gone close to winning, but more urgency could have seen him hit the each-way money.

But it was a highly satisfactory return (on official good to soft, which is perhaps not ideal for him), made all the more pleasing for connections as he got dropped 2lb for it, and this horse surely has a handicap him in off a mark of 94, for all he remains a maiden after 12 starts (a concern, hence the each-way bet).

His back-form on good or quicker ground in Group and Listed company is there for all to see, not least his third in the Craven, and I expect a relatively trouble-free passage around here (yes, I know, he will still need plenty of luck from three) will see him going very close.

You wouldn't say Buick has a great record for the yard (4 from 25), but he will do for me on this occasion.

I didn't expect fancy prices, as the promise of his Newbury run was obvious, so back him at 11/26.50 each way, four places, with the Sportsbook.

I'd have liked the initial 13/27.50 to have lasted, but then again I'd like a Hair Bear Afro and a six-pack, too (actually neither greatly appeals, but you get the gist).

Before I progress to the next race, I would say that thank god Ian Williams (who runs Trip To Rome in here) supports this meeting so heavily.

The paddock would be a much emptier place this week without him and his horses in attendance, and this course is where he has had the most turf wins, though maybe that stems from the troubled Koukash era.

Chester - 14:05: No Bet

The next race up is a 1m4f+ 40k maiden for horses that haven't run more than twice at 14:05.

Once again, I have absolutely no idea why this is on ITV when we have a 17-runner Chester Plate standing in the wings, along with two other handicaps that are currently betting to three places.

Given the value, the course would have expected more than seven runners - even the last horse home will collect £300, as well as a day's lush (in all respects) hospitality for connections - and it is not a race that I am keen to get involved with.

I am sure these contests have their place, but punters like a bit of form to work with and they are not getting it here.

I'd like to see any three of the "lesser" trainers with runners in here cop the big 20k+ first prize, but I suspect Aidan O'Brien's Ephesus may take the beating. His Sportsbook price of 11/102.11 hints at that, though.

Chester - 14:35: No Bet

We have nine runners in the 1m2f70yd handicap at 14:35, but two of these, the Ian Williams pair of Dream Harder and Parlando, are currently scheduled to run on Thursday, which has obvious ramifications.

Williams also has Woodstock City in here and the 4yo is undoubtedly interesting, having come down 10lb in his four starts for the trainer on the all-weather and having been gelded since we last saw him here in early February.

I wouldn't have a clue how strong his French form is (two wins) but if this a long-term Chester plan, it has come off to a tee with that falling handicap mark and the horse getting in here on the lowest weight of 8st 2lb.

He is a very big runner if replicating his Wolverhampton third to Talis Evolvere off 91 in December, and he is 10lb lower here. The winner of that race is 15lb higher.

You do the math (s). That's a good run.

It's an obvious guess-up though - he has beaten only three of his 27 rivals since - so I won't put him up, though I may have one of those minimal "just in case" bets. The Sportsbook are 20s, from an opening 25s. In fact, I will have a few quid on him, but is it a speculative play, all right.

Chester - 15:05: Back Mashhoor

I can't see how 11/26.50 chance Royal Rhyme runs in the nine-runner Huxley Stakes at 15:05 given the current ground and weather forecast, unless they water significantly again - he wants it soft - so the dangerous dead-eight probably comes into play here for each-way punters. The 11/26.50 means a 15p in the pound deduction too, if he comes out.

Now, this is another of those uber-tricky Group races around here, but I kept on being drawn to Mashhoor, not least that I think the lead could be his for the taking if they want it. There are three or four prominent racers, though.

Surprisingly, they didn't go forward with him on his reappearance, but maybe they were saving him for a sunnier day there, and just getting a run into him, as the heavy ground would not have played to his strengths.

And last season he went from a reappearance on deep ground to win at Cork on a decent surface second time out.

On this better ground (on which all his best form has come), I strongly suspect (or rather, hope) they will revert to the forcing tactics that saw him trounce, the admittedly seasonal debutant, Al Riffa in a Group 3 at the Curragh last July, though a draw in eight may make them think otherwise.

I wouldn't have any real knowledge whether the first-time cheekpieces will suit him (and Murtagh is just 7-111 with this switch since 2016) but I can see the horse getting the run of the race if they so wish, and the stable is in good form.

His price of 12/113.00 is tempting - he is actually 14s in a place - but the headgear is an unknown and the draw is off-putting. And you can easily crab the merit of that Curragh Group 3 win, though the time of the race does give it some credence.

On balance, I think he is worth a win-only bet at 12s, or 13.012/1 or bigger on the exchange. You may get bigger on the latter once the real liquidity arrives on Friday.

If they don't force it from out of the gates, then I suspect the bet is lost, but the form of the Johnny Murtagh yard (see all trainer assessments below) is encouraging.

Chester 15:40: Back Solent Gateway

Twenty-three horses were balloted out of the Chester Cup at 15:40 - the full list is below - so make sure you get your money back if you backed any of them ante-post. As I keep on saying, bookmakers need more a shove than a nudge in this area.

For some reason, I always thought this race had more than a 17-runner maximum, but it appears not.

There isn't much pace in here, anyway. I had Emiyn and Solent Gateway down as the likely front-runners, and they are drawn seven and five respectively. They also both wear new headgear too, a visor.

I finally decided Solent Gateway is worth a small interest in this, for all he lacks the upside of a few in here. But I have to go win-only at 16/117.00, or 17.016/1 or bigger on the exchange - I will try to play him on the latter - instead of taking advantage of the five places on offer. He has obvious blow-out potential.

He will certainly love the ground, he has a solid, winning body of work at this track - he pulled too hard when going off at 13/27.50 and disappointing in this race in 2022 - and he has dropped to a winnable mark of 92.

His last two successes came off 93 and 91.

The problem is that the reason he has come down the weights as he has run two shockers on the all-weather recently, since returning from a long break - the handicapper probably could have dropped him a lot more than 3lb for those runs - and backing him here takes a rather big leap of faith.

But in the hope of the visor, replacing cheekpieces (which all his four career victories have come in) perk him up - as you can see below, the trainer's record in this area is fair - then I was willing to throw a few quid in his direction (and I have just heard the trainer, on the Nick Luck daily podcast, say that Solent Gateway has had a wind op since we last saw him, which doesn't seem to have been registered officially).

It is win-only though and, given that recent profile and form, the exchange is the way to go, for me at least, though you may have to be patient here. He could easily be a big drifter on the day.

Hollie Doyle gave him a peach from the front when winning at Haydock last season and maybe Saffie Osborne, who this race on the aforementioned Metier last year, can repeat the feat here. Hopefully, Emiyn, who would prefer softer ground, doesn't pester him too much.

Chester - 15:40: Back Zoffee E/W

Because I am going win-only on Solent Gateway, I am happy to go in two-handed, and the Irish could have a big say here. They provide the class element of this field.

Falcon Eight won this race in 2021, The Shunter has strong claims, Zanndabad is a dangerous floater, and it sounds as if this has been a long-term plan for shock Irish Cesarewitch winner Magellan Strait, with blinkers reapplied.

However, I landed on Solent Gateway's stablemate Zoffee at 10/111.00 with the Sportsbook.

The case for him is simple. He is back with Hugo Palmer after a brief spell hurdling with Olly Murphy and he is 3lb lower than when a neck second to Metier on soft ground in this race on his reappearance last season.

If anything, he should be even better suited by this better ground, on which a lot of his best form has come, and he is well placed in one to jump out and track the pace.

In fact, I reckon he is a very good each way bet at 10s, five places, so that is the suggestion.

I am probably also going to back the 2021 runner-up The Grand Visir at a top-priced 66s with the Sportsbook too, but three tips would be pushing it.

Ascot - 13:50: No Bet

Ascot will have been disappointed to see their televised 45k 7f handicap at 13:50 cut up to just six runners (from 14-day entries).

It was good to soft there on Wednesday when the declarations were made, but it will surely dry up quickly with dry sunny days forecast on Thursday and Friday.

In fact, I am surprised it is still soft in places is still present on the round course after a very pleasant Wednesday.

I didn't have a strong opinion in the race. There are some promising 3yos in there, three of whom make their reappearances and the same number are likely to press on, and all have the potential to take big leaps forward.

Unexpectedly, it ended up being a busy punting day with four selections, and a couple more personal bets beside (Woodstock City and The Grand Visir), so the best of luck.

Take care.


Chester: Good to firm, good in places (dry forecast; as high as 22 degrees on Friday)

Ascot (dry and sunny forecast; 23-24 degrees)

Round course: Good to soft, good in places

Straight: Good


Ian Williams cheekpieces 16-137 (since 2016)

Andrew Balding hood 13-192 (2010)

Andrew Balding cheekpieces 11-89 (2016)

Johnny Murtagh cheekpieces 7-111 (2016)

Declan Carroll visor 4-31 (2009)

Hugo Palmer visor 8-64 (2011)


1.30pm Chester: Finns Charm, Alzahir, Percy's Lad, Revich, Documenting, Liamarty Dreams, Trip To Rome, Island Native

1.50pm Ascot: Dragon Leader, Geologist, Respectful

2.05pm Chester (very little evidence to go on): Ancient Myth, Mina Rashid,

2.35pm Chester: Killybegs Warrior, Bolster, Wadacre Gomez,

3.05pm Chester: Mashhoor, Regal Reality?, (other prominent racers, too)

3.40pm Chester: Emiyn, Solent Gateway

BALLOTED OUT (money back for ante-post punters - 23 in Chester Cup)

3.40pm: Galactic Jack. Law of The Sea, It's Good To Laugh, Prince Alex, Duc de Kent. Hamsiyann, Goobinator. Yorkindness. Speedo Boy, Tenerife Sunshine, State Legend, Maxident, En Or, Green Team, Dreams Adozen, Wholeofthemoon , Blow Your Horn, Baez, Alphonse Le Grande, Havaila, Simiyann, Star Legend, Greatness Awaits

TRAINER FORM - for all with entries in Friday's ITV races (does not include Thursday's results)

Excellent: Jack Channon

Good: Andrew Balding, Karl Burke, Robert Cowell, Roger Varian, Richard Hughes (tailing off slightly perhaps), Ed Walker (very good), Amy Murphy, Harry Charlton, David O'Meara (considering he is a numbers trainer), Daniel and Claire Kubler, Johnny Murtagh, Dermot Weld, John and Thady Gosden, Tom Dascombe, Clive Cox

Fair: Richard Fahey, Mick Appleby (despite winners), Hugo Palmer, Ian Williams, Kevin Frost, Declan Carroll (borderline moderate), David Evans, Alice Haynes (borderline moderate), Jessie Harrington, Nigel Tinkler (not many winners and borderline moderate), Sir Michael Stoute (only one winner in 2024 from very few runners), Charlie Johnston, Richard Spencer, Ruth Carr, Brian Ellison, Ed Bethell, Andrew Slattery (despite a lack of recent winners). Joseph O'Brien, Ed Dunlop, Kevin Ryan, Emmet Mullins (borderline moderate), Ruth Carr (borderline moderate), Aidan O'Brien (still not great), James Owen

Moderate: Tim Easterby (despite winners), Simon Hodgson, Brian Meehan, Roger Teal (possibly more fair), Jennie Candlish (very few runners), Gay Kelleway (very few runners and a close 7-1 third), Tony Martin, Michael Bell

Now read more Horse Racing tips and previews here.

Recommended bets


2024 Flat season (day-of-race; Apr 26 onwards):

P AND L: +3

2023-24 NH season:

RETURN: 143.4
P/L:    +16.4

April 16-Oct 31; 2023 Flat season:

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

March 26 2022 -April 15 2023:

Staked: 436
Returns: 643.6
P/L: +207.6

April 14 2021 to March 25 2022:

P/L: + 183.1


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