ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Saturday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin backs 18/1 shot in Scottish National and 6/1 Nap

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin
TC is backing two at Ayr and one at Newbury on Saturday

Tony Calvin recommends two to back on Scottish Grand National day at Ayr, including an 18/119.00 bet in the big race, plus one at Newbury...

  • 18/119.00 shot gets TC's money in Scottish National

  • 6/17.00 Deeper Blue is his NAP of the weekend

  • 13/114.00 Newbury bet can provide some Magic


Rachael Blackmore Superboost

If you fancy Betfair Ambassador Rachael Blackmore to go well in today's Scottish Grand National at Ayr at 15:35 then you can back Whacker Clan to finish in the top 10 at the super-boosted price of 6/42.50 (from 8/11]).

Back Whacker Clan to finish Top 10 in Scottish Grand National (15:35 Ayr) @ 6/42.50

Bet here

It's not a big price that the front-page headline in the Racing Post on Saturday is something along the lines of "Mull Of Kintyre" - or some such stretch or variation, playing on "Willie Do It?" - after Mullins is doing his Irish impression of the King Edwards (not the potatoes) by sending over 18 runners to Ayr this weekend in order to cement his lead in the UK trainers' title.

My knowledge of 14th century history doesn't reach to knowing if the Irish ever crossed the sea to have a tear-up with the locals, but Mullins is certainly looking to upset them (and Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton) by hoovering up the Scottish pound notes on offer.

Ayr 13:15 - No bet

He fires his first shot with Uncle Phil in the six-runner 50k 2m+ handicap chase at 13:15 and the 7yo, along with Traprain Law, could be pivotal if the early 2/13.00 Betfair Sportsbook favourite Nicholls' Sans Bruit - he is over a point bigger elsewhere, and similarly on the Betfair Exchange - isn't to follow up his hugely impressive Aintree win.

Both the Mullins horse, worryingly absent since January perhaps, and Traprain Law can go forward, and of course Sans Bruit was devastating from the front when winning the Red Rum, finally coming back to the Graded form he showed in France in 2022.

He is 10lb higher here and has a quick turnaround to contend with, and the latter maybe shouldn't be underplayed as he must have had a pretty hard race in Liverpool. The line was certainly welcomed for him.

I'd rather leave the race alone, as the other three in it each have their chance too, though hasn't it been great to see Bryony Frost riding superbly from the front again at Cheltenham this week, grabbing a brace for Lucy Wadham, who has stayed loyal to her.

Ayr 13:50 - Back Deeper Blue

The 13-runner 3m handicap chase at 13:50 is much more like it, and I think it features my nap of the weekend, though the big issue I have here is that he is bottom price at 6s with the Sportsbook, when he is as big as 15/28.50 and 7s elsewhere. It would be unprofessional of me not to mention this.

Oh, sorry, the horse in question is Deeper Blue.

I actually had a question on X on this topic, following my 1,000 Guineas ante-post piece on Wednesday, and the bottom line is I often have to walk away from many bets due to the odds being much bigger elsewhere, though I will always reference this in copy.

If the Sportsbook odds-compilers fancy one, then of course they will want to keep it onside.

However, on rare occasions, I am happy to take the shorter price if I'd back it myself and if I think that is the direction of travel. Obviously do what you have to do with the odds elsewhere, but Deeper Blue at 6s each-way, four places, looks a very good bet in its own right.

Back Deeper Blue e-w @ 6/17.00

Bet here

What I like about the horse is that he is improving as he has been stepped up in trip, and this is the longest distance he has raced over.

He bumped into the subsequent Reynoldstown winner Henry's Friend at Hereford in January and ran another cracker when second to Neon Moon in a very good time over an extended 2m7f at Newbury last time.

He went up 3lb for that, which was fair given the time and the fact he finished 9 ½ lengths clear of Abuffalosoldier in third, and he was coming back at the winner close home.

There is plenty of pace in here, which is expected to suit, and trainer Harry Fry is in excellent form (see stable form below for all trainers with runners in ITV races on Saturday) and he is five from 26 in recent years when putting first-time cheekpieces on his horses, which he does with the selection here.

I'd be very disappointed if he isn't at least in the first four. He is currently 7.87/1 on the Exchange if you'd rather back him win-only.

Nick Alexander, like Fry, is in great form and his record with first-time cheekpieces (see below) is good - if you can't be bothered to scroll down, he is 3 from 16, but with five seconds, too - and that makes his 14s poke (16s in places) Donny Boy of interest.

Ayr 14:25 - No bet

I was quite sweet on Alexander's Ginger Mail at 33s, each way, for the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 14:25 when we recorded the Racing Only Bettor podcast (watch it below) on Thursday afternoon but I have to admit that I have rather gone off him overnight. Which is a shame because I backed him late on Thursday!

However, taking time to have a fresh, secondary look before writing this column early on Friday mornings is a big positive.

The reason for initially liking him is that he has form figures of 122 in handicaps here, and he has excelled this season when wearing cheekpieces (as he does here) and he ran another good race when second to Cracking Rhapsody in the Morebattle at Kelso last time.

But he is effectively 4lb higher here in what is probably a hotter handicap, so he may struggle more than I initially thought.

Look, no way would I deter you from having an each-way pop at the 33s, and I am on myself (I'll be absolutely delighted if he sluices in) but I'll stay true to my current thoughts and not put him up here.

Actually, the above is all redundant as he has been cut into 20s by the Sportsbook just before this went live, so I couldn't, and wouldn't, have tipped him anyway at that price.

Favour And Fortune looks okay at 6.86/1 on the Exchange, though you'd certainly like to see the trainer (who has had a subdued season) in a lot better form. Essentially, that is off-putting when there is questionable juice in the price, for all his Grade 1 form gives him definite claims off 138 here.

Ayr 15:00 - No bet

The stable form would also be a concern for backers of the Stuart Crawford pair in the 3m+ mares' handicap hurdle at 15:00 - he is 1 from 23 in the UK since February, and 1-24 in Ireland in the same period - but a few of his horses have run well in defeat at big prices recently, so I am not letting that angle put me off Ottizzini here.

The fact that she has been cut from 14s to 9s with the Sportsbook though (who are paying four places), and she has now also shortened from 19.018/1 to 11.010/1 on the Exchange, admittedly to small sums, is, however.

The case for her is a fair one, and it was just a matter of whether I have missed the price.

She is 4lb higher than her Irish mark, but I still think a rating of 122 gives her claims here on her Musselburgh win two starts ago. She clearly ran another fair race (but not as well) when half-a-length second in a Listed mares' race run in appalling conditions at Doncaster last time. Indeed, the UK handicapper looks to have dropped her 2lb for it.

The form of that Donny race is mixed but I can see her getting on the front end here - providing Saylavee plays ball - and running a big race.

I will be doing a Saturday morning update to this column - that's a promise - so I am going to come back to her once the markets have settled down and the Exchange liquidity has hardened. She is currently 12s in a place, and a general 10s, so I think that is the best course of action.

Ayr 15:35 - Back Ballygriffincottage

I'd be lying if I said I have a strong betting opinion in the Scottish National at 15:35 - and what great pieces by the Racing Post's Richard Forristal and Chris Cook on the English version, by the way - but there are two things to convey here.

One is that I will ensure that I do not lose if Git Maker wins, and he is a very fair price at 9.08/1 on the Exchange. The Sportsbook are offering six places on this race, but unfortunately they fancy Git Maker too, and make him their 13/27.50 favourite.

He could feature in the Saturday update, as I want those six places on my side.

Point two is that I am sticking with my podcast recommendation to back Ballygriffincottage to small stakes, win-only, at 19.018/1 or bigger on the Exchange. I wanted to tip him at 20s, but that price went with the Sportsbook just after 9am on Friday, being cut into 16s.

Fourth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham two years ago, he looked set to become a fair tool over fences when slashing in on Betfair Chase weekend at Haydock in November 2022, after which he went off at 4/51.80 for the Grade 2 Towton at Wetherby the following February.

He bled there and looked to be gone at the game on his next three starts, but Dan Skelton is slowly coaxing him back to form. The horse progressed from an encouraging fifth at Ascot to a narrow defeat at Sandown last time. He probably should have won that race given he got into a bit of trouble rounding the final bend and was taken across the track by the winner on the run-in.

He is far from solid - in November, Skelton said: "He's got a couple of issues we are not managing to contain at the moment" - and his stamina is unknown. But he was rated 145 after Haydock and he is 138 here after that improved run at Sandown last time, so I will take my chance at the price.

In Skelton, we trust. For a few quid, anyway.

Back Ballygriffincottage @ 19.018/1 Exchange

Bet here

Incidentally, it is about time all trainers were made to declare their jockeys at 10am or 11am at the latest. Some bookmakers were caught out by offering 20s and 16s about Spanish Harlem on Thursday, only to get promptly filled in when news filtered through Paul Townend is riding. He is now a best-priced 9s.

Newbury 13:30 - No bet

Over to Newbury then, where the times of the races on Friday could be key in pointing out what ground we will be getting at the weekend.

The going stick reading of 4.0 suggests it is far deeper than the current good to soft, soft in places - nearer heavy in fact - but it is dry from hereon in, and, you never know, we could even get a bit of good creeping in somewhere by race-time.

I'll work on the basis of good to soft, so maybe Hamish isn't a certain runner in the opener. But, again the Friday times will tell us a lot more.

My two against the field on Thursday's podcast in the opener at 13:30 were primarily Chesspiece, and Mujtaba as an able-back-up, but they were both 14s at the time and they have since been cut to 10s.

Again, another for the update perhaps, as I can fully see the price case for Chesspiece, 14s in the wider marketplace. He has been gelded since we last saw him, and that doesn't need to have improved him too much for him to be a big danger to all in here.

Newbury 14:05 - No bet

I am massively over-writing here already, so I will keep my analysis of the Nell Gwyn at 14:05 very brief.

I will be very surprised if any of these will be troubling my ante-post selection in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 5 but, given the superb form of the yard, Star Music makes most appeal at around 6s or bigger on the Exchange. There are promising home reports about her, too. She is actually 15/28.50 in a couple of places.

Newbury 14:40 - No bet

All the 14s in the marketplace for the ground-versatile Room Service the Greenham at 14:40 have been taken and he is now 10s with the Sportsbook, and 12.011/1 on the exchange.

I really do like his chance here, though of course we are always guessing about the readiness of 3yos at this stage of the season and all of the 11 in here have varying claims.

However, Kevin Ryan is starting to get rolling. I was hugely impressed by his wide-margin success in the mega-valuable Doncaster sales race last season, where he dismissed the form horses Dragon Leader and Johannes Brahms with some ease.

Again, I'll come back to him on Saturday morning once the market has sorted itself out a touch more. That could be a packed one, and I will flag it up on my @tony_calvin X handle.

Newbury 15:15 - Back Dancing Magic

I am having a small bet on Dancing Magic at 14.013/1 or bigger on the Exchange in the 15:15. There is some 14s knocking around, in seven places on the Oddschecker grid in fact, so that is a fair price to aim for. And indeed the current one. In fact, the Sportsbook's 12s, five places, is decent too.

Now, he doesn't have the potential upside of the well-related Godwinson - I would have liked to have seen some headgear on him from what I saw of him at Kempton, but he is a dangerous 12s poke - but Dancing Magic is certainly well handicapped on his Craven third first time out last season.

Back Dancing Magic @ 14.013/1 Exchange

Bet here

I tipped him that day (and for his next two starts as well, I think) but I am happy to keep the faith here off a mark of just 96 - he was rated 10lb higher after the Craven - and the key to him may be to catch him fresh. And without his cojones.

He may prefer better ground but it is at least drying (and he finished fourth on heavy in the Vertem) but Roger Teal's horses have largely been running well of late and hopefully the gelding of Dancing Magic does the trick.

It certainly helped his siblings Dancing Harry and Dancing Master to progress, and Teal trained one of those when the shears entered (or ended) the party.

Back tomorrow with a morning update here, maybe concerning three or four possible further bets.

Take care, all.


UPDATE: 09:00 Saturday

It is now soft, good to soft, in places at Ayr, and there are currently no non-runners in the five ITV races there.

Down at Newbury, it is now good to soft, good in places, on the straight track and good to soft on the round course.

They had a brief downpour there yesterday, but apparently it only amounted to 1mm (it looked more on Sky Sports Racing), and the going stick reading is now 4.9, from 4.0. Again, there are currently no no-runners in the four ITV races.

A dry Saturday is forecast at both tracks. If you fancy any Skelton runners today, you will have been encouraged by his performance on Friday, while Hannon (continuing a good run of form), Haggas and Russell also had welcome winners.

At Newbury, my plan to get with original 14s chance Chesspiece have been scuppered as he now trades at only 9.28/1 on the exchange for 13:30, where Arrest is a big slider out to 3.711/4.

Likewise, Room Service, another initial 14s poke, has shortened into 9.28/1 in the 14:40 and I won't chase down either in price in order to back them. Annoying, but walking away is always the best course of action in these circumstances. Zoum Zoum has taken a massive walk out to more than 3s on the exchange in this.

I have pressed up on Dancing Magic in the 15:15, as he has drifted to 20s+ on the exchange. Real Gain, from the red-hot Richard Hughes stable, is the big mover in that race, along with current favourite Noble Order.

I have had two fresh bets at Ayr.

I have decided I have to have Git Maker onside in the Scottish National at 15:35 and have had a small bet at 6s each way, six places, and also 7s win-only on the exchange.

Ottizzini has drifted to 14.013/1 on the exchange in the 15:00 and that is big enough for me to get involved. The case for her is above.

Good luck


Ayr betting information

Going: Soft (after 5mm on Thursday)

Going stick readings: Chase 5.6; Hurdles 5.8 (as at 7.05am on Friday)

Weather forecast: Pretty much dry Friday and Saturday

Pace angles on ITV races from Ayr

1.15pm: Uncle Phil, Sans Bruit, Traprain Law

1.50pm: Young Buster, Mofasa (prominent), Abuffalosoldier, Montgomery, Ballycoose,

2.25pm: Rubaud, Benson?, Effernock Fizz, Afadil (prom),

3pm: No usual front runner but Ottizzini could go on here. Maybe pestered by Saylavee

3.35pm: Stay Away Fay, Gold Cup Bailly, Ballygriffincottage?, Macdermott, Tommie Beau, Mr Vango, Inis Oirr, My Silver Lining (prom), Git Maker (prom), Klarc Kent (prom), Whacker Clan, Egbert?, We'llhavewan (prom)

Balloted out (ante-post punters entitled to money back): N/A (surprisingly)

First-time headgear stats (for both Ayr and Newbury)

Archie Watson cheekpieces 23-224 (since 2017)

Harry Fry cheekpieces 5-26 (2017)

Nick Alexander cheekpieces 3-16 (since 2016) - also five seconds, though

Jonjo O'Neill cheekpieces 14-94 (2016)

Form of trainers with runners in the nine ITV races; limited evidence to go on for Flat - done before Friday's racing)

Excellent: Richard Hughes, Ed Walker, Nick Alexander, Harry Fry, Adrian Keatley

Good: John & Thady Gosden, Simon and Ed Crisford (small sample), Paul and Oliver Cole, Fergal O'Brien, Paul Nicholls, Warren Greatrex, Killahena/McPherson (few runners), Richard Hannon (possibly more fair than good, but he is going well)

Fair: Dan Skelton, Ralph Beckett, Richard Bandey, Philip Kirby (back among winners on Tuesday, and placed runners of late), Eve Johnson Houghton (though excellent start to 2024 as a whole), Andrew Balding, George Boughey, David O'Meara, Roger Teal, Harry Eustace, Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins (fair for him, anyway), Jonjo O'Neill, Cian Collins, Ewan Whillans, Nicky Richards, Laura Morgan, Seamus Mullins, Emma Lavelle, Jamie Snowden, Henry De Bromhead (winners on Thursday), Evan Williams. Nigel Twiston-Davies. Kevin Ryan (string hitting form perhaps), Karl Burke (though getting among the winners again), Jane Chapple-Hyam, Richard Spencer, Clive Cox

Moderate: Roger Varian, William Haggas (for him anyway, though a winner at Windsor on Monday helped), Venetia Williams, Archie Watson (though 10/11 winner on Tuesday), Marco Botti (though a few going okay of late), Gemma Tutty (though decent 2024 as a whole), Lucinda Russell (though many running to form, admittedly), Stuart Crawford (though a three have run well at prices recently, so his form could be turning), Sandy Thomson, Brian Ellison (moderate/fair), Toby Lawes, Alan King

Undecided: Jack Channon, David Simcock, Julie Camacho, James Horton, William Stone (33/1 winner at Chelmsford on Thursday), George Baker, Ann Hamilton, Sara Bradstock

Coming into form?; Charlie Hills (broke his duck for 2024 with a 11/10 winner on Thursday evening)

Much needed recent winner: Gary Moore broke a very bad spell with an 18/1 winner at Windsor on Monday; Peter Bowen (recent success after a barren spell)

Newbury betting information

Going: Good to soft, soft in places (1mm midnight, but has dried from predominantly soft)

Forecast: Pretty much dry Friday and Saturday

Going stick: 4.0 as at 5.45am on Friday (changed to 4.9 on Saturday morning)

Pace angles

1.30pm: Arrest, Chesspiece, Al Qareem (prom), Certain Lad (prom),

2.05pm: Star Music, Folgaria?,

2.40pm: Army Ethos, Esquire, El Bodon (prom), James's Delight?, Son

3.15pm: Raadobarg (14), Real Gain (2), Thunder Ball (8), Sierra Blanca (4), Talis Evolvere (5), Terwada? (21), Dashing Roger (1), Hieronymus (10)


Now read Ryan Moore: Extra distance should suit Chemistry on Saturday


Watch this week's Racing...Only Bettor


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