ITV Races

Saturday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin has a 12/1 bet in the Betfair Imperial Cup

Betfair tipster Tony Calvin
Tony has a trio of tips for Betfair Imperial Cup day at Sandown

The Betfair Imperial Cup is the big race on the final Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival, and our resident tipster Tony Calvin has a bet for that race plus two more on Sandown's card...


Paul Nicholls Superboost

Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls saddles Sans Bruit in today's Betfair Imperial Cup, and if you fancy the horse to finish in the top six you can back him at the super-boosted price of 6/42.50 (from 4/51.80.

Back Sans Bruit to finish Top 6 in 14:25 Sandown @ 6/42.50

Bet here

When I wrote my ante-post piece on Monday, the two that interested me most in the 100k Betfair Imperial Cup at 14:25 were Jipcot and Faivoir.

Unfortunately, the Betfair Sportsbook odds-compilers concurred, as they were just 7/24.50 and 10/111.00 respectively about the pair - they were 5s and 16s elsewhere - so that made them untippable.

Sandown 14:25 - Back Faivoir

What is the betting situation now, with 16 of the 23 confirming (two of the most notable no-shows were Petit Tonnerre and Welsh Charger) at the overnight stage?

Well, they have drifted to 9/25.50 and 12/113.00, with the Betfair Sportsbook now paying five places, and despite seven less runners to worry about, so it certainly paid to wait.

The case for Jipcot remains strong and I will have a saver on him (though I am concerned about a couple of things, hence the non-tip) but for the purposes of this column I am siding solely with Faivoir each-way at 12/113.00.

Obviously, I greatly fear Jipcot.

He sluiced up byfive lengths in a five-runner handicap hurdle at Huntingdon on Sunday - it may have been light on numbers, but it looked a strong 0-115 - and trainer Ben Pauling immediately namechecked a quick turnaround in this race for a horse he labelled a "hothead to train."

He carries a 7lb penalty here but it could be that the trainer found the key to him by running him in a first-time hood, in addition to belatedly putting back on the tongue-tie that he wore for his two victories in France, which came within 11 days of each other. The latter point could be pertinent here given the quick turnaround.

And, of course, ditching the chasing campaign that saw him have three quick runs over fences in late autumn was also a good move by Pauling, too.

They presumably have always thought a fair bit of him - he was thrown in the deep end on his first start for the yard in last season's Triumph Hurdle - and there is the scope for plenty more improvement off an effective mark of 124 here. He was given a mark of 127 when coming over from France, and he won't be officially re-assessed for the Huntingdon win until next Tuesday.

There is no Sandown-Cheltenham Imperial Cup bonus this year, but the angle into this race could be to find a horse who needs to win in order to definitely get into their Cheltenham target (that is, to pick up a 5lb penalty for winning beforehand), and one who has the ability to do so.

Step forward last season's County Hurdle winner Faivoir.

Faivoir has just that handicap entry next week and he is currently not assured of a run in that maximum field of 26. A 5lb penalty for winning this would guarantee it, however.

And the horse is certainly fully capable of winning this off 136, just 2lb higher than for his Cheltenham win last year, after shaping much, much better when fifth under an inexperienced 7lb claimer in the Betfair Hurdle last time.

He also ran well enough on his only previous start here, albeit that was back in 2020, and we know he handles testing ground and stays further (as a 2m4f+ winner), a healthy attribute to possess at this often-attritional course.

Second-guessing motives is a route to the poorhouse in racing but there is over 51k to the winner here, with no Irish opposition to worry about, so surely Faivoir will be off for his life.

There is always the possibility he could be a non-runner if the County Hurdle five-day field cuts up when the confirmations come through on Saturday at midday (I think it is Saturday) and he is assured of a run, but that would leave a massive pot going begging and that would be plain daft.

Back Faivoir @ 12/113.00

Bet here

Sandown 15:00 and 15:35 - No bet

I don't have a betting opinion in the bumper at 15:00 or the 2m4f handicap chase at 15:35, but I'll give you a couple of lines on both.

In the bumper, Sunset Marquesa could be the pick on form and on the clock on her Cheltenham fourth in November (though the Market Rasen run last time wasn't bad). But I am surprised that Crazierthandaisy is as big as 12s after her unlucky third at Huntingdon. However, you have to fear the two 4yos, I've Madeupmymind and Plantaroma, getting 10lb.

Kotmask would be my slight lean at 10/34.33 in the handicap chase as he has winning form at the track, comes here seeking a hat-trick and his patient run-style could be suited to a race in which five of his seven opponents can go forward. He has the odd mistake in him, though; indeed, he fell around here earlier in the season.

I should mention the going. It is heavy, soft in places, on the hurdles course and soft, good to soft in places, on the chase circuit, with little rain due.


Sandown 13:50 - Back Asta La Pasta

I hope Dan Skelton has a very good day as I thought was Asta La Pasta was the stand-out in the 2m4f EBF Final at 13:50 for all you have to fear the favourite Hasthing off a mark of just 119 on his bumper form.

Now, this 17-runner handicap hurdle is very deep, hence the five places available for Sportsbook customers, but it is Asta La Pasta win-only for me at 7.06/1 or bigger on the Betfair Exchange, or 6/17.00 on the fixed-odds front.

There is some 15/28.50 and 7/18.00 available in the wider marketplace, which is obviously very attractive.

I am a big fan of course form at Sandown and the selection shaped very well when a staying-on third over 2m on heavy ground here in December.

That came off 115 and he races off 124 now but he has since recorded a wide-margin success at Market Rasen and dug it out well under a penalty in a fair time at Wetherby, so I think the rise is more than justified.

He has never raced beyond an extended 2m but surely the step up in trip will be the making of him.

He is a half-brother to a decent 3m handicap hurdler in Cup Final (a Sandown winner, rated 146 at his peak) and his dam was Asian Maze, rated 158 at her best and she was three from three over 3m, two of which came in Grade 1 company.

And Asta La Pasta's run-style also suggests the 2m4f trip will very much suit.

Back Asta La Pasta @ 7.06/1 on Betfair Exchange

Bet here

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Sandown 13:50 - Back Taras Halls

The Sportsbook are 14s about Taras Halls, and I can definitely see this fair bumper winner going well after decent efforts at Newcastle and Doncaster.

However, the initial problem with tipping him is that he was a colossal 33s and 25s in places early on Thursday afternoon, so I could hardly have tipped him in good faith at the current fixed-odds price.

However, the 33s became 22s (still far too big) and the 25s was cut to 16s, so I feel better about the situation now.

If you can get 15.014/1 or bigger once the exchange market beefs up - it really should be attainable, as there is plenty of 16s out there, as well as the still-rogue 22s - I'd get involved though.

And, clearly, the 14s is acceptable, too; I wouldn't lay it. If you can access that 22s, or 16s, then you know what to do.

He clearly met a very good horse when second to Cheltenham-bound and subsequent Sidney Banks winner Handstands at Newcastle, and then he tore home to take second to Champagne Twist (re-opposes here on 7lb worse terms) over an extended 2m3f at Doncaster last time.

It is fair to say he could have been given a far more aggressive ride last time in that qualifier at Doncaster, and the handicapper probably agreed, as he stuck him up 4lb for it.

However, given those last two runs, and his bumper form, I think his revised mark of 117 gives him definite chances.

In fact, the more I looked, the more I liked his chance as much as Asta La Pasta's, hence I am willing to play at 14s, and the Sportsbook is the place to go if you want to get filled straight away.

Furthermore, I have had a re-think and I am going to suggest you back him at 14s each way, and utilise those five places with the Sportsbook. I could maybe see him going off in single figures, though the Exchange market is impossible to call these days.

Back Taras Halls e-w @ 14/115.00

Bet here

Wolverhampton 14:40 and 15:15 - No bet

The six-runner 7f Listed race at Wolverhampton at 14:40 is a tricky one to call.

Doctor Khan Junior is set to get the run of the race from the front, from trap one, but he has a lot to find with the Group 1-placed form horse, Shouldhvebeenaring. However, the favourite has never raced at this track before and lacks a recent run.

That could lead to the improving filly Nine Tenths obliging, but I thought her price of 7/24.50 was nothing more than fair, in truth.

My interest in the Lincoln Trial at 15:15 ended when the Sportsbook put Final Voyage in at 11/43.75, when he is twice that price elsewhere.

I can fully see why they want to duck him as he was three from four around here with his previous handler, and he did well to win from off the pace at Dundalk last time.

However, there are potential negatives, in that he wouldn't want to get too far behind from stall 11 of 11 and he has been beaten off his revised (and career-high) mark of 93 seven times in his career.

I'll leave well alone, then.

I will probably be back late on Sunday afternoon with my Day One column for Cheltenham, but if there is still a lot of rain due throughout the day, I may leave it until Monday morning and re-assess then.

So basically, the weather will dictate when it appears.

Until then, good luck.


Now read previews and tips for next week's Festival in our Cheltenham HUB.


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PROFIT AND LOSS (Nov 1 onwards; 2023-24 NH season):

STAKED: 77
RETURN: 118.8
P/L: +41.8

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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