ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Saturday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin says Pearly Island will love Newbury ground

Betfair tipster Tony Calvin
TC has two tips for Newbury and one for Kelso

It may look like a quiet weekend for horse racing but Tony Calvin finds plenty of note at Meydan on Saturday and has tips for Newbury and Kelso...

ITV have drafted in three races from the Dubai World Cup to add to their Saturday coverage, so I am going to kick off with these, mainly because we knew the final fields and the draw on Wednesday afternoon, so I could make an early start.

Moore insight on Meydan is invaluable

I am not going to lie and say that I will be having a serious financial interest on the Meydan contests, if any in fact - so I won't be bandying around tips loosely here - but I would encourage you to read Betfair Ambassador Ryan Moore's column on the meeting on

Not only does he have seven rides, he also has a better handle than most on the Japan and Hong Kong form lines in particular, and he had some very bullish views on some of the races.

Suffice to say that, in the ITV contests, he expects 11/10 chance Equinox to "bolt up" in the Sheema Classic at 16:00 if running to his Japanese form, he makes 9/2 poke Serifos his most likely winner in the Dubai Turf at 15:10.

He was quite keen on last year's winner Country Grammer following up his win in the big race last year at 16:35 before being drawn in stall 14 of 15. Read it for yourself.

As for me, I simply wouldn't profess to have a global handle on the various form on show, or some unfamiliar trainers and jockeys, so I will stick to the belt and braces stuff for the relative prize money pennies at Kelso and Newbury.

Pearly Island will love the rain at Newbury

We could be looking at borderline heavy at Newbury on Saturday if they get much more rain, which is not too much of a surprise, even if they were good, good to soft in places, on Monday.

The forecast was always for a very wet week and they got it, with 18mm alone on Wednesday. The going is currently soft, with more rain to come, and it could prove pretty testing. Remember, they were also watering heavily once they were allowed to on March 1.

Inneston could well take a lot of whacking in the opener at 13:30 as I think the handicapper has been fair enough for raising him 7lb for his narrow defeat in the EBF Final at Sandown last time - he traded at 1.192/11 in-running there and the third was 8 lengths away - and he is probably a fair price at around 7/2 in the wider marketplace.

I may actually back him to tiny stakes so I don't lose if he wins but my main punt in the race is Pearly Island at 8/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.

I appreciate he runs off a career-high mark here, having been raised 6lb for a 7 ½-length win at Fontwell last time, but I thought that was a fair 0-125 for the track. He will love the anticipated ground and he also finished a good third over 2m here last season and he clearly arrives here in peak form.

The 2m4f handicap chase at 14:05 was a bit too tricky for my liking and the horse I liked most, Espoir De Guye, was a touch too short for me at 5/1.

He shaped well behind The Big Bite in the Greatwood Gold Cup last time, when he was weak in the market on his first start for the yard after a short break and a wind op, and he will appreciate this deeper ground.

All his best form has come on soft and heavy, and Timeform called it good to firm here last time.

He was dropped 4lb for that run last time too, which makes him a well-treated horse, but the price is no bargain in such a competitive race.

Look at Ilovethenightlife on the day

If that race is competitive, then the 18-runner mares' handicap at 14:40 is not a contest where I would be in a rush to rule out any at their respective prices. You can make a cogent case for them all.

Lagonda is interesting, not least for the fact that she comes here via a handicap chase start last time, and the deeper the better for her, it appears.

The key formline to this race could be the Doncaster novice that saw Ilovethenightlife beat Moviddy, Mrs Grimley and I Gonna Be last time, as all four re-oppose.

That Doncaster race was the springboard to Briery Queen winning this contest in 2016 (albeit in the stewards room) and her trainer Noel Williams, who also won this with Largy G last year, is responsible for Moviddy.

The obvious question mark with her is the ground, as she has never raced on anything officially worse than good to soft, but I thought she was the obvious one you would take out of the Donny heat.

Newbury fence 1280x720.956x538.jpg

Basically, I thought she would have won there with a more polished riding display, as the jockey seemed to get himself into a tangle approaching the last, and the in-running punters who backed her into as short as 1.121/8 obviously agreed.

To be fair to the jockey, the horse did look to be hanging a touch - which would not be ideal around here - but a first-time tongue tie hints that it could have been a breathing issue as she came under pressure.

The time of the race was good, which probably explains why the handicapper took a very positive view of the form, but the ground would worry me. I'd rather back her on the day, near the off when I know what the going really is. It may be better than I fear.

And, besides, the Sportsbook odds-compilers obviously really fancy her and make her just a 6/1 chance when 12s is available elsewhere!

Grimley gets nod for versatility

The one I am happy to back at this stage is the Doncaster third, Mrs Grimley, as she is ground -versatile.

She had a sighter of the track here on good ground in November, she won on heavy at Ffos Las afterwards, and she put up a disappointing run behind her last time.

She travelled well into the race before being looked after from two out - she wasn't a non-jigger at all but the jockey was keen to look after her after she lost her action and was pulled up the time before at Market Rasen - and the trainer was talking of mares' finals for her back in January.

Her stamina isn't copper-bottomed but I'll take my chances at 15.014/1 or bigger. She is 12/1 with the Sportsbook, paying five places, if you want to play her each-way.

Back Bonntay if she drifts

Kelso is good to soft, soft in places, and I imagine it will stay that way if the forecast is correct. Very little rain is now due, and hopefully it may even dry out a touch.

Bonntay is a horse I have had my eye on for a handicap for a while, and I think she has got a very attractive mark for the 2m51yd mares' final at 15:00.

The one problem is potentially an inadeqaute trip (there is another bigger one that I will come to), as I think it is pretty clear she wants 2m4f (I tipped her at a price when she was a non-runner in a Grade 2 over 2m4f at Cheltenham in January when the ground turned soft). But Kelso, with its long run-in and straight, does take plenty of getting, so hopefully she will get away with it.

She was a good bumper horse, winning her first three and then finishing second in a Listed race in her sign-off race in that discipline in November, and she has similarly looked a staying type in all her hurdle starts.

Even stepped up to an extended 2m2f at Market Rasen last time, she was doing all her best work late, and she probably bumped into a smart one there in Hourvari, a horse who had previously destroyed recent, subsequent winner Jo Dadancer by 15 lengths at Lingfield. The suspicion was also that connections had a handicap in mind for her that day.

She may need further and she could jump better, and she has yet to do much on the clock, but a mark of 110 surely underestimates her ability on a track that could play to her strengths.

The first-time cheekpieces are presumably on to get her more interested early doors, and the stable record is a modest eight from 56 with this angle. Hopefully, the move pays off.

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However, I was somewhat disappointed when the first two firms up on Thursday morning made her just 11/4 and 3/1, and those prices were promptly taken, and I can't tip her at her current price.

Do I think she has to go very close? Yes.

Could I back her at 5/2 as it stands? No.

Perhaps optimistically, I was expecting at least a point bigger than the opening shows. And maybe I could have just about handled 3/1 if I was getting four places as I can't see many of these getting near her.

No dice at the current odds then (the 5/2 on the Sportsbook is the general and best price), but the reason I have included the full argument for her is that I think she has to drift - she does have negatives surrounding her - and I will back her win-only if she hits 7/2 or bigger on the Betfair Exchange. I suggest you do the same if she does, and I can see it happening.

Small bet on horse with a big shout

On Tuesday, I flagged We'll Go Again as possibly one to keep onside if confirmed for the 13:50 as he certainly shaped a lot better than the bare form would suggest at Sedgefield last time and the handicapper dropped him 3lb for it.

He may just be a flakey horse - indeed he blew out when made favourite at Catterick previously - but that Sedgefield run, in a first-time tongue-tie, was his first since November and the key to him may be better ground than he has had on his last two starts (both on soft), which he could well get here.

This ex-Irish performer was rated 114 when winning a maiden hurdle on good ground at Market Rasen back in July, and he is just 99 now. If the ground rides okay at Kelso, then he has a big shout. There is plenty of blow-out potential here but he rates a small bet at 18/1 win-only with the Sportsbook.

Any 12/1+ would be acceptable. Idilico looks to have a solid enough each-way chance, but We'll Go Again is the sole bet.

I don't have a betting opinion in the 14:25 but I am sure plenty will be all over Pym given his lowly mark of 127 over hurdles on his first start for Nigel Twiston-Davies (he was rated over 154 over fences in his pomp for Nicky Henderson). However, he is a 10yo who hasn't raced for ages and he has clearly had an issue or two.

The same applies to 3m2f handicap chase at 15:35 unless you trust in the genius of Ann Hamilton (a very good training outfit) and first-time cheekpieces to turn around the recent form of Bavington Bob.

He was well fancied for the Eider but he ran no race or at Newcastle again last time, both time racing in blinkers. He has good course form and it wouldn't shock me if he won this, for all I couldn't back him myself. He may well have lost the plot for now.

There is a possibility Half Shot could get an easy lead in here, and he arrives here on the back of an excellent second to Bill Baxter over 2m5f at this track, but his stamina is a big unknown. The race is not for me.

Good luck.

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