ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Thursday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin's hoping to be in Command with 20/1 Cheltenham bet

Betfair Tipster Tony Calvin
Tony has two tips at Cheltenham on Thursday

The final day of the Craven meeting at Newmarket is the feature meeting on ITV on Thursday, but Tony Calvin has his eyes on a couple of runners at the other televised meeting, Cheltenham...

  • Six races from Newmarket and Cheltenham on ITV

  • Competitive action at HQ

  • 11/26.50 and 20/121.00 bets at Cheltenham

Newmarket - 14:25: No Bet

There are effectively only three betting races from Newmarket on ITV, as the course and the broadcaster are persisting with sticking the Wood Ditton at 14:25 on a terrestrial platform, when the perfectly good 15-runner 50k 7f handicap that rounds off the card could, and should, have been put in its place.

I do have an soft spot for the annual contest for unraced 3yos as it always reminds me of former Racing Post colleague and flat-mate Andy Smith - he used to have a three-figure bet on whatever was favourite, and that was back in the late 80s - but you may as well put a Mascot race on ITV for all it brings to the punting party.

There is probably a good reason why a bookmaker sponsors it. It is currently 4s the field.

Still, my new life motto is one of positivity (ish) and only focusing about what I do and can influence, not what others believe - I am done arguing with people, seeking a reaction, wherever they may be - so, channeling my inner Jim Bowen, I actually think it is Super, Smashing, Great.

Or not.

Newmarket - 13:50: No Bet

The card kicks off with a rather fearsome 17-runner 3yo 6f handicap at 13:50 - actually that Wood Ditton is looking more attractive by the second - and this is about as tricky as it gets.

I have Kevin Philippart De Foy as a trainer who could be about to hit a purple patch, as the vast majority of his horses are running to form, despite the fact that he has only had one recent winner and a strike rate of just 10% in 2024.

One of his horses who went well last time was Mashadi, just touched off in first-time cheekpieces over 7f at Kempton earlier in the month in a race run in a good time, and for whom he now puts on initial blinkers.

The horse was only beaten a head in a three-runner race here on debut and I reckon this Blue Point gelding, who cost 265,000gns as a yearling (he must be a looker), could be handicapped to go close here, with the step back in trip expected to suit.

But I'd want bigger than the Sportsbook 12s (he is 14s and 16s elsewhere) to get involved in a race this tricky.

Mind you, the trainer is 3 from 10 with first-time blinkers - a good strike rate that more than hints at a thoughtful handler who does his homework, rather than shovels on headgear - so I was tempted, all right, to stick up an exchange bet (currently 17.016/1 to small money).

Newmarket - 15:00: No Bet

The gossip race is up next, so we skip straight to the Group 3 Abernant Stakes at 15:00 and, in its way, it is just as difficult to solve as the opener.

Putting aside the 104-rated Washington Heights (and he is certainly not a no-hoper, given the way he finished off last season), only 9lb separates the best and worst horse on official figures going into the race, and only two of the field have had a recent run.

Newmarket head on 1280x720.jpg

And it is no coincidence that the pair (Shouldvebeenaring and Marshman) head the betting, so you are paying fully to get with horses with proven fitness on their side. Bookmakers can be canny sorts.

I have five of the field as prominent racers, but I couldn't see a guaranteed trailblazer in the field, so the pace map didn't give many clues, so I was struggling.

Ed Walker has his string in decent nick and I thought his Makarova (he also has Popmaster in here) was perhaps the most interesting as the only female in the field getting the 3lb sex allowance. She currently trades at 17.016/1 on the exchange.

This is a step down in class for her after rounding off last season with three Group 1 starts (and running very well on each occasion, too) but this is too much of a fitness guessing game for me.

As I said yesterday, pick your battles. Bookmakers price up every race, punters can decide to bet in none if they so choose.

Newmarket - 15:35: No Bet

The 112-rated pair of Alcantor and Eben Shaddad are the form horses in the Craven at 15:35 but the market has the maiden winner Native Approach as the market leader.

He must be a proper gossip horse then, or a sectional tool, as he is just 11/82.38 with the Sportsbook, which seems rather curious to me. He was rather impressive visually (he also looked quite shiny) when winning at Kempton in February, though.

The Gosdens are very good when it comes to knowing which of their horses will take to first-time hoods (see their stats below), so I would probably side with Dewhurst third Eben Shaddad, in the new headgear, at over 4/15.00 on the exchange. The current 5.39/2 there simply looks far too big given his juvenile form, and that hood info, but I can just about decline the tempting offer.

But am I having a bet myself? Na. I couldn't see what would definitely lead, either, in this small field, which may split two ways. So we may need two leaders.

Hopefully, Cheltenham will ride to the rescue again and stop this column being a Kevin Pullein. I wonder where that legend is now. Perhaps Simon Nott can track him down.

Cheltenham - 14:05: No Bet

There is a big difference of opinion, Geoffrey - google Winner Takes All, and what a programme that was - from the bookmakers as to how to price up the 3m1f+ mares' chase final at 14:05.

As at 6am on Wednesday (when the market was under-round for those with access to all layers on the Oddschecker grid), La Renommee ranged from 11/43.75 to 6/17.00; Juniper from 11/43.75 to 9/25.50; Presenting A Queen from 6s to 10s, and Flintara from 6s to 14s. And it didn't end there.

You get my drift. It was a wild one.

I imagine the market will come to a better agreement by the end of Wednesday morning once the bold type has been snaffled, but you can see why bookmakers came to different conclusions.

The 9/25.50 about Juniper with the Sportsbook - also 5.59/2 on the exchange as this goes live - would be my number one choice, as I want to see how the Chris Gordon horses (he has Presenting A Queen in here) run on Wednesday before possibly chancing his mare.

Aside from Philippart De Foy, I have Anthony Honeyball as a trainer who could have a good end to the season, and his Juniper clearly comes here in great nick after deep-ground wins, and she was only beaten ¾ length on good going in this race last year.

Maybe, the Sportsbook are dangling the 9/25.50 carrot because she bled from the nose when winning at Wincanton last time (I'm no vet, but that can't be a positive) but, either way, I'll leave this race alone, with a possible view to a Thursday morning update.

Cheltenham 14:40: Back Cottie

Cottie is the early one of interest in the 14:40 - she opened up at 9s in a place - having been the latest Dan Skelton horse to have been given some very generous slack from the handicapper, the 9yo having been dropped 10lb for just three runs this year since joining the stable from Ireland (though admittedly she did arrive there on a tough mark, maybe).

And it is not as if she ran without promise over 2m at Ludlow last time when ridden by a 7lb claimer, albeit a decent one it appears.

With Harry Skelton on for the first time, it is not hard to see the 11/26.50 chance being the latest Skelton job, as a mark of 108 looks exceedingly exploitable on her Downpatrick handicap win over 2m3f on good ground for Henry De Bromhead last June (was bought for £20,000 in October).

She has been held up in her three starts for the stable but she basically made all at Downpatrick, and she was ridden prominently when a good fifth after going up 8lb at Galway next time, so perhaps we can expect a return to those tactics here.

I may be guilty of overplaying the trainer target element, but he has done wonders to get this mare to a 26k-to-the-winner handicap off a mere 108. A win here will cover the purchase price, and probably most of the training fees, too.

Basically, I don't want to lose if she wins, so I am having a bet on her at 11/26.50 win only. She is a point bigger elsewhere but this is one rare occasion where I am happy to acknowledge and play.

Back Cottie, win only, in 14:40 Cheltenham @ 11/26.50

Bet here

Cheltenham 14:40: Back On My Command

However, I am going in two-handed, and the other play rested between On My Command, Pretending and Lone Star.

On My Command looks well worth a win-only bet at 20/121.00 with the Sportsbook - the general market price, though there is some 22s out there - or 21.020/1 or bigger on the exchange. I'd go with the former to get filled straight away.

Local trainer Martin Keighley hasn't had a great season but two of his last three runners have won, and On My Command made a satisfactory debut for him (having joined from Nicky Henderson) when fourth at Kempton on unfavoured soft ground in February, under a rider able to claim 10lb.

She got dropped 2lb to a mark of 117 for that run, and she is weighted to do some damage off that mark if returning to the form of her good-ground third to Theatre Glory in the Listed mares' race on this card in 2022.

She must have had a lot of issues since, but she has her trip and ground - she likes a decent surface - and a lovely handicap mark, so I have to chance her at the price.

Sean Bowen, who rode her for that third here in 2022 and a previous win at Plumpton, takes the ride. He is Keighley's go-to jockey, with 42 winners for the yard, the most of any rider for the yard, and one with a 20% strike rate, too, and a level-stakes profit, for what that is worth.

She'd actually be my number one bet in the race at 20s, for all that lightly-raced profile of late hints at problems.

Take care.

Back On My Command, win only, in 14:40 Cheltenham @ 20/121.00

Bet here


Going: Good

Going stick readings: 7.5 at 6.30am on Wednesday

Weather forecast: 1.6mm Wednesday; 1.3mm Thursday

Pace angles on ITV races

1.50pm: Game Keeper (drawn in 16), Pen Portrait (11), Almarada Prince (10) - prominent, North View (9), Ingleby Ivy (1) - prom, Run Boy Run (14)

2.25pm: N/A

3.00pm: Marshman (3) - prom, Spycatcher (12) - prom, Garrus (5) - prom, Mill Stream (7) - prom, Washington Heights (6) - prom (No out and out trailblazer)

3.35pm: Haatem?, Champagne Prince? (Pace hard to call in this)

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

First-time headgear stats (for both Newmarket/Cheltenham)

De Foy blinkers 3 from 10 (since 2021)

Hills hood 8 from 81 (2012)

Burke hood 5 from 44 (2014)

John Gosden hood 24 from 98 (2011)

John & Thady Gosden hood 9 from 30 (2021)

Noel Williams cheekpieces 1 from 18 (2016)

Venetia Williams blinkers 4 from 89 (2009)

Harry Fry cheekpieces 5 from 25 (2017)

Form of trainers with runners in all Wednesday ITV races

(limited evidence to go on for Flat - done before Wednesday's racing)

Excellent: Charlie Appleby, Ed Walker (four of his last six have won), Tom Symonds (has a runner in two RTV races, so included)

Good: Jane Chapple-Hyam, Andre Fabre, John & Thady Gosden, Michael Bell, Dominic Ffrench Davis, Gay Kelleway (not many runners but started 2024 well, and another 4/1 winner on Tuesday), Greenall & Guerriero, Simon and Ed Crisford, Richard Spencer (few recent runners), Aidan O'Brien, Adrian Nicholls, Martin Keighley

Fair: Fergal O'Brien, Dan Skelton, Harry Fry, Ralph Beckett, Craig Lidster, Newland & Insole, 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)

Moderate: Karl Burke (though borderline undecided as recent winners), William Haggas (for him, anyway, though a winner at Windsor on Monday helped), Charles Hills, Chris Gordon, Joe Tizzard, Venetia Williams, David Evans, David and Nicola Barron, Ben Clarke, Lucy Wadham, Ian Williams, Mitchell Hunt, Archie Watson (though 10/11 winner on Tuesday), Kevin Ryan (despite a 33/1 winner)

Undecided: Roger Varian, James Fanshawe, Richard Hannon, Tom Ward (despite being winnerless in 2024; two decent, recent seconds), Michael Dods, Charlie Longsdon, Jack Channon, Peter Chapple-Hyam (though 2 from 4 in 2024), Noel Williams, Christian Williams, Hobbs/White, Ruth Jefferson, Nick Kent, Henry Candy

Coming into form?: Kevin Philppart De Foy, Anthony Honeyball

Much needed recent winner: Gary Moore broke a very bad spell with an 18/1 winner at Windsor on Monday


(for the two ITV races; trainer form and headgear included above)

Going: Good, good to soft in places

Forecast: 0.3mm Wednesday; dry Thursday

Going stick: 6.8 as at 6.30am on Wednesday

Watering: to maintain good (no amount specified, disappointingly - and I am not sure why there are good to soft patches if they are watering to maintain good)

Pace angles

2.05pm: Juniper, Moviddy?, Flintara, Shirocco's Dream, Eleanor Bob, Lagonda (prom)

2.40pm: Lavida Adiva, Shelikesthelights, Gilbertina (prom), Realisation, Royale Dance (prom), On My Command, Cottie?

Now read Ryan Moore on his Thursday rides here.

Recommended bets


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