ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin Antepost Tips: Back 20/1 Annual Invictus to improve this year at Sandown

Betfair horse racing tipster Tony Calvin
TC has a 20/1 antepost tip for Saturday's Gold Cup at Sandown

Get Tony Calvin's preview of Friday on the Flat course at Sandown as well as his take on the Saturday jumps action with a 20/1 tip for the big race...

  • TC previews Flat Friday and jumps Saturday at Sandown

  • Mullins could seal Trainers' title before weekend

  • Annual Invictus backed to improve on 2023 run here


Willie Mullins is now a 1.011/100 poke on the Betfair Exchange (and 1/501.02 with the Sportsbook) to win the UK trainers' title after mopping up four winners at Ayr on Saturday - though one thing it wasn't was a 4,462/1 four-timer, as he had the small matter of 14 other runners on the day - but he still isn't going to die wondering at Sandown on Saturday as he has an eye-watering 25 entries.

Mind you, talking of dying (as inappropriate as that is), he may have already killed off Dan Skelton and Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls' title chances by Saturday afternoon, as Mullins had a 2/91.22 winner at Ffos Las on Monday, and he has four likely shorties in at Perth on Wednesday.

The racing protectionists' collective heads will have exploded when decs-tracking on Monday morning. Someone please check on the Doctor.

Well both actually, as we haven't heard from Marwan for a while either, and it is Chester soon.

Keep an eye on Mullins before Sandown

The salient ante-post question to ask is maybe how many Mullins will bring over now the title is effectively all over bar the shouting?

If Ayr was his C-team, Sandown's entries feature very much some (frighteningly, only some) of his A-listers.

However, will he keep a fair amount of the 25 entries back for Punchestown?

You'd have to think he will be less inclined to travel with some.

Indeed, he made some significant late on-the-day withdrawals when he knew he couldn't win the title at Sandown in 2016, for example when keeping Vroom Vroum Mag back for a Grade 1 win at Punchestown six days later. Mullins copped a £1,000 fine for "showing a willful disregard for the interest of racegoers and punters" that day.

Just bear that in mind when backing any Mullins' horses ante-post this week. There will be inevitable no-shows, and maybe high-profile ones.

Before the jumps season signs off on terrestrial TV (well, until the Swinton at Haydock next month, probably), we have some good-class action from Sandown on the Flat on Friday (also one race from Perth, in which the doubly-entered Bangers And Cash is the 5s jolly - 12 or 23 have other alternatives in this), though numbers were worryingly few and far between at the five-day stage.

Let's hope the fields now hold up.

Sandown Friday 13:50 - No bet

There are just 40 entries on the four ITV races, with just 11 eligible runners for the Esher Cup at 13:50. That used to be one of my favorite handicaps growing up, but I suppose 11 entries is just a sign of these foreign talent-drain times.

The 0-105 handicap still has a good solid range of classy horses though, with the 99-rated Cuban Tiger currently heading the weights.

Rocking Tree heads the Sportsbook's betting at 7/24.50, just ahead of 4s poke Hand Of God, but these 3yo handicaps at this time of the year are as hard as it gets, let alone factoring in no-shows ante-post.

I should mention the Sandown ground.

It is a mixture of good and good to soft on the Flat tracks, and good over jumps.

Indeed, "watering commenced on the latter on April 8 and has continued in up to 10mm cycles every 48 hours", after a largely dry fortnight.

A bit of rain is pretty much due every day this week, but not a lot, as it stands.

Sandown Friday 14:25 and 15:00 - No bet

All bar Poker Face (a 7/24.50 chance with the Sportsbook) are jocked up in the Gordon Richards Stakes at 14:25 and bet365 Mile at 15:00, which is very good news considering they only boast seven and eight entries respectively at the moment.

The current favorites for those races are Desert Hero at 15/82.88 and Nostrum at 2s but they are very tight betting heats. Checkandchallenge is entered in both contests (see double entries for all Friday and Saturday races below).

Sandown Friday 15:35 - No bet

The 14-strong Classic Trial at 15:35 has the potential to cut up, I suppose. Three are due to run at Epsom on Tuesday (see below), so definitely do not back them.

Wide-margin Zetland Stakes winner Arabian Crown is the strong 11/102.11 favourite here but, again, this race looks best left alone until we know the final fields at 10am on Wednesday morning. Understandably, all books price these races up defensively at this stage.

Sandown Saturday 15:35 - Back Annual Invictus

On to that man Mullins then, and his merry band, at Esher on Saturday then, and the big betting race of the day, the bet365 Gold Cup at 15:35.

There were 79 still in the race on Monday morning (Mullins had 13) and we are now down to 29 - the Closutton man now has just four, and there is a maximum field of 20 on the day - with last year's winner Kitty's Light retaining his status at the head of the betting at 7/24.50.

How is he still just eight? He seems to have been around for donkeys' years.

Willie Mullins 1280 x 853.png

Kitty's Light has to back up quickly after his Grand National fifth (it surprised me that he traded at a low of 2.6813/8 there) but one thing this Spring horse does is take his racing exceptionally well.

He won this race last season at odds of 11/43.75, only a week after winning the Scottish National, and he finished third to Hewick in the 2022 renewal after a third in the Ayr race, though it was a three-week break then. He has an obvious chance, as the prices suggest.

With the 2022 winner Hewick not appearing after his spin over hurdles at Aintree, and the three below him also not confirming, the weights have gone up a massive 13lb.

A lot of horses have been brought into the handicap, starting with Amirite, who was 1lb wrong on Monday morning on 10st 1lb.

Flash Collonges, Flash de Touzaine and Full Back were on 9st 3lb on Monday morning, and they are now all in the handicap.

Even Magna Sam at the foot of the weights, initially languishing on 8st 9lb, is now "only" on 9st 8lb, so not a million miles adrift.

Connections of Annual Invictus would have been hoping Hewick stood his ground, as he was originally in here off 10st 2lb, what jockeys (all in my experience) would call a "lovely racing weight".

He was surely beaten at the time - as was everything pre-race bar the winner in fact, given Inowthewayourthinkin was running off 145 - but he certainly was not helped by Rapper's fall in the Kim Muir (he went out of shot briefly, so it is hard to tell how badly hampered he was) but that race in deep ground was not ideal.

He is a good ground horse, so he probably ran well to be a well-beaten seventh.

Down 1lb for the Cheltenham run, he is just 6lb higher than when winning, pretty much making all, the Great Yorkshire at Doncaster, and that mark could still give him winning options.

Granted, he has not won off a mark higher than 140 (races off 143 here) in the past, but the Doncaster nose runner-up Forward Plan is now 11lb higher after two excellent runs since (though it has to be said none of the others from that race have hardly advertised the form, with subsequent Scottish National 1.01-traded heartbreaker Surrey Quest clearly not running his race in 10th ).

Chris Gordon is having a very quiet spell this month (he has runners at Kempton on Monday evening) but at least his Sea Invasion and Our Champ ran well at Cheltenham last week. I think we can anticipate a better run from Annual Invictus than when he stayed on into sixth from off the pace in this race last year.

Perhaps they will be more confident he will get the trip now - over which he remains unexposed on decent ground - and ride him more prominently, as all his best form has come on the front end.

Looking back on last year's race, he certainly didn't look like a horse at the end of his tether when staying on to be sixth at the finish.

The Sportsbook have him at 20/121.00, which is the generally available price, so that is fair, though there is some 25s in a place, and he is as short as 16s in others.

Play him win-only there (the Sportsbook are paying four places, by the way), or 21.020/1 or bigger on the Exchange market. He is currently 26.025/1 on the latter as this goes live, so you know what to do. Take the best Betfair win-only price where you can get it.

It's only a small bet, though.

Nine of the 28 could go elsewhere in the coming days, while it should be noted that 33s chance Sam Brown is 4lb well-in after his Aintree second last time. That's a big price, and my number two choice at the current odds.

Back Annual Invictus @ 20/121.00

Bet here

For the reasons explained earlier, the Oaksey Chase at 14:25 and the Celebration Chase at 15:00 must have been a nightmare to try to price up.

So much so that I haven't seen any yet, anywhere.

How do you go about pricing up Gaelic Warrior in the latter race given how impressive he was when beating subsequent Grade 1 winners Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps in the Arkle, given that he could be kept back for a potential penalty kick against fellow novices at Punchestown on May 2?

The one firm who have priced up that Punchestown race may him a 2/51.40 poke, or of course Mullins has El Fabiolo, as well as Appreciate It, Desert Dynamo, and Saint Sam, in the Celebration Chase.

If I was a bookmaker, I wouldn't offer a market on either race, to be honest. The first meaningful bets they will take on the race will probably be the worst they will field in their ante-post book.

Just look at how many have possible Punchestown targets in the lists below.

I'll leave it there. Back on Thursday morning.

Until then, take care.


Double-entered horses on the ITV races

Friday

1.50pm Sandown: Metallo, Royal Supremacy

2.05pm Perth: Bangers And Cash, Bowtogreatness, Cooper's Cross, Bodhivasttva, Magna Sam, Readysteadybeau, Mario De Pail, Senor Lombardy, Gold Emery, Tom Cody, Petrastar, Coolmoyne

2.25pm Sandown: Checkandchallenge,

3.00pm Sandown: Checkandchallenge

3.35pm Sandown: Bellum Justum, Defiance and Feigning Madness (all three entered overnight at Epsom on Tuesday)

Saturday

1.50pm Sandown: Act Of Authority, Golden Maverick, Highway One O Five, Spirits Bay,

2.05pm Leicester (soft ground): Dawn Of Liberation, Harswell Duke (due to run at Pontefract on Monday), Hiromichi, Look Back Smiling

2.25pm Sandown: Appreciate It, Asterion Forlonge, Bachasson, Harper's Brook

Following have Punchestown entries: Ahoy Senor, Appreciate It, Asterion Forlonge, Journey With Me, Jungle Boogie

2.45pm Haydock (heavy ground): Bosh, Chola Empire, How Impressive, Look Back Smiling, Roach Power, Sterling Knight

3.00pm Sandown: Appreciate It, Harper's Brook

Following have Punchestown entries: Appreciate It, Captain Guinness, Desert Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Gaelic Warrior, Jonbon, Maskada, Saint Sam

3.35pm Sandown: Bangers And Cash, Courtland, Farceur Du Large, Fortescue, Magna Sam, Minella Cocooner and Nick Rockett (in at Punchestown on April 30), Rapper, We'veallbeencaught


Now read Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat Diaries: £3M is the target at Sandown on Saturday


Listen to this week's episode of Weighed In...

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Profit and loss

2024 Flat season: starts Sandown 26th April for purposes of this column

2023-24 NH season:

STAKED: 127

RETURN: 143.4

P/L: +16.4

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