ITV Races - Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin's Antepost Tips: Darling, Your 14/1 Cheltenham Saturday selection awaits

Tony Calvin
Read Tony Calvin's in-depth Cheltenham review

With Cheltenham hosting a bumper card on Saturday, Tony Calvin take a deep dive through the card, as well as providing an early 14/1 tip...

  • Cheltenham and Doncaster to take centre stage

  • Tony discusses his Cheltenham thoughts and opinions

  • 14/1 bet from our resident tipster

Energumene v Edwardstone?

We are in for an enhanced, bumper, super-smashing-lovely, nine-race card at Cheltenham on Saturday - as well as Graded action and decent handicaps from Doncaster on ITV - but it is very much as you were as regards the rescheduled Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at sport's "natural amphitheatre."

Or so we thought until around 12.45pm on Monday afternoon.

We had reverted to the original entries for the race - and only five of the eligible eight picked up the baton on Monday morning - which meant it looked like being Energumene v Edwardstone and 20/1+ bar the pair again.

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But then news came through that Gary Moore had supplemented Editeur Du Gite for the race at a cost of £2,250.

Paul Nicholls and Moore had called for the race to be re-opened so they could consider running Greaneteen and Editeur Du Gite respectively, but I bet they wouldn't have been advocating that flexible stance had the horses already been in the race.

The last thing they would have wanted is latecomers eating into their easy prize money haul, and there are wider issues to consider, too.

For example, the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on February 11 has been mooted as a possible for both and they obviously wouldn't be taking up that engagement if they went to Cheltenham this weekend.

So re-opening would have simply unveiled a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario. It isn't an ideal situation by any means - far from ideal - but it is fundamentally fair.

Fair isn't always right, but so be it. We are likely to be having a moan-up at Newbury field sizes, as it is.

Cheltenham, and indeed all in racing, will be hoping the big two rock up or else it will pretty much be a waste of time, effort and money, even if the purse has predictably shrunk.

So all credit to Moore for walking the walk, after talking the talk, in going down the supplementary route.

No doubt fully in the knowledge that his Cheltenham-loving charge is heavy odds-on to finish at least third, even with the improving Amarillo Sky and Champion Chase runner-up Funambule Sivola among his possible rivals, and make money.

You get nearly 10k for finishing third, and your money back, plus a round of drinks, if finishing fifth, so it is a good move financially.

The Sportsbook were the first firm up on Monday and they bet 1/2 Energumene, 7/4 Edwardstone, 8/1 Editeur Du Gite, 33/1 Funambule Sivola, 40/1 Amarillo Sky and 100/1 Sizing Pottsie. The latter wouldn't get much interest with another nought added, mind you.

By the way, the Cross Country race from November is also being re-staged, but we obviously don't need to dwell on that - it's not on ITV anyway and hasn't been priced up - even if it has attracted a very healthy 17 entries including some big names that include Delta Work and Minella Times, among other credible players.

Plenty of ITV action to unravel


We have nine races on ITV on Saturday then (five at Cheltenham and four at Doncaster) - the non-terrestrial races also include a good Triumph Hurdle trial in the opener, I should add - so let's have a shufti at those contests.

I'll start with the 3m Cleeve Hurdle at 15:00, largely because on Monday's Weighed In podcast I made the case for backing Dashel Drasher at 28/1 each way non-runner money-back for the Stayers Hurdle and he features among the 10 declarations.

I must admit I had never heard of one of those, Gold Tweet, though it came as no shock to find out he was French, and a decent Grade 1-placed 6yo at that, albeit one beaten in his last five starts.

Grade 1-winning hurdler Gelino Bello is back over the smaller obstacles, but Stayers Hurdle third favourite Paisley Park, heads the betting at evens and rightly so, considering his Cheltenham pedigree - he is going for a fourth straight win in this race, in addition to his Festival win - and his Long Walk success last time.

Okay, he is an 11yo and he carries a 6lb penalty here, but he has looked on very good terms with himself of late.

Dashel Drasher's case

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You can obviously make a case for a few in here in what is a relatively tight-knit race (outside of the favourite at least) but if I fancy Dashel Drasher for the Festival at the price, then I obviously have to be considering him here getting 6lb.

Firstly, he is unpenalized, he is also a course winner, he will have his ground (it is currently soft at Cheltenham, with little rain forecast, and the course, along with Doncaster, are confident the thaw will come in time).

He doesn't have much to find with form horse Paisley Park at these weights and he probably ran as well as he has ever done over hurdles when second to Marie's Rock in the Relkeel over 2m4f here last time.

That came on the back of an excellent second to Noble Yeats over 3m1f in the Many Clouds, which was once again close to a career-best chase run, over which he is currently rated 158 as opposed to his hurdles mark of 151.

That Aintree run on officially good to soft ground went some way to assuaging the stamina doubts about him over 3m at this track - he had never previously gone beyond an extended 2m6f - and it also showed he doesn't need it hock-deep to show his form.

Indeed, Timeform have him racing on good to soft on all three starts this season.

He doesn't need to lead - there are plenty of other forward-goers in here, as it stands - and so it was all about the price.

I had to wait until 4pm on Monday for odds to appear and I was a touch disappointed to see the odds-compilers, who clearly want to keep him onside too - rightly in my opinion, clearly - make him as short as 7/2, the lowest in the marketplace.

I was hoping for at least a point bigger given his unsexy profile. I hope he wins with March in mind, but I reckon I may get bigger on the day (he is 9/2 in a place now), so I'll wait.

Even if I don't end up backing and tipping him for Saturday, this race will at least give us a better handle on whether 3m on this track will suit.

By the way, Call Me Lord is also in at Uttoxeter on Saturday, Gold Tweet is in the handicap chase on this card, Indefatigable could go to Huntingdon on Friday and Molly Ollys Wishes is in the mares' hurdle at Donny at the weekend, so the race could cut up a touch.

National winner in the Cotswolds

There are 11 in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at 14:25 and there could be another proper high-end dust-up in store here if Betfair Chase winner Protektorat and the Grand National/Many Clouds scorer Noble Yeats go at it. They are 13/8 joint-favourites with the Sportsbook.

I am going to see what turns up against them before venturing an opinion though be aware that Coole Cody and Dusart have alternative engagements this week.

Competitive Ballymore Trial expected

There is an incredibly deep Ballymore Trial at 15:35 (in number terms, anyway) and if half of the 23 entries confirm for Saturday - yes, I know you can't get half of 23 but you know full well what I meant - it could even be a meaningful pointer to March, even with only one modest Irish entry in Doctor Brown Bear (and he is owned by the sponsors).


Henri The Second, Idalko Bihoue, Joe Dadancer, Pikar Rock My Way, Serious Operator, Stay Away Fay, Storminhome and War Soldier all have other options this week, while Weveallbeencaught is one of two non-handicap entries from the UK for the Dublin Racing Festival weekend on February 4/5.

Given the above double-entries it was quite surprising that the Sportsbook followed up their 5/2 quote about Pembroke with four of that list next up in the betting, but it just illustrates how difficult it is to price up and punt on some ante-post races.

Handicap Chase hard to predict

The valuable 2m4f handicap chase at 13:50 has attracted 28 entries (maximum field of 17) looks a very hard puzzle to solve, and that is how it should be with over 56k to the winner.

Normal housekeeping out of the way first - and I make no excuse for posting these, as minimising no-shows is obviously vital to making money in ante-post betting - and the following are double-entered: Coole Cody, Demachine, Ga Law, Gold Cup Bailly, Gold Tweet, Princess Eleanor and Simply The Betts.

Furthermore, the out-of-form Gordon Elliott has entered three in here, but whether they are sighters for handicap marks or intended runners is anyone's guess.

Given the value of the race, and that fact that he has so many other entries on the card, they could well be coming over but I'd personally wait to see what travels over (fellow Irish trainer Stuart Crawford also has two in here).

The first firms up on Monday made Lieutenant Rocco the 50/1 outsider, and the Sportsbook followed suit, and I thought that was overly-dismissive.

He was entered at Wincanton on Thursday but that meeting was abandoned on Tuesday morning, so I imagine he comes here.

Clearly, this horse has not scaled the heights once expected of him when posting some excellent efforts in his 20/21 novice chase campaign.

He split Fusil Raffles and Chantry House here in December 2020 - but he travelled much better and ran well for a long way when fourth in a Pertemps hurdle qualifier at Warwick last time (he hit 2.14 in running) and is down to a mark of just 125 in both codes.

The problem is the minimum weight for the race is 10st 2lb and he will be out of the handicap if Stolen Silver or Brave Seasca run and he gets in (he obviously needs plenty to come out, so he is likely to be balloted out if being declared) so a watching brief is wise here, too.

Your tip awaits, Darling

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Your Darling was the other one that interested me at 14/1 down in trip, and I am going to stick him up win-only.

He clearly didn't stay 3m at Kempton last time (when he hit 1.99 in running) and he obviously impressed when hosing up over 2m5f at Ascot previously.

Off a 9lb higher mark, I reckon he remains on a winnable mark, as he could have won by 10 lengths there had he wanted to.

He is another not sure to get a run, which will annoy Ben Pauling as I imagine he will be very keen to get another win into him before a shot at the Plate at the Festival (he is owned by Lord Vestey).

He is currently rated 132, which would have got you into the race in the last two years, but not in the previous six - the bottom weight was rated 140 in 2020 - so he will be off for his life here.

And of course we get our money back if he is balloted out. He was very heavily backed at Kempton (he opened up at three times his starting price) and any drying of the ground will be in his favour.

He ran poorly here last January but that pulled-up effort was clearly not his running.

I am going to focus solely with Cheltenham in this piece as I have already massively exceeded a manageable word count, but I will look at Doncaster and I'll be back with a column on that if I see anything of note.

Good luck.

Back Your Darling with the Betfair Sportsbook in 13:50 at Cheltenham on Saturday


PROFIT AND LOSS (from March 26)

Staked: 323
Returns: 474.8
P/L: +151.8


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