Tony Calvin’s best bets for Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury


To say that it might be the most eagerly-awaited spectacle of the jumps season may be pushing it – well, it would be – but even this old curmudgeon is impatient to see Champ run over 2m for the first time since his bumper days in the Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury at 15:00.

To say this is an unorthodox prep for the Gold Cup – which I believe is still the plan, win or lose – would be something of an understatement.

I couldn’t dream of backing the RSA winner over this sort of trip at 7/2+, especially given it must be very doubtful how his occasionally slopping jumping will hold up at 2m-pace, but it will be fascinating to see how he fares if they go from the front on him (there is a lack of pace elsewhere, so they could well fire him out).

An equally interesting side note will be how he fares in the betting. He was as short as 15/8 on Tuesday in the ante-post market, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he went off at 15/2.

If he does, then punters will have a decision to make. At which point do your put your doubts aside? Every horse has a price at which they become backable.

It is probably not a race I will be having a bet in – if the earlier races show the ground is not too bad then I may have a few quid on Sceau Royal if his price holds at around 7/2 and 4/1- but I am surprising myself somewhat in recommending Cepage at 21.020/1 or bigger in the Betfair Denman Chase at 14:25.

Ground and trip could suit Betfair Denman Chase outsider

I would have loved to have put him up each-way with eight runners, but aunties and uncles and all that and Dashel Drasher was always going to Ascot. So this is a sever-runner race. Regardless of the numbers, I think he has a winning shot and am willing to play at the prices.

Nothing in this race scares me, and the two form horses, Clan Des Obeaux and Lostintranslation, both carry 6lb penalties and are unattractively priced to my eye.

Cepage carries a 4lb burden himself, so he needs to improve/or the above pair to underperform again, but I think a positive ride from Charlie Deutsch could pay dividends here. He may have to be content to sit off Secret Investor, but I want to see a prominent ride.

I don’t know what went wrong with him first time up in the Caspian Caviar, but he was very weak in the betting that day and was pulled up, but he was back to form under a big weight at Chepstow last time.

His handicap form isn’t a million miles off the principals and I reckon this 2m7f trip could really suit this course winner on ground that looks like being better than was forecast earlier in the week. It is currently good to soft (soft in places)

He failed to get home over 3m1f in the Ultima but he only cried enough late on after trading short in the run (2.546/4) and his time figures do not mark him up as a 20/1+ poke here.

Two against the field that will hopefully relish the 3m

The Sportsbook are paying five places in the Betfair Weighed In Podcast Weekly Handicap Hurdle – out every Monday, lads and lasses – but I am going to take two against the field, win-only, on the exchange in the 3m contest at 13:50.

I am always conscious of a bias towards tipping horses I have sided with before, but I couldn’t resist the claims of Dhowin here at 15.014/1 or bigger. Unfortunately, nor could Sportsbook bettors as he was backed into 10s from 14s there, so that scuppered the each-way play.

I thought he would have gone very close under a more aggressive ride when third at Ascot in December but it was his fifth over 2m5f in the Lanzarote last time which hammered home the fact he is a three-miler.

He was under the pump from start to finish there, and did remarkably well to finish so close given he was more of a candidate to be pulled up at various stages. He is still lightly-raced and I can really see 3m around here, with a long straight, playing to his staying strengths.

Polish is the outsider of the field, but I think he is worth a saver at 34.033/1 or bigger.

He finished behind Dhowin when ninth in the Lanzarote when he again made mistakes. His jumping will need to improve but hopefully the step back up to 3m will allow him more time to measure his hurdles, and to be more fluent.

Certainly, a mark of 130 looks workable on his Grade 2 Cheltenham third in November and a reproduction of his strong-finishing fourth over 2m5f at Kempton last season could see him cause an upset.

Happy to stick with Mack in the Betfair Hurdle

The Sportsbook are paying seven places on the 24-runner Betfair Hurdle and I am happy enough with my win-only 20/1 ante-post bet on Mack The Man.

My reasons for siding with him remain unchanged. So I will cut and paste it the case for a second time.

He is officially the worst handicapped horse in the race, as he has a 5lb penalty for a Wincanton win last time for which he went up only 2lb. So he is 3lb badly-in.

But that was probably a necessary stepping stone – at the time he would not have been certain of a place in this line-up at all given the Wincanton win came off a lowly 127 – and one that came after two unsuccessful chase starts.

Despite being wrong at the weights, he is only 2lb higher than when a 15/2 chance in this race last season, when being brought down at the last.

Sure, he was two or three lengths off the leaders but he wasn’t out of it at all as he finds (as he showed when beating Protektorat and Song For Someone at Sandown in December 2019, and that form isn’t looking too shabby now) and I can see him coming on a ton for that Wincanton win.

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Not that it was a poor win as such – the time was decent – but I am guessing it was a means to an end.

He looks a very decent each-way bet at 20s, seven places, to me but I would rather have another horse running for me rather than going in again.

Flat form gives us excellent claims of a Victory

Cadzand and Soaring Glory are the rightful market leaders, and they have the perfect profile for the usual winner of this race, and I was very tempted by Milkwood, who looks to have been put away with this race in mind after a luckless third here in November (unless he has had an issue), but On To Victory was my second stab.

I would like to take advantage of the seven places but, at the time of writing (and he may drift, so keep ’em peeled), he is only 14/1 on the fixed-odds front and 21.020/1 on the exchange so I have to play win-only on the latter.

He has little chance on his Wincanton novice hurdle win last time but that came on ground that was apparently far more tiring than the official good to soft suggested, and it also came only a fortnight after a fall at Kempton, a race in which he looked set to give some smart novices a fight when coming down when challenging at the second-last.

He is only fairly handicapped on what he has done over hurdles (and the 7yo has had only six runs in that sphere) but it is his Flat form which indicates he could be on a winning mark here.

He is rated 105 on the Flat after a Betfair November Handicap win in November (23 runners), and if he can transfer that ability to hurdles, then a mark of 129 gives him excellent claims. A 24b differential between Flat and Jumps could actually make him a blot.

It could also be that this big field and strong pace will bring out the best of him in this sphere, as it did at Doncaster in November, and I am paying to find out.

That’s yer lot on the ITV races at Newbury, but there are also a couple of races at Market Rasen on the UK front and Navan’s Boyne Hurdle on the box.

Handicapper has given Dan a right chance

I like the look of Langer Dan at 11.010/1 in the 2m handicap hurdle at 15:15 at the Rasen.

You have to be wary of the lightly-raced pair of Gipsey De Choisel and Ajero, but so are the layers, and Langer Dan has better claims than his odds suggest.

He is 4lb lower than when sixth in the Boodles just three starts ago, and he has had a wind op since a below par run on bad ground at Plumpton last time. I think the handicapper has given him a right chance, especially with the ground better than expected here too (soft, good to soft in places).

Darasso can be competitive in Navan feature

The Sportsbook’s opening 12/1 about Darasso has gone and I am worried about a non-runner scuppering the dead-eight in the Boyne Hurdle, so I am going to put the horse up win-only at 12.011/1 on the exchange in the 14:47.

The first thing to say about this race is that the ground will be absolutely hock-deep if the meeting survives, and my Racing Only Bettor Podcast colleagues tell me Navan is as bad as it gets in Ireland when it comes to heavy ground.

That will suit Darasso (who would have run at Gowran Park on Saturday has that meeting not bitten the dust) as he is a grinder in the worst of conditions, and I like the angle of him stepping down in trip after his run over 3m last time.

He arguably put up his best chase performance when winning at this track two years ago, and a reproduction of his premier hurdles form would make him very competitive at these weights.

Good luck on “Betfair Super Sunday”.

I have put up far more selections than I usually do, but rest assured I am backing them all myself. That much you can rely on.