Tony Calvin’s six to back for a cracking day’s action

The most important aspect of betting is discipline, and sticking to the tried-and-trusted strategy of hard work and study that have served you well in the past.

Never chase, and never over-react, when you are on a downslope.

And stay consistent to your betting MO.

That thought has occurred to me a few times over the past three weeks as this column has gone through a rough patch of bad luck, near-misses, poor judgement, and one or two Barry Crockers or rides.

Right, now the hands have gone up – it is always important to acknowledge the bad runs to readers, not least to yourself – let’s get the head down again and back to business.

ITV are certainly not giving us every opportunity to do so with 10 races on Sunday, with the Scottish National obviously the big betting race of the day at 15:35.

Each way chance in the National

And, with the Betfair Sportsbook offering six places, I have to side with Coup De Pinceau at 25/1 each way.

Quite clearly, the bet comes with a fair amount of risk – not least him getting outpaced early on and not featuring, which is a concern – but the price is adequate compensation for me, as I think he will relish this stamina test.

His former handler Paul Nicholls was quick to step him up to 3m early on as a novice hurdler but it is his last two runs that give me every confidence that he could come into his own over 4m.

He looked like being pulled up when tailed off when tried over 3m2f at Newbury, in a first-time visor, in December but he actually came home pretty strongly there, even though he was beaten 41 lengths (don’t laugh, go and look at the video if you don’t believe me).

So it was not surprising at all that he seemed to relish the extended 3m4f at Taunton last time, winning by 12 lengths after taking it up in the straight.

Now, the strength of that form in a five-runner race is clearly some way detached from this premier handicap, but the handicapper played fair by only upping him 6lb for the Taunton win, and this better ground promises to suit him, too.

Nicholls is on record as saying he would be best on better ground as he is a lightly-framed horse – and he has won on good ground at Perth in September – and Angus Cheleda, who rode him last time, keeps the ride.

A strike rate of 23 per cent this season tells you that is no bad thing, and trainer Nick Mitchell has had a fair season, with a well-backed winner (under Cheleda) at Newton Abbot earlier in the week.

I am going to put up Aye Right as a saver as I can see him running a massive race on better ground, going up in trip. He is another who shapes as though this stamina test will really suit.

I know he probably doesn’t have any secrets from the handicapper now off a mark of 154 but I like the angle of regular pilot Callum Bewley getting back on board – he perhaps didn’t jump as well for Richard Johnson when third to Vintage Clouds off this mark in the Ultima last time – and, on a track where he is two from two, it is not hard to see Bewley bouncing out and giving this a proper crack.

Back him at 7.613/2 or bigger win-only on the exchange. He is very much the right favourite for me.

You have to be careful about over-staking and having too many bets on a day such as this, so I was all to set to swerve an interest on Duke Of Navan at a double-figure price in the opener at 13:15.

But the more I studied his chances the more I thought he was the wrong price.

He has a lot of history with this race, having won it 2015 and finished third to Theinval in 2018, and ran a cracker at Doncaster last time, when second to Getaway Trump, with Return Ticket, who re-opposes here after winning by 40 lengths at Ludlow, 16 lengths away in third.

And this hold-up performer should get the strong pace he needs to aim at here.

He has dropped another 1lb to a mark of just 130 now – he was rated 139 when winning this race – and is surely handicapped to play a leading role here, for all he is 13yo now and the likes of 6yo King D’Argent could have too much toe for him these days.

But at 11.010/1 or bigger I am paying to find out. He is also 10/1 with the Sportsbook if you want to play there.

Malystic can spring mini surprise

After much deliberation I decided the 3m handicap chase at 13:50, was too tough for me – recent Newbury winner Dublin Four came closest to a small tickle at 12/1+ – and I have no betting interest in the four-runner novices’ chase at 15:00, though I wouldn’t be bowled over with shock if Malystic caused a mini-upset.

Anna Bunina can deliver

I do suggest you back Anna Bunina at 17/2 each way with the Sportsbook in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 14:25. Annoyingly the 10s went before publishing, but 8/1 or bigger is a bet for me.

This mare has not really kicked on from a good second at Listowel in September – jumping terribly for Johnson when punted at Cheltenham in October – and her trainer could be in a lot better form, it has to be said.

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But I was really taken by her run when eighth at 125/1 in in the County Hurdle last time.

She was travelling well in rear when meeting the second-last wrong and from then onwards she did remarkably well to finish within six lengths of the winner considering her jockey had to weave in and out of runners down the straight, and couldn’t come with one uninterrupted run.

That run can be marked up considerably and 2m on good ground (which were the conditions at Listowel) could be her ideal. There isn’t a lot of pace on in here but she can be ridden forward.
When you are struggling, the temptation to tip horses at short prices is the route for some, but that is not for me.

Three figure price can outrun odds

I can’t see as many bets at Newbury but I settled on two and one is a huge price.

Back Xaario at 100/1 each way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook in the Greenham at 14:45.

I would be willing to throw a few quid at him at 50/1 or bigger should that price have gone by the time you read this.

Normally, these types of races leave me cold – as an impossible Fred Darling earlier in the card does, a race in which Zaajirah maybe appealed most at 16/1+ – but that is an eye-popping price and too good to ignore.

At first glance, Xaario has little chance on the form he showed when trained in France last season, but I had a good look at this horse’s three runs there when prepping for an interview on Friday morning, and he is no forlorn hope.

He bumped into the subsequent runaway Lagardere winner Sealiway when a 2-length second on his debut before winning by 6 lengths at Clarefontaine on his second start, and that form is decent, too. The 8-length third has won three since, including in Listed company.

On the basis of that win, he was sent off the 23/10 favourite for a valuable 17-runner race over 1m in heavy ground at Longchamp, only to race a touch too keenly and fold away tamely from the 2f pole. But he probably raced on the worst part of the track there, as the winner and placed horses all came wider than him.

He has since been switched to David Menuisier, who had a recent scorer after a winless start to 2021 , and he could have a better horse on his hands than a mark of 93 suggests.

Furthermore, the pedigree gives you every hope that the better ground here will suit Xaario and it could be this 7f trip is more his bag too. The breeding suggests that too, and his half-brother happens to have won over 7f on good ground in France as well.

He is worth an almighty swing.

If you are going to flash, flash hard.

President can take charge

The only other race at Newbury where I am having a punt is HMS President at 14/1 each way, five places, with the Sportsbook in the 15:20.

He is not obviously well handicapped on first viewing, but I love his draw in 15 – there is pace around him in 13, 14 and 16 – and I hope Hollie Doyle holds on to him and produces him late, as I think 1m is his trip.

I know he disappointed over a mile on his penultimate start but was on soft ground at Pontefract, and the only other time he has raced over it he won by 3 lengths at Newcastle.

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And some of his efforts over 1m2f, most notably when just touched off by a neck by Surrey Pride here in August – a race in which he traded at 1.35 in running, only to be worried out of it late on – suggest this step back in distance is a smart move.

I say HMS President isn’t obviously well-treated but he did pull 4 ¾ lengths clear of the third there, and that horse won next time. As did Surrey Pride in fact off a 6lb higher mark (and was rated 12lb higher two starts later), so maybe I am talking absolute rot.

I hope so anyway, as Eve Johnson-Houghton is due a change of luck (join the club) after her Jumby endured a nightmare passage at Newmarket earlier in the week.

Plenty of bullets fired on Sunday but if the reasoning and price is there, that is the way you have to play, in form or not.

Good luck.