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Friday Racing Tips: Tony Calvin’s aiming for a pretty little winner at Cheltenham

I am going to resist the obvious line, as the toxic BHA hearing is no joking matter, but Pretty Little Liar, ridden by Robbie Dunne, is a bet at 10.09/1 or bigger in the 13:50.

I have put 9/1 as an exchange, win-only guide price, but in truth I would accept 8s and upwards.



Trainer: David Peter Dunne, Ireland
Jockey: Robert Dunne
Age: 8
Weight: 11st 3lbs
OR: 114

I would have put her up in my ante-post piece on Monday had she not shortened from 20/1 to 12/1 just before publishing, but I am willing to take the lesser price now she has been confirmed for the race.

Dunne has ridden the horse for his brother David three times in the past, but that was back in 2017 and 2018, and he gets back on board on arguably the mare with the most attractive profile in here after an excellent 2021.

Well, I am arguing that, anyway.

In fine form despite recent fall

Of course, it is far from ideal that she took the mother and father of a fall when going well in behind 5 out at Thurles last time and the UK handicapper has given her an extra 5lb here, but I reckon the boys from the BHA have called this one right, talent-wise.

The 8yo has seemingly got a new lease of life this year, winning on the Flat in July, sluicing in by 10 lengths in a handicap hurdle in October and then landing a chase at Thurles with impressive ease on her penultimate start.

The three that followed her home at Thurles have all run well in defeat since, and hopefully there is more in the locker from the selection. If she puts un a clear round, then I think she has a big shot at winning this.

Her record suggests she wouldn’t want too much more rain, but good to soft should be fine.

Fontaine Collonges is the obvious favourite after her defeat of Precious Eleanor at Warwick last time, but I can’t have her at the price, and I am more drawn to two at double-figure prices, Vienna Court and Jubilympics, who top and tail the weights,

Neither has the handicap upside of Pretty Little Liar, but both ran well last time, look fairly handicapped and are likely to be suited by conditions. I won’t put either up as a saver, but both make some each-way appeal and I may even perm a tri-cast on this trio.

Commodore can Sail On past his rivals

Enrilo is another favourite I am happy to take on at the price in the 3m2f at 14:25, and the two I centred on were Commodore and Santini, the pair that I flagged up in the aforementioned ante-post column on Monday.

Like Pretty Little Liar, Commodore‘s price ran away from me before I even filed the column – he went from 12s to 4s in under two hours – and the same was true of Santini, to a lesser degree, as he was cut from 14s to 8s.

Santini became a figure of a fun on the Betfair Podcasts last season – or, more accurately from Hugh Cahill, who christened him “the Boat”, with musical accompaniments – but he is down to a mark of 159 for his first start for a new trainer, and has been pretty deadly when fresh in the past.

He is a player all right but I am going to side with Commodore at 6/1 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook.

I can see him shortening across the board, so 5/1+ is fine.



Trainer: Venetia Williams
Jockey: Charlie Deutsch
Age: 9
Weight: 9st 13lbs
OR: 133

Everything I said about him on Monday basically stands, for all he is 1lb wrong at the weights now, with Santini standing his ground.

The grey has a good record when fresh, winning first time up in 2018 after over an eight-month break, and he is now only 3lb higher than when 1/2 length second to Snow Leopardess at Haydock on his reappearance last season. And the winner is now rated 21lb higher.

I also suspect he may have won had he not fallen at the last in this race last year, given the antics of the winner Storm Control on the run-in, and we also found out on Wednesday that he has had a wind op since we last saw him being pulled up at Wincanton in February (that win after a break in 2018 came after a wind op, too).

No surprise the X Country Chase is a no bet race for me

At the risk of regurgitating all of my Monday guff, I am going to come clean and simply repeat word for word what I said about the Cross Country Handicap Chase at 15:00.

I seriously do think punters should know about private gallops over these fences.

I wrote:

“Regular readers will know this specialist discipline is not for me, and what winds me up is that you often hear after the races that “so and so has been here and schooled really well“, information that was not known to the betting public beforehand.”

That was exactly the case after Back On The Lash was smashed into 4/1 and won here last month – apparently he was “an absolute natural” when having his behind-the-scenes sighters – on the back of a last-of-five over regulation fences just three weeks previously.”

These races just leave me cold, even if the Sportsbook are trying to tempt me in with five places.

Confidence in Shannon slightly waned with no headgear

I am definitely not to going to press up on my sole ante-post bet, win-only at 33/1, on Shannon Bridge in the 15:35 as, annoyingly, he has again been declared without the tongue-tie and blinkers he wore when winning at Wetherby and Ascot last season.

Hopefully, he finds the ground to his liking though, and they revert to the front-running tactics that served him so well and he stays this 3m trip well enough – he wouldn’t have too much opposition for the lead, if so – but the absence of the headgear suggests to me they could be looking for a 0-130 handicap down the line.

I hope I am very wrong, obviously.

Of all the favourites on the ITV card, I think Sporting John is probably the most solid at approaching 2/1 on the exchange, as someone knew a break, a wind op and a return to hurdles would see him return to form on a track he had previously looked to hate when landing a mini-punt here last time.

Given that he was a Grade 1-winning chaser, I don’t think a 5lb rise is going to be much of an issue for him here and, yes, I probably would expect him to win this race more than once in every three tries, so anything near 2s is pretty fair.

I can let him win unbacked though.

It is disappointing for ITV and Bangor (pictured above) that the televised race from the Welsh track has seen only six runners rock up for the 2m7f handicap hurdle, at 14:05 and that the horse that would have probably been favourite, Getalead, is due to run 24 hours earlier at Taunton on Thursday.

As such, it has precious limited appeal, but if you are betting I would be doing so with the assumption of heavy ground.

Good luck.

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