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Saturday Racing Tips: N’golo can score can’t he, says Tony Calvin

Tony Calvin has no tips to add to his ante-post advice but still runs us through Saturday’s ITV Racing action and tells us what stuck out most…

If Friday’s column was one of the biggest I have ever filed, then I imagine this will be the shortest Saturday missive I have compiled, as I genuinely struggled to eke out one bet.

Some cracking racing no doubt, but it left me very cold from a punting of view.

Freezing in fact.

Big two go head-to-head in Clarence House

No-one needs a bet in the Clarence House at Ascot at 15:35 with Shishkin set to take on Energumene, and good luck to you if you have managed to find an angle into this contest.

I thought I had three weeks ago when I backed First Flow at 5/1, each-way, two places – confident in the belief one of the big two wouldn’t turn up, and hoping for the jackpot of none – but that approach has hardly worked out well!

So I will be the only person rooting for a late day-of-race withdrawal on Saturday.

All is not doomed though as last year’s 7-length winner, back to form at Huntingdon last time, is no forlorn hope but clearly he is now genuinely a 10/1+ win-only poke in this lofty company.

As to who I think will win? Maybe Shishkin, but it would be an empty vote without a bet.

Happy with ante-post position on N’golo

It was good to see my 33/1 each-way ante-post selection N’golo confirmed for the 2m3f handicap hurdle at 13:45, but I can’t honestly suggest he is a bet at the current prices (14/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, who are paying four places on the race now).



Trainer: Ann Duffield
Jockey: K. Brogan
Age: 7
Weight: 11st 4lbs
OR: 135

The lowest price I would have tipped him at on Tuesday was 20s, but obviously he could drift back out again – he doesn’t have the obviously attractive profile of many of his rivals – but my case for him stands regardless, so I am happy to re-state that here.

I know the grey lost his way badly in Ireland last season – as someone said to me recently “when they go at Closutton, they really go”, such is the hardship of the regime there – but he looks well handicapped now off a mark of 135 on the best of his efforts there, which included a 2-length Grade 1 third.

I was not the only one who saw plenty of promise in his 13 length fourth at Haydock to Up For Parol on his debut for Ann Duffield (who bought him for just ?14,500 out of Willie Mullins’ yard), as he went off at a very weak Betfair SP of 83.77 there, only to trade at 2.915/8 in the run when looking dangerous in the straight.

The Haydock winner ran okay when sixth in the Lanzarote on Sunday (the second Stellar Magic, is in here, and the third has not run since) and the fifth won at Bangor last week, so I reckon the handicapper has been generous in dropping him 4lb, especially as he did make a bad error when upsides the leaders 2 out at Haydock.

The cheekpieces that were put on for the first time at Haydock are taken off here – I imagine Kevin Brogan, who rides him again, suggested that – and hopefully he can kick on with that run under his belt.

Elsewhere, nothing jumps out at me at the prices, with Garry Clermont and Unexpected Party fully deserving of their places at the top of the market. And when you agree with the favourites’ prices, there is rarely that much value to be had further down the betting chain.

Dubai could be a late bet if all go to post

The six-runner mares’ race at 14:20 makes zero appeal and the only fresh bet I seriously considered on Ascot’s ITV races (I also looked at the three contests on the undercard on Sky Sports Racing and found zilch) was Knight In Dubai each-way at 17/2 with the Sportsbook.

But, with only eight runners, you are at the mercy of a late non-runner and you certainly want the full whack of places in this competitive handicap featuring some bang in-form horses.

Knight In Dubai wasn’t optimally ridden when a 13 1/2 -length third to Palmers Hill over 2m3f here last time though, as his jockey decided to mix it with the front-runner Ornua for some reason, and it backfired. It was pretty mystifying to be honest, and I imagine more patient tactics will be adopted here.

He is better than that then, and has been dropped 3lb for it – he is now 10lb below his peak rating, achieved just five starts ago – but I came to the conclusion I was looking for a bet for the sake of it.

And if I do back him, it will be on Saturday when I know all eight are set to run, or when the each-way exchange market is live. I’ll update on my Twitter handle of @tony_calvin if I do.

There are five last-time-out winners in here and looks a hot handicap, with 5/2 favourite Palmers Hill in particular a horse probably with a lot more to given despite being raised 8lb for that win last time.

It is around even money that Yala Enki wins his third straight Portman Cup at Taunton at 15:15, and I would rather be a backer than a layer given his two main form rivals, Elegant Escape and Ramses De Teillee, come here after pulled-up efforts in the Welsh National.

But you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.

Odds-on jollies should prevail

On to Haydock then where we have another couple of shorties in Jonbon and Tommy’s Oscar in two of the three ITV races.

If Jonbon gets beaten in the Rossington Main at 13:25 then it will be good news for Constitution Hill backers in the Supreme, as Nicky Henderson probably won’t have to have the problem of splitting them come March.

But, for all his lofty official ratings has been built on questionable slowly-run victories, I do find it hard to see him getting turned over, even with some promising, unexposed sorts in opposition.

Good luck to the money-buyers at around 4/9, though. Far braver than I.

It is a mini-me Ascot clash in the Champion Hurdle trial at 14:00 as 8/13 Tommy’s Oscar takes on 5/2 Hunters Call and double-figures the rest.

The jolly probably wins, without my money.

Royale and Empire to fight it out

Considering, I think Royale Pagaille will take a fair bit of beating in the Peter Marsh at 14:35 and that Empire Steel is his biggest danger, I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that I would find a bet in the last ITV race on offer.

And I didn’t.

They are fair prices at 3/1 and 5/1 respectively but I am not blind to the fact that you can make a convincing enough each-way case for all of this field – for all four of those are out of the handicap – so I am not inclined to go in at the top of the market, especially as these Haydock staying races often resemble slow-motion viewing up the straight and a survival of the fittest.

I appreciate this is not what my editors and you want to read, but no way am I putting up a tip I am not backing myself.

I did look outside of the ITV races – honest, guv – for an interest. As I have already said, I drew a blank at Ascot and the nearest I came elsewhere was The Grey Falco in the last at Haydock (16:15) but it appears a few people have already had the same idea.

The first firm up made him an 11/1 chance but he has been backed in all the way into 13/2 with them and I am not surprised.

It isn’t a great race and he hardly comes here in top nick himself, but he has come down 6lb in the weights for his two runs in much better class handicaps than this, he has had a wind op since last seen and his trainer has won with two of his last four runners going into Friday’s racing.

A mark of 116 is pretty attractive on his novice hurdle form last season, and if he is 7/1+ or so on the exchange (or with the Sportsbook) when the market fully forms then I will have a nibble myself.

But it is a watching brief there unfortunately, as it is for N’golo (I suspect he may hit 25/1+ on the exchange) and that possible each-way play on Knight In Dubai if all three stand their ground by the off.

So no fresh bets then – and I rely on that 33/1 N’golo ante-post selection – but it wasn’t for the want of trying, and you have to be honest with your yourself and your readers.

And, of course, responsible gambling means doing just that, and not betting on occasions.

Good luck. Back tomorrow – hopefully with a bet or two!

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