By Tony Calvin
This incessantly wet weather has forced me into a strange switch of punting tactics on Monday.
Huntingdon and Redcar were the first meetings to be abandoned, morning inspections are planned for Plumpton, Chepstow and Fakenham, and nothing remotely catches my eye at Wolverhampton or Market Rasen.
Maquisard wins last Monday – bringing mixed emotions for Tony
So it’s off to Ireland we go, and we certainly have a high-class Monday card to peruse for once, so let’s try to make the most of it.
Hopefully, things will go more smoothly than they did with this column last week, when it didn’t materialise in these pages, largely due to my fault.
I won’t go into the details, but it was researched, written and filed, and sod’s law it included the 33-1 winner Maquisard among my four selections.
Cue abuse on Social Media.
Trust me, my having a score on the horse did not begin to soften the blow – you can now double that level of disbelieving scorn on Twitter! – as I get more kick out of tipping winners than backing them.
I do prefer doing both, mind you, so let’s crack on with this Fairyhouse card. Prices correct at 9.30pm on Sunday.
Let’s start with the obvious and end with the obscure in this column, shall we, and Gordon Elliott’s Icario fits the bill at a double-figure price.
There is nothing hidden about his chances but he finally got off the mark in decent style at Down Royal last time and the handicapper may have been on the generous side by only raising him 1lb for that success in a maiden hurdle.
His task was made easier when a rival fell two out there but he won convincingly from a promising horse, and the time was good in the context of this race. All of his best form has come over 2m in deep ground, and he can defy top weight.
There may have been a bit of snobbery in how the bookmakers have priced this up, and Veneer Of Charm looks overpriced at the general 9-1.
Willie Mullins is chucking four at this race but I think Elliott could hold the key to the prize with his Fred Winter winner.
He is rated only 134 after that Cheltenham win but he is unpenalised here and, as the only four-year-old in the race, he gets a hefty 10lb age allowance as well.
That Fred Winter victory was authorative in a good time, and he can stick it up to the likes of Getabird and company at these weights.
Space Cadet’s handicap mark looks a little too good to be true, but I am struggling to see past him, even in this 21-runner contest.
He is rated 135 over fences after chasing home Pairofbrowneyes at Galway last month, but is 13lb lower in this sphere, so he is of obvious interest on his first start over hurdles since he finished fourth here in March 2016.
The bookies have predictably not missed him as the market leader, but I still think there is some juice in his price given his profile. In addition. this trip in heavy ground are probably his optimum conditions.
If you are backing him each-way, please note that a few firms are offering five places on the race, so shop around.
I quite liked Renneti at 10-1 in the 2m4f hurdle at 3.50 but I will go to the big one for my final bet of the day.
Killaro Boy has a lot of questions to answer in the Irish Grand National, not least the fact that he is 1lb out of the handicap and has never raced beyond 2m6f before – bar his sole point run and win – but he is a very interesting 40-1 chance.
Back him each-way at that price with Boylesports, who also offer six places. He is 65 to back on Betfair at the time of writing, but 40-1 is fine if you have to take that price – Boylesports, Skybet and Paddy Power all offer six places.
He is also incredibly inexperienced for a task like this, as he has just his sixth chase start here, but I thought he shaped with considerable promise when fourth over an extended 2m5f at Leopardstown last month.
He was not given a hard time of it there and there is a lot of scope for improvement in his mark of 134.
He is two from three at this track, and he did really well when beating Call It Magic – a dual subsequent scorer and who also runs here – over 2m4f here last April.
The heavy ground is no issue but the obvious potential negative about him is the trip. That said, he may well improve for the big step up in distance and his dam does hail from the same family as an Eider Chase scorer, and also a Hennessy winner in Arctic Call.
Tony’s top tips for Bank Holiday Monday: