Slave victory will be a Musical to Tony Calvin’s ears at Sandown

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I was hoping to say that the five-day fields had largely stood their ground at the overnight stage at Sandown on Saturday despite the dry spell – the course has not spared with the watering – but the bet365 Gold Cup has been reduced to just 15 from 26 on Monday, and we obviously have a very disappointing turn-out for the three Graded contests.

However, there comes a point when we just have to stop moaning about it and play the hand we are dealt, as this is not going to change any time soon, jumps or Flat.

And it is not as if 15 runners scuppers each-way betting any more, with the extra-place concessions swamping the market.

Slave arrives in peak form and is my main bet in the feature

Enrilo has been the biggest shortener in bet365 Gold Cup this week, from 7s into 4s, and it is easy to see why.

He is only 1lb higher than when first past the post in this race last year, he will love the ground, and his fourth to Cap Du Nord (in first time cheek pieces, which are retained here) at Kempton was a good stepping stone to this.

He rightly lost the race in the stewards room last year, as Kitty’s Light was coming to win the race when he broadsided him close home, but he did shape like the best horse throughout the contest and maybe he idled his chance away.

It is interesting to see Christian Williams try cheekpieces on Kitty’s Light, probably in a bid to get him to travel a touch more sweetly in the early part of her race, and she is obviously a leading contender here alongside her stablemates Win My Wings and Cap Du Nord.

I will come back to Win My Wings in a moment, but I have to start off with Musical Slave.

As those who read my ante-post piece on Tuesday will already be aware of, I was set to tip him for this race at 16/1, only for that price to be cut into 12s just before the column went live.

The question now is do I tip him at current odds of 9/1 with the Sportsbook, or on the exchange, now he has been confirmed for the race?

Part of the reason for that initial quote of 16s is that he would have been the doubt as to whether he would be backing up so quickly after his Haydock win last weekend, so, now he is here, I am happy to back him at 9/1 win only with the Sportsbook.

I would not go any lower than 8s, though.

He is a horse who has always threatened to have a big handicap in him. Indeed, he went off a 6/1 chance for last year’s Skybet Chase after an eye-catching fifth (perhaps crucially on good ground) at Newbury, only to blunder his chance away.

His jumping could be his achilles heel again here, but the fact is he comes here in peak form, he is 7lb well-in after that Haydock win last week (from a well-fancied course specialist in Enqarde) and maybe the cheek pieces that he wore for the first time there sparked that improvement.

Aside from the quick turnaround and his jumping, the stamina for 3m5f is an unknown, but the emphasis will be more on speed than stamina on this ground and he finished off his race very well over 3m1f at Haydock last Saturday.

He has also won around here.

Fidux looks overpriced after pleasing return

Step Back won this race by 13 lengths off a mark of 135 in 2018 but he is down to just 130 now with first-time blinkers on, though he hasn’t shown much of late and his jockey is very inexperienced.

Far more obvious players are the progressive duo of Flegmatik and Win My Wings, and I think the latter fully deserved her 14lb rise after that astonishing win in the Scottish National.

The doubts about her concern whether the handicapper has got hold of her now, and whether this small mare can give chunk of weight away all round, going right-handed (thought she has won at Exeter) on a tricky track.

I will stop short of tipping her as a saver, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she bolted up again given her stratospheric profile.

I am going to go in two-handed here though, and the other is Fidux at 25/1 each way, four places, with the Sportsbook.

He was beaten 24 lengths by Win By Wings at Ayr last time but that was his first start for nearly four months, and back 3f in trip and on ground that he relishes, I reckon he is overpriced.

He was dropped 2lb for that Ayr run and his strong-finishing third over an extended 3m1f at Haydock in November suggests this 3m5f distance could very well suit on a track where he has gone well at in the past (including at this meeting), and he is back to his last winning mark, too.

His jockey is worried about the quick turnaround, as apparently he finished very tired there, but three weeks is a fair break and Alan King has just kept him ticking over since.

Couse and distance winner can go well for in-form yard

I am not going to waste my time of yours discussing the two small-field Graded races on ITV in any detail.

I know Mister Fisher has an excellent record in this grade but, given his propensity for taking a fence home with him, he is not a horse to be backing at skinny odds in the Oaksey Chase at 14:25.

I don’t see any angle into Greaneteen versus Nube Negra match-up in the Celebration Chase at 15:00 – though that is probably doing Sceau Royal a massive disservice – so back to the start and the 2m handicap hurdle at 13:50.

There were some silly prices doing the rounds about Salsada on Thursday (33s and 28s) but I am going to go with another outsider in the shape of Hasty Parisian at 19.018/1 or bigger. You will get bigger in the short term but 16/1+ would be fine.

The success of the Milton Harris yard has been one of the stories of the 21/22 season, a remarkable aspect of which is how the string have kept their form throughout the campaign. Harris has won with five of his last nine runners, including a 16/1 chance at Salisbury on Wednesday.

On the face of it, his horse has his work cut out to even reverse the form of his Ffos Las defeat by Boombawn last time, as he is 4lb of out the handicap here, let alone beating the rest.

But I thought he shaped very well to get within 3 lengths on that higher-rated rival in that novice hurdle, and I bet connections were delighted too, after his experience of effectively being brought down at Ascot previously (it was brought down rather than unseated).

He had earlier won over this course and distance and I reckon there is more to come from a horse who only made his racecourse debut in December.

The first-time cheekpieces (I have said that a few times in this column) could be an inspired move, too. Harris knows the family well and he trained the full-brother Presenting Yeats to win three times in that headgear in 2021.

And the trainer is a fair four from 20 with this option in recent years.

Looks very well handicapped on last season’s best form

Elsewhere, you can keep your three-runner race at Leicester at 14:45 and the remaining ITV race at Haydock is far more palatable from a betting perspective.

In am going to take a chance with Oh This Is Us at 25/1 each way, four places, in the 7f handicap at 14:05.

This is already his fifth start of the campaign, and he makes a quick turnaround after his run in the Spring Cup at Newbury last time, but the handicapper is doing his best for him, as he has dropped him 12lb already.

He took a while to find his stride last year, and indeed he won at 66/1 in an Ascot 1m Listed race on his fifth start, and he is clearly thrown in off 93 on that win, and indeed even more so on his subsequent Group 3 Diomed Stakes victory at Epsom.

The step down to 7f doesn’t concern me at all. He has actually run twice over course and distance, winning a Listed race and finishing second in this race off a mark of 109 in 2017.

Good, quick ground suits him well. He is a bet at 20/1+.