By Tony Calvin
No-one said this Monday tipping gig was going to be easy but I have made a pretty bad fist of it so far, that much is true.
But stupid is as stupid does, so we plough on regardless. And plough is probably the appropriate word given today’s three meetings will take place on very testing ground.
It is not ideal that Newton Abbot only got the go-ahead after an 7am inspection this morning, and the only Flat card, at soft-ground Bath, is confined to eight races over 5f (and change) due to their witchetty grub problems, or whatever those nasty critters in the turf are called.
It takes a big leap of faith to side with Seamster in Bath’s “hands and heels” sprint handicap at 3.40pm, but I was interested. Initially, at least.
The negatives are plentiful; he sidestepped Pontefract because of heavy ground recently, and on the evidence of his last two runs – when he has beaten only one of his 22 rivals – it could be that time is finally catching up with this ten-year-old.
But it may be unwise to totally write him off as he has been eased to a mark of 73 and you only have to go back to August, when he won off a 1lb higher mark at Lingfield and was only just touched off over 5f here, to give him winning claims off this mark.
I am not concerned about the soft ground, as two of his better efforts this season have come on it. To be honest, I was looking for a double-figure price on this one so 8-1 is not enough to entice me in, even if he faces only five rivals here.
Time Medicean is a year older than Seamster and connections seem to have doubts about him on the ground – he was withdrawn because of soft at Leicester, and his worst recent run came on rain-softened ground – but he still makes appeal to me in the 4.10pm.
Given the strength of the race (or rather the lack of it) the 5-1 each-way with Skybet, who are offering four places in this 11-runner contest, looks very fair indeed. The 11-year-old is 11-2 with BetVictor.
I am not fussed about the going for him – he has generally avoided soft but he finished second at Lingfield on it in July – and I would be more inclined to concentrate on his last two runs, where he has only been inched out in photos.
He is only 1lb higher here, has course form, and looks very solid for all his advancing years.
Air Of York and Fantasy Justifier were my two against the field in the 4.40pm – and the bookmakers agree - and preference is definitely for the latter at the prices.
The six-year-old gelding probably has not run up to his best at the course on his last two starts but he never got into the race after a tardy start last time and has been dropped 1lb for it.
He is now back on the same mark as when beaten half length at Nottingham three starts ago and, perhaps crucially, the cheekpieces that he wore for the first time there are back on again.
Soft ground certainly holds no fears for him.
Ambitious Icarus - 5.10 Bath: Ambitious Icarus, another veteran at eight years old, looks a deserved 9-4 favourite in the 5.10pm. He finished a decent third at Bath last year, his only run at the course, and he comes here in good form after placed efforts off this mark at Newcastle.
Soft ground is fine for him and the mix-and-match with headgear continues. As a result the hood-blinkers combination return. He finished third in this combination at Nottingham in August, form that worked out okay, and he looks primed to run another big race. But, as with Seamster, I was hoping for a bit bigger than 9-4, so I can let him go unbacked and untipped.
The heavy ground at Newton Abbot is a little off-putting, but we have Stratford on Racing UK, and I thought The Geegeez Geegee was the most attractive favourite on the card at a general 11/4 in the 2m5f handicap chase at 2.30pm.
Trainer Olly Murphy has made an impressive start to his training career and this horse made a winning debut for him on good ground at Newton Abbot in August. He then ran satisfactorily, but perhaps too soon, when third under a 7lb penalty a week later at Worcester.
He has been given a break since then and the return to racing on this soft ground will be no hardship – the opposite in fact, as three of his five wins have come on this surface – and I think he is still competitively weighted.
He may have gone up 13lb for that August win, but he trotted up by 10 lengths and the runner-up won next time, and he looks the clear pick with conditions to suit.
According to reports he looked in good nick at Murphy’s owners’ Open Day on Sunday, where the trainer gave him out as his best hope of a winner on Monday. I am not tipping him for that reason at all, but every little bit of confidence helps on a tough tipping day like Monday – as does the 3-1 available with the Stoke-based firm.
Then, again, it is a Monday! Good luck, whatever you back.
Tony Calvin's Monday tips:
2.30 Stratford: The Geegeez Geegee at 3-1
4.10 Bath: Time Medicean at 5-1 each-way with Skybet four places
4.40 Bath: Fantasy Justifier at 11-2 each-way with Skybet (four places)