Tony Calvin likes Coeur De Lion’s chances but not his price

Writing this second ante-post piece has been a bit of a horror story, but we will get to the reasons why shortly!

In happier times, when compiling the list of double-entered horses for the weekend on Monday, I did have a chuckle to myself when going through Newbury’s 3m Daily Rewards With Betfair Handicap Hurdle at 13:50.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a race for which so many not turn up, as 13 of the 16 had alternative engagements at that stage.

Kansas City Chief was an overnight declaration on Wednesday, four were possibles for Thursday, and the rest had the option of running on Friday or the weekend.

Just Homme D’un Soir (and are connections having a sighter for a revised UK mark here?), Polish and Risk And Roll were the only three had nowhere else to go this week, and the latter pair are already jocked up, for what that is worth.

Little wonder that on Monday that two of those three horses were next in the betting behind the 3/1 favourite Emmpressive Lady, despite the market leader also being entered in a Pertemps qualifier at Exeter on Sunday (so I certainly wouldn’t be backing her at the moment).

Risk And Roll and Polish have not been missed in the market then, and justifiably so – I was surprised that the former didn’t go for the valuable Sandown handicap won by Green Book on Saturday – but I am inclined to look elsewhere.

Coeur De Lion appeals on low mark

Two of these had Thursday-only options at Doncaster, Coeur De Lion and Whatsupwithyou, but they have declined that offer (hopefully not for well-being and fitness reasons) and they are the pair I was most interested in as a result.

Both have their stamina to prove over 3m and I contemplated putting up both, but I was immediately drawn most to Coeur De Lion at 16/1 each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook.

Until that became 10s, infuriatingly, just after midday. And that went to 8s just 30 minutes later.

I simply can’t put him up at that revised price, but here is the case for him.

There are risks attached with Coeur De Lion, and not only because I don’t know if he is an intended runner, as he clearly isn’t in the best of form. But the handicapper has given him a huge chance if he does rock up.

He hasn’t shone over hurdles for a while now but the assessor has not fought shy of dropping him accordingly, and he is now down to a career-low mark of 122, having been 144 in his pomp, after being eased another 5lb for his modest run here in December.

And he has since finished last of four to a 1/3 stablemate on the Flat at Wolverhampton.

And I suppose if you are looking for further negatives there is no doubt that the Alan King yard are still not firing.

It hasn’t grabbed the headlines as the form of the Paul Nicholls yard has, but the facts are that King has saddled just two jumps winners from 51 runners since December going into Tuesday’s racing.

So why should the horse bounce back to form? After all, what is the attraction of a plummeting handicap mark if you are not in the shape to exploit it.

However, King may well have been planning an end-of-season campaign for this horse. He was having his first start since July when down the field here in December, and that Flat run last time (when he was the 18/1 outsider of four) was hopefully a means to an end, fitness-wise.

I went back and looked at what King said about the horse prior to his run in December, in his excellent Weekender column, and he relayed that he was only ready to start back after a decent break then and that “he will improve on whatever he does here and may still be a few pounds high in the handicap.”

Well, he will strip a lot fitter here, he has been dropped 5lb since, and he is now a seriously well handicapped horse on his best hurdles form (and obviously his Flat level too, having finished fourth in a Chester Cup off a mark of 94 last May).

  • Trainer: Alan King
  • Jockey:
  • Age: 9
  • Weight: 10st 4lbs
  • OR: 122

And I reckon the step up to 3m on decent ground could be what he wants now in his advancing years.

Remarkably, given his 2m4f form on the Flat, he has only tried 3m once over hurdles, when given a bit too much to do from off the pace here in November 2020. But surely a horse who stays so well in the other discipline – he won the Ascot Stakes over 2m4f in 2020 – will get 3m over hurdles standing on his head.

And it has only just struck me that he wasn’t wearing his usual headgear here in December (he usually sports a visor or cheekpieces, and maybe they will try first-time blinkers here?) so that was most definitely a means to an end.

What’s up? The price

I’d have loved to tip you some of that 16s, but I have to let him go at 10s. I wouldn’t back him at the latter price, so I can hardly tip him to you now.

As I touched upon earlier, I was also really torn about whether to stick up Whatsupwithyou, as he is down to a mark of 125 now, and that is 11lb lower than when fourth in the Martin Pipe just five starts ago in March.

However, I have never really had him down as a three-miler – and I have questioned his recent finishing efforts over 2m4f/2m5f – and that seemed to be borne out by his first try at that trip at Cheltenham last time, a race in which he looked to be coming with a place chance jumping the last, only to be weaken badly on the run-in.

However, perhaps I was being too harsh as regards his stamina – he has won over an extended 2m5f in heavy ground after all, and is a winning pointer, for what that is worth – and it transpired he was “showing post-race signs of heat stress” last time, too. I have no idea what it means but it can’t have helped.

The 14s, 12s and 11s in the marketplace disappeared about him on Tuesday morning, but he was still 10/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook just before I filed at midday, and I was going to suggest you have a win-only nibble at that price given his well he is handicapped, for all I do have stamina concerns.

But maybe this track on decent ground will see him last home. If he does, he is weighted to win.

However, on a quick, last sweep of the prices before I sent the copy, I saw that not only had Couer De Lion gone from 16/1 to 10/1 (and then 8/1 afterwards) but that Whatsupwithyou had also been cut into 7s from 10s with the Sportsbook, so I am out, with a quick re-write ensuing, and a longer sulk.

The above is the argument/case for him, though…..

Wait for the weekend

Like I said, it is infuriating to have written copy, and been thwarted at the last minute by disappearing prices, so I will have to see what the weekend decs and prices bring for the pair.

There are obviously loads of other good races on Betfair Super Saturday and at Warwick – and we have exchange markets on the Betfair Hurdle (I did a piece on that on Monday, by the way), the Betfair Denman Chase and the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase – but I had no betting angle into those, so I will approach all races with a clean slate later in the week.

Until then, let’s be careful out there.


1.15pm Newbury: Bangers and Cash, Bravemansgame, Colonial Dreams, Eragon Du Chanay, Frenchy Du Large, Our Power, Valsheda

1.50pm Newbury: Ask The Doc, Butler’s Brief, Eminent Poet, Emmpressive Lady, Flashjack, Happy Hollow, Kansas City Chief (entered overnight on Wednesday), Skandiburg, Sussex Ranger, The Big Breakaway, The Brimming Water

2.25pm Newbury: Bravemansgame

3pm Newbury: Cheddleton

3.35pm Newbury: Lord Baddesley, Natural History

1.35pm Warwick: Pepite De Belle,

2.05pm Warwick: None

3.15pm Warwick: Aso, Belami Des Pictons, Cheddleton, Colorado Doc, Jacamar, Our Power