Tony Calvin's top tips for Sunday: Strong Steps can find his stride

By Tony Calvin
Sun 7 Jul 2019

This will be my last Sunday column for the foreseeable – it will be refreshing to have my Saturday afternoons free once again, and not waiting for the prices to slowly materialise from the bookmakers at 5pm onwards – and hopefully we can go out on a high.

The fixture list has not given us a great deal to go at, with only Market Rasen and Ayr domestically, but there is the Group One Prix Jean Prat at Longchamp.

And well done to Joe Tuite for rolling the dice and running Surrey Thunder in the German Derby, too.

 Too Darn Hot is hot favouyrite for the Prix Jean Prat (Focusonracing)
Too Darn Hot is hot favouyrite for the Prix Jean Prat (Focusonracing)

Let’s hope that his ambitiously-campaigned three-year-old, the only English runner in the line-up, can net him some more prize-money on his continued travels abroad.

There are four English runners in the Prix Jean Prat, the most high-profile of which is obviously Too Darn Hot, last year’s top two-year-old looking to get on the score-sheet at the fourth attempt this season.

No surprise that he is the short-priced favourite at around the 5-4 mark, as his placed efforts in Group One company of late still, quite clearly, make him the one to beat.

But his cloak of invincibility is falling to the floor somewhat and I am sure plenty will try and take him on him at the prices.

The layers think Jersey runner-up Space Blues could be the main beneficiary if Too Darn Hot fails once again - and maybe even the jolly’s stablemate Azano, a Group Three winner from a good sort at Chantilly last time, will be a factor – but Graignes would be my each-way port of call at around 12-1 (Ladbrokes and Coral) if playing on the race.

He did very well to finish a three-length fourth to Persian King in the French 2000 Guineas considering he was held up, second-last and far too free in the early stages there, and his jockey had to weave this way and that in trying to secure a clear passage up the straight, which never really materialised until late on.

And farewell John McCririck, as unrecognisable a man away from a camera or a microphone as he was unforgettable - for occasionally the wrong reasons, let’s be honest - when confronted by them. Irreplaceable.

2.30 Ayr: Restive

There are question marks about Restive in that he is upped in class from a 0-60 to a 0-80, and he has not shone in four starts here, but I can live with those doubts.

The premier reason is that he did it pretty easily over 1m1f at Hamilton last time, and a 6lb rise may not stop him following up.

He has won off higher marks than this in the past, and the step up to 1m2f will suit him, too. And, away from the all-weather, some of his better efforts have come on fast ground.

3.05 Ayr: Followme Followyou

I think this filly, who looks pint-sized on the TV, has been crying out for a greater test of stamina, so hopefully we will see her ridden to the fore from stall two.

She has been dropped 3lb for her fifth at Hamilton last time and, although her pedigree suggests otherwise, I think her run-style suggests this step up to 1m2f will really suit her. I am paying to find out anyway.

4.10 Ayr: Fayez

This is a good 0-95 but Fayez is up to taking this off 10st 3lb and an eligible, ceiling mark of 97.

He was impressive in a brace of Ripon wins of late and, although going up 10lb as a result, I think he still could be on a competitive mark to judge by his run at Chelmsford last time.

Trying to make ground up off the rear there is none too easy, but he made a fair fist of it, and his three-length sixth is a lot better than it sounds, given the way he was positioned throughout.

He does not want to be blowing the start again, down in trip, around here – and the lack of guaranteed pace is a concern – but that is a risk I am willing to take about a horse who has seemingly blossomed in recent weeks.

4.40 Ayr: Strong Steps

Strong Steps looks to have a fair bit going for him after a better effort over course-and-distance last time.

The handicapper has been kind too, dropping him 2lb for that third place, and everything looks in place for this track scorer to regain the winning thread. Or at least going very close to doing so. He has a variable run-style but hopefully they will go forward on a horse that stays further than this and handles fast ground well.

Tony's top quartet:

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