Double entries and Storm Francis make it tricky to pick an antepost bet for this weekend but Tony Calvin still finds a promising filly at generous at odds at Newmarket...
Aristocratic Lady in the 14:05 at Newmarket: "I know she is rated just 98, as much as 15b shy of some of these on official figures, but this is a filly going places."
As is usual after a big Festival (I'll talk York later on in this piece) the quality dips this weekend, but we still have Group-race action from Goodwood on Saturday and Sunday - and Windsor chip in, too - and ITV are doing their bit once again by broadcasting on both days.
Keep an eye on King Power duo at Windsor
I'll start with Windsor, where it seems to me to be the height of stupidity to stage two races on the same card (in succession too, with both on ITV) which will inevitably attract the same horses. The races are staged over 1m2f and 1m3f99yd, and both are open to 3yo+.
It is no surprise, therefore, to see that no less than eight horses are entered in both races (and they only attracted 18 and 16 entries, so that is a fair chunk) - and two more in the 1m3f+ contest have alternative weekend engagements - so I am not sure why anyone would be tempted to price them up.
Race planning fail here, surely.
But from a punting perspective, in theory at least it should help narrow down the fields - you surely couldn't back any of the doubly-declared beasts in either heat - as only eight entries in the 1m3f+ (14:40) and 1m2f (15:15) contests have a sole possible outing this week.
But both are such tightly-knit conditions races, and the layers predictably are not giving anything away percentage-wise with so many doubts, that they are basically an ante-post write-off.
Mind you, both races are likely to cut up massively, and the King Power duo of Alounak and Fox Chairman could be the main beneficiaries in their respective races, especially if the ground turns.
That reminds me.
Weather could play havoc with ground
Before we start, we should mention Storm Francis, and its' later-week remnants, which threatens to turn the ground testing everywhere - it has already claimed Chepstow on Wednesday - so I am proceeding on the basis of good to soft minimum everywhere.
I admire the firm (s) who are consistently first up with their ante-post prices - so I am not going to name and shame them here - but one of the early birds really were making the punters' pay when they went 2/1 Benbatl and 9/4 Regal Reality and Duke Of Hazzard in the 12-runner Celebration Mile at Goodwood (15:35) on Monday afternoon.
Their next five in the betting were 5/1, 6/1, 13/2, 7/1 and 8/1, too, with 11/1, 20/1 (twice) and 33/1 thrown in for good measure. And only two of the dozen (Escobar and Happy Power) were doubly-entered.
Mind you, the next firm up basically copied their prices, going a shade bigger (at 9/4, and 5/2 twice), so I probably shouldn't be too harsh, and the others to follow just had slight variations on an admittedly hard-to-price book given the weather.
The irony is that Benbatl (pictured below) is probably a bet-and-a-half at 11/4 with the Betfair Sportsbook if you knew he was going to run and the ground was not going to get too testing - he is an odds-on poke against these at his best, even if he does carry a 3lb penalty and has not raced since his third in Saud Arabia in February - but I guess that just shows how hard a job the layers have if they decide to price up these races.
And obviously the weather plays a massive role in this race. The going at Goodwood as of Monday morning (no update on Tuesday, unfortunately) is good, good to firm in places, but any significant and sustained rain could see the participation of Benbatl and Regal Reality in jeopardy, to name just two.
Outside of Windsor - where incidentally it is currently good (thought they have not updated since Monday morning), with that unsettled week ahead - there are not that many doubly-declared horses in Saturday's ITV races, though six of 21 in Goodwood's 7f handicap (14:25) can go elsewhere.
The recent Doncaster 1-2 of Magical Wish and Ghalyoon are predictably near the head of the market, along with the unexposed Tiger Crusade, and no-one is going to argue that they don't have strong claims.
Tiger Crusade, in particular, could be very well handicapped if the money for him at Ascot last time is to be believed. He went up 1lb for his third to an easy subsequent scorer (off a 6lb higher mark, too) but the market tells you plenty were disappointed by that, and his earlier Doncaster win has proved to be very strong form.
But he probably would want decent ground, so it may be worth holding off on him.
The Betfair Sportsbook are being generous in offering four places on this race and there are a lot of double-figured priced horses that are tempting each-way as a result.
Dirty Rascal (just this morning withdrawn from an entry at Beverley on Thursday) is bang up there after a troubled run here last time, but the Sportsbook are rightly alive to his chances at 12/1 - he is a huge 25s in the wider marketplace, and that seems huge - and that is also true of Jacks Point at 9/1.
Other win and place possibles include Battered, and Cold Stare would obviously love it if it turned soft or worse, but, annoyingly - as it is so hard to spell - I was going to take a chance on Alemaratalyoum at 25/1 each-way with the Sportsbook, as he is handicapped to win races off this current mark, is a course winner and he would love all the rain going.
But the form of the stable remains a massive worry and this horse finished last of 10 at Chester last time, and he had previously beaten just one home at York. And for all he was drawn wide at Chester last time and was not best positioned tactically for his hold-up run-style, he showed the square root of nothing there, so that is not easily forgiven, even at 25s.
Filly to give rivals plenty to think about at generous price
The 25-runner Listed race at Newmarket (14:05) looks far too daunting on first viewing, but eight are also entered elsewhere - one of the favourites, Dakota Gold, is in at the overnight stage at Beverley on Thursday - and the first firm up made Aristocratic Lady their 13/2 favourite.
I thought that was big enough, but then I saw 8s and then the Betfair Sportsbook went 12/1! If she runs, and the field cuts up a bit and the going is considered suitable, then I think she is a 5/1 chance, tops.
I know she is rated just 98, as much as 15b shy of some of these on official figures, but this is a filly going places.
This is her sole entry this week and Andrea Atzeni was jocked up on Monday (though that could mean little), but the forecast is of concern for antepost backers - it is currently good at Newmarket, with plenty of rain in the offing according to some sites - as she has never raced with any ease in the ground.
Timeform made it good to firm ground (as opposed to the official good) when she won so easily off a mark of 87 at Haydock last time, showing a real turn of foot to scoot up on the rail, and everything about her there screamed Group-class filly, for all she has yet to post a notable speed figure.
However, she has only raced five times and is a half-sister to the owner's very smart Sharja Queen, who handled cut fine (won on heavy, but handled anything), and she is fancied to give much higher-rated rivals plenty to think about here.
It is far too soon to be labelling her as a fast-ground filly and, for all she could be a no-show if the ground eases too much, the 12/1 was too tempting, given I think she could go off around a third of the price.
Newmarket forecast a big concern
I hate giving out losing ante-post tips where you do not get a run for your money. As already mentioned, the Newmarket weather forecast, as of Tuesday morning, is a big concern. The going was changed to good (good to soft) then, and one forecast suggested it could even be on the heavy side come Saturday afternoon.
Then again, another suggested the outlook was not so bad. I will bite the bullet and put up her up as a bet at 12/1 win-only. The upside of taking that price outweighs her not turning up.
Mishriff is my early Arc pick
Looking longer term, and we probably say it every year, this year's Arc is shaping up into a real biggie - if they all get there.
It is pretty much accepted that Love will go to Longchamp health and fitness-permitting, and she is now the [3.2] favourite on the Exchange after another Group 1-winning performance that oozed class in the Yorkshire Oaks.
And she will 10lb get from the older horses due to the three-year-old age and sex allowance, just as Enable did when winning the race by two-and-a-half lengths in 2017.
And that is not the first time that a three-year-old filly has made the most of the weight concession to telling affect in recent years, with Treve sluicing up by five lengths in 2013 and Zarkava by two in 2008.
So perhaps one of my nagging doubts about Love's prospect in October - that she hasn't had to knuckle down and fight for any of her successes this season - may not be relevant, especially as she wasn't shy of digging for victory in last year. The 10lb could make the job that much easier for a top-class three-year-old filly, which she certainly is.
We know all roads lead to France on October 4th for Enable, as she seeks her third win in the race after being chinned late on by Waldgeist last season, but will we see the horse who beat her so comfortably in the Eclipse, last week's Juddmonte winner Ghaiyyath?
Form-wise (sex and age allowances ignored), he will have no equal in the race, but there seems a doubt as whether he would even travel, with a couple of Breeders' Cup targets or even the Champions Stakes at Ascot (though he is odds-against to get his preferred ground there I would have though) possibly preferred.
That explains in large part why Ghaiyyath trades at [8.0] for the Arc - he'd surely be 4s tops if they said he definitely goes to Longchamp next - though perhaps his defeat in the race last year has a fair bearing on that, too.
And the fact remains all his wins (his maiden success aside) have come in single-figure fields, too.
We should never forget the home team - the three-year-old Raabihah was narrowly beaten in the French Oaks and looked good at Deauville last month - - but my personal fancy for the Arc at this stage is Mishriff, available at 14/1 fixed-odds in the marketplace and [20.0] on the Exchange, and he could be every bit as dangerous as Enable and Stradivarius should he be aimed at the race.
And he certainly should be on the evidence of his French Derby and Deauville wins, though his pedigree doesn't scream 1m4f and he has his stamina to prove. But he was powerful at the line in Chantilly, and I don't have any doubts about him staying myself.
But John Gosden and his owner are the ones that matter, not me. And the horse has to be supplemented for the race, so he is one to hold fire on at the moment from a betting point of view, especially with the owner's racing managing talking Champion Stakes and even waiting til next year for a crack at the Arc.
Pyledriver into second favourite for St Leger
Closer to home, literally, is the St Leger at Doncaster on September 12 and Pyledriver certainly stuck up his hand as a possible for the Classic when a hugely impressive winner of the Voltigeur last week.
He is now the second favourite at [4.8] on behind Santiago, with Newbury winner Hukum the only other contender currently trading at single figures on the exchange.
But I am happy to let the dust settle on this race, and let connections of the various parties declare their hand in the coming fortnight or so. Aidan O'Brien, for example, could still have a dozen possibles at this stage, and the supplementary stage could be enlightening, too.
Saturday double entries
13:50 - Alicestar. Lucid Dreamer, Zwelela (Fri)
14:25 - Light And Dark, Monoski, Sir Titan (Fri), The Cruising Lord, Typhoon Ten, Zhui Feng
15:00 - Believe In Love, Celtic Art
15:35 - Escobar, Happy Power
14:05 - Breathtaking Look, Dakota Gold (entered at Beverley on Thursday), Last Empire (entered Beverley, Thursday), Lyzbeth, On The Warpath, Snazzy Jazzy, Sunday Star, Watan
14:40 - Caradoc, Desert Encounter, Floating Artist, Fox Tal, It's Good To Laugh, Le Don De Vie, Palavecino, Sky Defender, Tinandali, Universal Order
15:15 - Caradoc, Desert Encounter, Fox Tal, Le Don De Vie, Palavecino, Sky Defender, Tinandali, Universal Order