The top class action continues on Saturday with the Betfair Ascot Chase the feature race. Tony Calvin previews the contest and has a 33/1 bet elsewhere on the card...
"So he is now 2lb lower than when winning the Silver Trophy on good at Chepstow in October 2018, and he can handle the likely soft/heavy going on Saturday just fine. In fact, the trip/ground combo could be ideal for a horse that stays further."
There is no shortage of Cheltenham ante-post articles out there, so I am happy to leave the Festival action to one side.
For the time being at least, as I am sure my appetite for some longer-range investments will kick in at some point, so watch this space.
I just hope that those writing, and chatting about the Fez on TV, are practising what they are preaching and betting themselves, otherwise it is all rather hollow advice.
It is the only golden rule I have in any walk of my life.
If you aren't willing to back something yourself, stay schtum.
Cyrname heads quality-looking Betfair Ascot Chase
Sods Law then that I did two ante-post articles on last weekend's racing, rather than the usual one, and summarily drew a blank with the three recommendations!
However, I rather suspect we could have been collecting on the place part of bet at the very least with Mack The Man were he not brought down at the last in the Betfair Hurdle.
Poor show from me though regardless of fortune, but we go again and there is no doubt the class action of the weekend is the Betfair Ascot Chase in which Cyrname is around a 1/2 chance on the exchange.
Again, it is disappointing that such a valuable race - all £150,000 of it - has attracted just seven runners (as has the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase on the card) to take away any each-way element to the betting, but we have the quality all right.
Six of the seven entries are rated 159 or higher - the other, Traffic Fluide, was rated 162 at his peak, as well (though he is also entered in the 3m handicap chase on the card) - with of course Cyrname topping the tree on a mark of 177.
Connections are adamant that he was not at his best when second in the King George (his first start at 3m) but there is no doubting his potency over this course and distance.
He is unbeaten in three starts over 2m5f around Ascot, including a 17-length win in this race last year that signalled his arrival at the top table.
Another Storm to hit racing this weekend
At his best, Cyrname presents a very high bar for his six rivals to reach, let alone surpass, but the X-factor - or, probably more accurately, the unknown element - is Riders Onthe Storm, who has been a pretty warm order for the Ryanair in recent weeks.
He was hugely impressive when beating subsequent winners Cepage and Oldgrangewood (dual scorer in the latter's case) on his first start for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Aintree in November and he was even more classy when an emphatic winner over track and trip in heavy ground in December.
He tanks through his races and then finds. Not a common combination in a racehorse.
He is now rated a punchy 162 (he won off 140 at Aintree), so he is the obvious one to threaten the favourite if he continues up that steep improvement ladder.
It is no surprise whatsoever to see him trading at around 7/2, especially as the ground will be in his favour - it is currently soft at Ascot, with an unsettled week forecast (especially on Thursday) - and I am not sure that Cyrname wants a slog in bad ground myself, for all his defeat of Altior here in November came in testing conditions.
Riders On the Storm could prove to be the bet in the race but we can revisit that on Friday.
Indian catches the eye but waiting game advised for now
The 3m handicap chase on the card has attracted 19 entries and, aside from my old mate Jepek who did me a big favour when winning at Sandown last time (but paid for it with a 7lb rise for a short-head win), my eye was immediately drawn to Red Indian off a mark of 141.
That is 2lb lower than his fifth in the Peter Marsh at Haydock last time and you have to view him as a very well-handicapped horse on that evidence, despite the fact that he was beaten 14 ½ lengths there.
He looked the likely winner for a lot of that contest - he traded at a low of [2.02] in the run - before his stamina ran out late on in officially heavy ground over 3m1f125yd on a track that takes some getting at the best of times.
Now, the stamina jury is still out on Red Indian over Saturday's 3m trip - notwithstanding his Grade 1 fourth in the Kauto Star (on good to soft) at Kempton in 2018 - and it is a fact that all his other best performances have come at 2m5f or less.
But he looks a winner waiting to happen off a mark of 141 that is for sure.
However, I can wait until later in the week until I look to back him, for all he has won on heavy ground, as a stamina test over 3m on very testing ground on a stiff track may not be his optimum conditions. I'd rather play when having a better handle on the ground, so going stick readings on Friday morning will be welcomed.
Reluctantly letting Dis-ting-go... for now
As regards the 2m3f handicap hurdle on the card (3pm), I have bought and worn the Jolly's Cracked It "I Love Ascot" T-Shirt twice this season but I have finally had to take it off now, even if he ran well when third at this, his favourite course, last time.
There are 27 rivals to choose from, and of those outsiders Mr Antolini and Blu Cavalier interested me, though not as much as Distingo did at 25/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Now, first things first, and that is that the horse is also entered over his usual 2m trip at Market Rasen on Sunday, so if you back him ante-post you are not even sure to get a run for your money.
And the further added problem is that the Market Rasen handicap is worth a very healthy 13k to the winner and the excellent Josh Moore is already jocked up there.
So I have to keep my powder dry once again, even if Distingo looks to be on a hugely attractive mark, having been dropped a very generous 3lb for a promising enough run last time, and this half-brother to Supasandae could well improve for a step up to 2m3f.
If he rocks up at Ascot, expect to see me tip him on Friday. Well, I will if the price suits, anyway.
Some great races elsewhere on Saturday
There are also ITV races priced up at Haydock and Wincanton.
The Kingwell Hurdle is the prime contest at the latter venue, with Fusil Raffles and Quel Destin vying for favouritism there, and it promises to be heavy ground - and then some - up at Haydock.
There are some great races in prospect at Haydock with the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle, a juvenile race that boasts Goshen among the entries, and a seriously competitive Albert Bartlett trial towards the end of the card that features Ramses De Teillee.
David Pipe's grey impressively ground his way to success over hurdles at Doncaster last time to put himself firmly in the frame for the three-mile novice at Cheltenham, but he is also in the Grand National Trial on the card.
And, with heavy ground no negative whatsoever for him, Ramses De Teillee must be a huge player to go one better than he did over fences in this race last season on good going. If you backed him that day, look away now - he traded at [1.11] in running before getting chinned.
It is clearly possible that Pipe could go down either route here after that Doncaster win last time, so you are probably better off swerving him for now and accepting a shorter price if he returns to chasing on Saturday (which is probably more likely, I imagine).
With the Grand National weights due to be revealed on Tuesday afternoon, expect these staying handicappers to show their Aintree hand a touch more this weekend - I am thinking about the 2017 National winner One For Arthur, above all, but would he want it this heavy? - and step up on this season's efforts.
It's not a race for me at this stage, though.
Conditions could be ideal for well-handicapped Juilley
I was going to leave this column without putting up a bet but I went back and had another look at all of the races that were priced up, and I returned to the 2m3f handicap hurdle at Ascot and belatedly decided that I am willing to chuck a few quid at Garo De Juilley at 33/1.
Win-only, largely because I think you will get at least five places on Friday rather than the current four.
And I also have no idea if he is an intended runner.
But he really has a fascinating profile for the race. Well, perhaps not fascinating, but mildly bet-inducing all the same.
He is down to a mark of 132 over fences after his fourth at Cheltenham behind Simply The Betts last time but he has been rated higher than that in the chasing discipline last season, notably when second to Slate House on heavy in October, so I was not concerned at all that he appeared to be rated 2lb higher over hurdles in this contest when I started looking at the race on Monday.
In fact, a mark of 134 was decidedly generous if you take the form of his Grade 1 Long Walk sixth to Paisley Park over 3m at this track last season at face value (he was raised to a mark of 140 immediately after that run).
But I checked on Tuesday morning after the weekly ratings update, and it appears he has been dropped 2lb to 132 over hurdles, mirroring his chasing mark.
So he is now 2lb lower than when winning the Silver Trophy on good at Chepstow in October 2018, and he can handle the likely soft/heavy going on Saturday just fine. In fact, the trip/ground combo could be ideal for a horse that stays further.
He is not an obvious shortener in the betting from 33/1, as he is certainly no sexy profile merchant, so you may well want to wait and back him on the day, but I am punting him now, so the tip follows.
Dems the rules. Good luck punting this week.