There is some high class racing at Newmarket this weekend including the Cesarewitch handicap and the 2yo Dewhurst Stakes, but with multiple entries from some big yards the antepost picture is a bit murky says Tony Calvin...
"He has dismissed all before him with some ease, not least a very promising colt in Phoenix Of Spain in the Champagne Stakes last time, and those victories are backed up by the evidence of the clock, too."
I can't readily recall the last time a trainer numerically dominated an English ante-post race the way Aidan O'Brien does the Dewhurst, without having any of the first two in the market.
Okay, I know Ballydoyle had five in the Arc on Sunday and the shortest-priced horse they had was 8/1 chance Kew Gardens, but having eight of the 12 five-day entries in Saturday's Group 1 at Newmarket is going some, all right.
I imagine half of those won't run, and the doubts surrounding the Middle Park winner Ten Sovereigns in particular makes it nigh on impossible to punt an O'Brien horse in the race with any confidence.
It appears that Anthony Van Dyck is their number one for the contest at this stage, and a likely runner from the reports, but whether they will want him and Ten Sovereigns in the same race - especially with Ryan Moore boarding a plane today to go and ride US Navy Flag in the Everest in Australia at the weekend - is open to doubt.
So it got me wondering whether bookmakers should price up the four entries from the other yards, and just add an "O'Brien selected" as the fifth option in an ante-post market.
Now, I know that is far from ideal, but at least backers would get a run for their money, come what may, on Saturday. Even it is not the horse (s) you fancied!
As ante-post backers know, there is nothing more annoying than a no-show when you have had a bet and done your cash in cold blood.
Anyway, something for the layers to consider, perhaps. Or not.
Darn Hot set for a stern test against at least one O'Brien colt
As for the race itself, there is no exchange market at the time of writing, but the Betfair Sportsbook are up and they make Too Darn Hot the even-money favourite.
That is predictable enough as he has dismissed all before him with some ease, not least a very promising colt in Phoenix Of Spain in the Champagne Stakes last time, and those victories are backed up by the evidence of the clock, too.
This promises to be a very stern examination though as, besides the Ballydoyle massive, he is confronted by Sangarius, the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes winner Advertise and the promising Kuwait Currency, who has bypassed several options since winning at Salisbury in August.
The betting suggests the 3/1 chance Sangarius is the one to fear most of that trio, and he certainly looked good at Doncaster and is held in the highest regard at home.
But the three horses that immediately followed him home at Doncaster have been stuffed since - in fact, combined, they have beaten only one horse - and you are relying on reputation to a fair degree if you are interested in him at the price.
Anthony Van Dyck is just about the O'Brien first string on the evidence of the form book, as he had Christmas and Mohawk behind him when second to Quorto in the National Stakes last time.
That form was given a boost when Mohawk beat Sydney Opera House and Cape Of Good Hope in the Royal Lodge - all three are in here, too - but I just wonder whether Anthony Van Dyck needs a mile already and is more of a Vertem (old Racing Post) Trophy type. He has an entry in that Doncaster race in a fortnight.
He has already won over a mile, and I got the impression he was out-speeded over 7f at the Curragh.
Lack of pace isn't an issue for his stablemate Ten Sovereigns, and it just occurs to me that the pair want different pace scenarios to be seen to best effect at the weekend, so we could see one or the other, but not both.
What do I know, though?
Mullins battalion presents early Ces head-scratcher
Anyway, if second-guessing O'Brien is a tough task, it is nigh on impossible when it comes to Willie Mullins and he has just the seven in the Cesarewitch.
And they give him a very strong hand indeed, so much so that I think I saw one bookmaker make him a 5/2 chance to win the race, which didn't look a bad price at all.
If you look at the Betfair Sportsbook prices, he has four of the top six in the betting, with Stratum heading the market at 6/1.
Now, that is one race that I can certainly leave alone until I see the final declarations on Thursday morning.
There are plenty of markets up on the Sportsbook for Friday and Saturday - there is ITV racing at Newmarket and York on both days - so you won't be lacking for betting opportunities if you are up for the early week, ante-post challenge.
I am happy to get the study in now, and get primed for tipping columns further down the line this week. After we know what way Messrs O'Brien and Mullins have shuffled their impressive packs.
Until then, best of luck.