Tony Calvin returns to give his early look on the highlight of Royal Ascot this weekend where Enable and Crystal Ocean head the market once again...
"Mind you, this race could easily cut up to less than eight runners come the off, as I suggested could well happen in last week's column, at which stage we had 18 entries. And, if that does happen, then it will really be a "watch-only" race for many."
Another Enable v Crystal Ocean face-off
Some believe I'm soulless for viewing horse racing through the prism of simply betting, but it is something that I don't apologise for.
Sure, there are occasions where you can watch without a financial interest but, to me, these are few and far between. If I don't have a bet in a race, the chances are that I won't watch it live.
And that is the problem that I have with this Saturday's King George, a race that plenty are billing up as one of the clashes of recent years, even in the sad absence of Sea Of Class and the fact that three Ballydoyle Group 1 winners (Sovereign, Japan and Magical) were taken out of the race on Monday.
It's a fascinating encounter and of course I'll be tuning in, but it leaves me cold as a betting medium, as Enable and Crystal Ocean rightly dominate the market - I strongly suspect that they will finish first and second, though perhaps not in the order most assume - and that clearly negates the attractiveness of any each-way angle.
Mind you, this race could easily cut up to less than eight runners come the off, as I suggested could well happen in last week's column, at which stage we had 18 entries. And, if that does happen, then it will really be a "watch-only" race for many.
I can't have Defoe as a place possible at the prices - sorry, I know I shouldn't use that term - and the more you look at the form of the 3yo middle-distance colts the less you warm to Anthony Van Dyck.
The bunch finish at Epsom suggested, at the time, they were not an outstanding crop, though subsequent big-race victories for Circus Maximus and Japan gave us negative folk a ray of hope.
Events since - and Japan wasn't impressive in following up his Ascot success with a Group 1 win in France last time - has tempered any enthusiasm somewhat.
And what do we make of that Irish Derby?
What of Sovereign?
I think the 6-length winner Sovereign should be running here, but they have apparently backed off him with an autumn campaign in mind.
Given his stamina-laden pedigree and the way he drilled them into the ground at the Curragh, perhaps they are going to go down the Capri route and target the St Leger with him.
That wouldn't necessarily be good news for my Doncaster play with stablemate Constantinople, but it would be understandable.
Anyway, back to Anthony Van Dyck. Maybe he just had an off-day at the Curragh, and it was an "odd" race to watch and get a definitive handle on.
But he didn't travel into the race at all and I couldn't have him here at 7/1+, for all he gets that big age weight-concession.
Waldgeist is the obvious each-way play at 16/1 given his confirmed Group 1 class but his 0 from 6 record away from France, including at this course, does nibble away at that confidence of him nailing a place.
It remains to be seen if Magic Wand takes her chance. But she would have some appeal at 66/1, given she has been running well in defeat and will get her optimum conditions of 1m4f and fast ground here. Of course she was very good in the Ribblesdale here last season.
But can you see her getting near Enable or Crystal Ocean?
No, me neither. That is why we have to look elsewhere for a weekend ante-post play, and there are no shortage of options given the Betfair Sportsbook have priced up seven races.
The race that interests me most is the valuable 7f handicap at Ascot, the Moet and Chandon International Stakes, which features all the usual suspects like Ripp Orf, Kynren, Raising Sand, to name just three of the "regulars".
But an extra place means little unless you can't identify a potentially winner, or shortener - and, crucially, an intended runner - and the three that caught my eye were Documenting, Lush Life and Vale Of Kent.
I couldn't put anyone off the first-named pair at 33/1 and 20/1 in the marketplace, but Vale Of Kent was going to be my small nibble at 16s, five places.
But it appears that he is not a certain runner, so we can't play. I do like his chances if he gets the green light, though.
He can chuck in the odd stinker, as he did at Newcastle last month, but he ran a blinder at Ascot when seventh in the Hunt Cup, especially since the combination of a mile and soft ground weren't ideal there.
There is little doubt that 7f on fast ground are his optimum conditions as he showed when winning at Newmarket earlier in the month.
He picks up a 3lb penalty for that run, but connections must be seriously considering aiming him at this race, as he is 2lb well-in here on that run.
That Newmarket race looked strong, too, as he beat a well-handicapped filly into second there.
Aside from the Hunt Cup run, he finished a good fourth to Raising Sand here last autumn (on soft ground, too).
But the problem with backing him ante-post is that Charlie Johnston said immediately after the Newmarket run that it is a "coin toss" between Ascot and the Goodwood next week, though of course he could easily do both.
Indeed, he has a history of turning out again quickly and winning, as he did at Goodwood last August.
However, with doubts about running plans, he is given a reluctant swerve. For now.
Back on Friday on a busy weekend of racing. And punting, I imagine.