This weekend takes us to Wetherby and Ascot and Tony Calvin is hoping for rain in the former as he picks out one big-priced bet...
"In an interview on Attheraces.com (it went up on Saturday, so it is recent, too), trainer Harry Fry said this race is where “they will look to get her [Whitehotchillifili] started”.
Time to re-assess
I feel like I have been treading water a bit on the punting and tipping front since racing returned on June 1 - though we are still comfortably enough in front, settling to Betfair SP on exchange bets (as you can see below) - so I have decided to start the profit and loss afresh with the jumps season now looming into full view.
The reason is not only to keep me on my toes and fully accountable but, more importantly, to mark the start of the National Hunt season proper (a phrase we will continue to hear, in various guises, up until the Paddy Power meeting next month, I guess) after we welcomed Cheltenham back on Friday and Saturday.
It is always good to re-assess your betting and tipping strategies from time to time and, having done so over the weekend - I will make a few tweaks, as a result - I feel that I have become a little too defensive when assessing the ITV races on the Betfair markets.
Of course, losing runs are inevitable when you play at the kind of prices I do, so the pressure is on after re-setting the P and L to zero, but it is the right thing to do.
I will update at the end of each month in more detailed form, win or lose.
Anyway, now we have got that out of the way, let's get down to the task in hand and the MO of this column.
Finding winners at big prices.
Hopefully, Van Gogh will be one at Epsom next June after his 4-length Group 1 win at Saint-Cloud on Saturday.
I have had a very small nibble on him at 50s and 40s for the Derby - I am not sure if I mentioned that here, but I certainly did on a recent Weighed In Podcast (available on all good electrical devices every Monday) because the after-time chants come at me - and I am just hoping they don't decide to stay in France next year and go down the Chantilly route over a shorter trip, as I know 1m4f stamina has been raised as a possible concern.
Trust me lads, this horse will stay and he is your best Epsom hope, not that old boat High Definition.
I did press up small on Van Gogh at 20s on Sunday morning (he is an industry-best price at those odds with the Betfair Sportsbook), but I will focus on more immediate punting matters here.
The ups and downs of Cyrname on Saturday
There are eight races on ITV from Ascot and Wetherby on Saturday, and they have been priced up by the Sportsbook.
It is currently good to soft on both tracks and there is an unsettled week forecast - this is late October after all, so no shock there - so I am proceeding on the basis of not-too-severe soft ground at both tracks.
However, one site is more pessimistic when it comes to Wetherby (Thursday looks pretty grim), so I would personally steer clear of horses that are regularly taken out on account of testing ground or avoid it.
The good and bad news twins are out in force with the weekend's star attraction.
It is good (very good, in fact) that we are likely to see Cyrname on home soil this Saturday after Covid put paid to his Down Royal jaunt, but it is bad is that we don't know where, as he is entered in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot.
The fact that the latter is a handicap and Cyrname is rated 176 will no doubt have prompted many trainers to ring Ditcheat to try to get a handle on where Paul Nicholls' star chaser is likely to head on Saturday, and I imagine the layers wouldn't mind knowing either, as he is going to put a lot of horses out of the weights if he rocks up in Berkshire.
On a wider point, the lack of definitive running plans is always a pain when assessing the weekend racing - I know not everyone would play ball and it would be open to abuse, but I would like to see a stated first and second preference from trainers about horses with multiple entries at the five-day stage - and, for example, eight of the 20 Charlie Hall (3.20pm) field have alternative engagements, and it could be a further three after the Down Royal five-day decs are known early on Tuesday afternoon for the Gordon Elliott three in here.
An excellent renewal in-store
We may as well start with that race now I have mentioned it, and it will be an excellent renewal if even half of the entries stand their ground, as it is full of high class and interesting contenders.
And top class in the case of Cyrname obviously, and he will at least have to carry a 6lb penalty if he does rock up, no doubt much to the dismay of the opposition. This looks a more likely target for him than Ascot, though.
Elliott could bring his three over (looks out for those Down Royal entries later), we have the last two winners of the race in Ballyoptic and Definitely Red, the 2017 King George winner Might Bite (was that really nearly three years ago?) and the 162-rated hurdler and unbeaten Sam Spinner.
I could go on. In fact I will, as Blaklion having his first start for Dan Skelton (and Bellshill is also a stable-switcher to Sandy Thomson) also warrants a namecheck.
It could be one hell of a race but, given the doubts about the participation of what would be key market players, it is surely a race left alone ante-post.
The first bookmaker up on Monday went 5/4 Cyrname, with the next three in the market priced up at 9/2 and 5/1 twice, so that defensive betting underlines that observation.
As with Cyrname, if Verdana Blues turns up for the mares' hurdle (2.10pm), then connections of her rivals will have sad faces, as the 160-rated hurdler also doesn't carry any penalty here.
She may not if the ground turns soft and testing, and she gave all of these a glimmer of hope anyway when below par on her jumps return at Kempton recently, but she will eat these for Saturday lunch on a decent surface at her best, especially as she is also set to get 4lb from her main form rival, Stormy Ireland, for whom a chasing career has presumably been put on hold for a while after her Newton Abbot second.
However, if that one forecast is right then I can't see her running - the Sportsbook make her a 10/11 chance to win the race, and I wouldn't be overly-tempted to take that price about her lining up - and I wouldn't be that scared of Stormy Ireland after her chase defeat at odds-on, not at 7/4 anyway, so this looks an ideal race for an each-way punt.
I know people will tut-tut at that - bad each way race and all that, blah blah blah - but if bookmakers price up the race then they can't complain if they see the predictable action.
If they are that bothered, they should bet win-only.
Look for spice in Whitehotchillifili
The obvious each way play is Malaya at 8s, or it would have been had she not also had an engagement at Ascot too (though that handicap hurdle's prize money is remarkably just a third of what they ran for last season), but luckily I am even keener on Whitehotchillifili.
The opening 20/1 didn't last beyond Monday afternoon - it went at 5.08pm, as I was watching when she was cut - but I am more than happy to back and tip her at 12/1 each way.
I am personally willing to tip and punt her at 8s or bigger, each way, myself.
The first reason is that she is definitely going for the race, health permitting.
In an interview on Attheraces.com (it went up on Saturday, so it is recent, too), trainer Harry Fry said this race is where "they will look to get her started".
So that is a very big box ticked and, although you could read that comment as saying she won't be cherry ripe here, the stable are in decent form and the horse has a good record when fresh from the available evidence, so I am happy enough on that score.
And obviously black type is an important, immediate aim for her.
As a heavy ground winner, she is undoubtedly a filly who will relish any substantial rain this week, and there were bags of promise in her sixth in the mares' novices' hurdle at the Festival over 2m1f last season.
She was beaten 17 lengths there, but she ran far better than that indicates, as she travelled powerfully into the race until weakening after the last.
The step back in trip on an easier track will suit, for all her pedigree suggests she should get much further, and I reckon there is a lot more to come from this mare.
Marada and Miah Grace catch the eye but...
Such is the betting-friendly shape of this race - another of the ones high up in the market, Marada, was withdrawn from a bumper here last season because of the soft ground, so she is not a certain runner - I am was also going to recommend Miah Grace at 20/1 each way with the Betfair Sportsbook, but unfortunately that went early on Tuesday morning, and so was the revised 14s soon afterwards.
I can definitely see why the 20s and 14s was taken, and she now trades at 9/1.
Her trainer doesn't think she was ideally suited by the heavy ground when winning at Doncaster last season, but she battled it out, and let's just say she shaped with immense and obvious promise under a considerate ride in a handicap here last time, despite being beaten over 14 lengths.
She was not knocked about there, as they say, on her first start since February, and that kindness could well be repaid with a top three finish here.
Like Whitehotchillifili, of course she needs to improve massively if Verdana Blue and Stormy Ireland run - and run to form - but it could well happen. She is a 5yo with little mileage under the bonnet, and the stable are getting back in the groove after a quiet spell.
But the price on her has clearly gone now, and I fancied Whitehotchillifili more, anyway.
Sorry locals, I hope it lashes down in Wetherby all week.
Wet Wetherby could show class all the way
It really could be class all the way at Wetherby with shock 50/1 World Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar already jocked up for the Grade 2 hurdle (2.45pm), but he won't have it all his own way under a 6lb penalty.
Indeed, the Betfair Sportsbook initially made Thyme Hill their 2/1 favourite, ahead of the Cheltenham winner, when they went up with prices on Monday afternoon, when that horse was briefly available at 5s elsewhere (the Sportsbook called it right and the market has come for Thyme Hill). Both have this race as their sole entry of the week.
The picture just looks too messy and confused at this point, though. However, if you do want to back the likes of Next Destination and Roksana you can at least be comforted to a degree that they also don't have any other entries this week, unlike the likes of credible outsiders Wholestone and Kildisart from the same ownership.
Sods law that the two that interested me most in the 2m3f handicap chase at 1.35pm, Cracking Find and Niven, are also entered in the 1m7f handicap at the course on Friday. And I reckon that the sub-2m test could suit them too as well, so maybe we dodged a bullet there.
In fact, a few of these in there have that Friday option, so be careful if you are punting at this stage.
Attractive at Ascot
Over at Ascot in the 2m handicap chase at 1.55pm, Capeland bids to right a wrong in this race last season - and it helps that he only has a maximum of eight rivals on Saturday - when he was taken out of the race at the last by stablemate Diego Du Charmil, and was promptly disqualified for taking the wrong course while the winner kept the race!
He did go on to gain compensation and revenge when winning here next time though, beating the same troublemaker by 12 lengths in a very quick time, and he is the one to beat on that form, even if he is 7lb higher.
But I couldn't find a bet in that race - no wonder the layers are betting only to two places with just nine entered - and the same comment applies to the three other ITV races at Ascot.
If you want to know the ones I like most at Ascot in the televised races, here is my current short-list at the available prices:
Dr Sanderson in the 1.20pm
Caid Du Lin in the 1.55pm
Song For Someone and Sebastapol in the 3.05pm
Commanche Red in the 3.35pm
But I stress none of those are tips or bets for me at this stage.
Just the one filthy each-way play a Wetherby, it is. It could have been a brace of dirt but some even earlier-risers on Tuesday beat me to it.
Back on Friday.
PROFIT AND LOSS
FLAT SEASON P&L: +20.8
June 1-October 25 2020 Inclusive
PREVIOUS P&L: +303.4
April 14 2017 to end of racing March 2020 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)