Tony Calvin has an early look at the betting for Saturday's meeting at Ascot and finds an underestimated runner with the stamina to succeed on the heavy ground...
"Not So Sleepy is the one that is getting my early cash at 12/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
It's approaching that time of the year which proper punters despise. Yes, that'll be Christmas and blank racing days. What's that all about?
Anyway, it is last-hurrah time for a few days on Saturday, and at least we have some decent racing at Ascot and Haydock to see us off.
Marsh might be no cakewalk for Paisley Park
It is obviously disappointing that the £100,000 Grade 1 Marsh Hurdle (or the Long Walk in old money) has attracted just six runners, but it appears that the main man, Paisley Park, has scared off most of the opposition.
Last year's impressive Stayers' Hurdle winner (who was also successful in this race last season on soft ground), he was thought to need the run quite badly on his return at Newbury, so in giving Thistlecrack 6lb and a length beating - with the fit The Worlds End six lengths away in third - he clearly put up a highly satisfactory performance.
He is the 1/4 favourite with the Betfair Sportsbook but the ground is already soft and it is odds-on to be heavy by the weekend if the forecast is correct - hopefully the meeting survives, as it appears to be rain all the way this week - and that could level the playing field a fair bit.
Agrapart is a proper mudlark and L'Ami Serge and Tobefair also handle it deep, while the up-and-comer Papagana has won on heavy, so maybe this isn't the cakewalk that the betting suggests in what could be gruelling conditions.
Not So Sleepy should be up for Betfair Exchange Trophy
It doesn't appeal as an obvious betting heat , and that tag is best reserved for the 18-runner £150,000 Betfair Exchange Trophy at 15:35.
I like recent Wincanton winner Scaramanga but the ground has to be a big concern for him - and the same goes for a few others in here - while Monsieur Lecoq would have to be a big player if turning out again quickly after his strong-finishing fourth in the International last Saturday.
I can fully see the case for last year's winner Mohaayed off his falling handicap mark too, and Paul Nicholls' twice-raced Tamaroc Du Mathan is clearly the unexposed one of the party after a promising second here last month.
However, let's s**t and get off the pot shall we, and Not So Sleepy is the one that is getting my early cash at 12/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Many will perhaps underestimate his course-and-distance win last time as Jonathan Burke rode them to sleep from the front, he is 5lb higher here and the runner-up did nothing for the form at Cheltenham on Saturday.
But go and take a look at the video of that win here and you will see a horse that was dominant at the finish, finding plenty, and the third-placed horse, Oakley, ran a screamer when just touched off at Cheltenham last Friday.
So I reckon a 5lb rise is very manageable if simply looked at in the context of that victory. But then you factor in Not So Sleepy's Flat form, and you get even more enthused.
He signed off on the level in October with a fourth in the Cesarewitch on soft ground and rated 94, so that makes his current hurdles mark of 127 seem pretty attractive still.
We know he handles the track and he handled deep ground well on the level too, finishing second in a soft-ground November Handicap last year and a runner-up on heavy at Nottingham in August. And his confirmed stamina over 2m2f in that sphere will also stand him in very good stead here, as this will not be a race for quick 2m types.
I have no idea if he is an intended runner but this is a massive pot and he has no other entries, so he will do for me each-way at 12s, ta.
That four places could be very handy if the race cuts up as I think it may, though you will still probably get the same each-way terms on the day, 16 runners or not, if not the price.
This is only his fifth race over hurdles too, and there could be plenty more to come from him. He looks more of a 8s poke to me, if that.
I will be betting accordingly.