Yes, just the three meetings today from Catterick, Newcastle and Wincanton, and the latter is where I will again be on box duty for racecourse guests.
I am looking forward to getting down to Wincanton today. It looks like a good betting card in parts, with others stacked full of unreliable sorts. Either way, it's always good fun to get out and mix with like-minded people and provide information to those newcomers to racing in the hope that we make lifelong fans of the sport.
So without further nonsense of my comings and goings, let's get stuck into today's angles...
Money Talk continues to highlight the Betfair Sportsbook big-money moves to keep you in the loop. This section highlights market moves between 1:00 am and 9:00 am.
13:30 Wincanton - Small Bad Bob 14/1 into 12/1
14:15 Catterick - Fevertre 17/2 into 5/1
16:00 Newcastle - Big Dutchie 7/1 into 11/2
19:30 Newcastle - Mayelf 4/1 into 11/4
The morning market drifters !
Which horse is the Betfair Sportsbook market suggesting to Lay?
19:30 Newcastle - Kilconquhar 15/8 OUT 9/4
Mark your card
The Betfair Sportsbook is paying extra places today!
In the opening contest at Catterick, the 12:15 Racing To School Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, only two favourites have obliged in the last ten years. Both wins came from the same horse and he was trained by Donald McCain and ridden by Abbie McCain, and they partner again with Court Jurado 6.511/2.
Brorson 1.910/11 looks to have fantastic claims now stepped up in distance for the 12:45 Happy Birthday On Friday Jules Novices' Hurdle at Catterick. He takes a drop back into a Novice Hurdle, and no rival has ridden an RPR within ten pounds of his latest, while his trainer Martin Keighley has a 22% strike rate at this venue.
At Catterick, trainer Sue Smith has had 27 winners from 85 runners over fences in recent times, operating at a 32% strike rate. She saddles one chaser tomorrow in the 13:15 Clare Newnam Novices' Handicap Chase, Thelongwayaround 5.59/2.
In the 14:15 Baker McVeigh & Abbott (Yorkshire) Handicap Hurdle at Catterick Ronan McNally will look to mug off the English handicapper for the third time in 11 days as Vee Dancer 1.330/100 will attempt to wrack up the hattrick - cue the eye roll.
At Wincanton in the 13:00 Bank-A-Winner With MansionBet Novices' Limited Handicap Chase, trainer Sam Thomas has a 50% strike rate with his horses over fences. He saddles the well-handicapped Our Power 4.03/1, who has won second time out in 2018 and 2020 and is one pound below his last winning hurdle mark - he has a big chance.
Useful flat recruit Mascat 9.08/1 will take on Paul Nicholls' Rainyday Woman 2.47/5 in the 14:00 MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Novices' Hurdle. Mascat is now with trainer Harriet Brown as are most of the former Ralph Smith trained horses, and he steps up in trip after a very taking debut performance at Wincanton over 2m in October.
Trainer's Paul and Oliver Cole have a 40% strike rate with their two-year-olds at Newcastle, and they make the long journey with just the one runner in the 18:30 Watch Racing Free Online At Coral Nursery Handicap. Leap Abroad 4.57/2.
Horses for courses
This section highlights horses that have won twice or more at today's tracks and could be in with a chance today.
15:00 Wincanton - Daytime Ahead - Has won here twice (33%)
16:00 Newcastle - Harry George - Has won here four times (44%)
18:00 Newcastle - Kind Review - Has won here five times (29%)
Weighted to go well
"Weighted to go well" highlights horses running that are more than 10lbs below their last winning handicap mark.
15:00 Wincanton - Daytime Ahead - Has won off 105 runs off 96 (9lbs)
16:00 Newcastle - The Game Of Life - Has won off 59 runs off 46
This section highlights a trainer, owner or jockey who is in excellent current form and their runners or rides for the day.
Today's furthest traveller is trainer Nigel Hawk. He has made the 296 mile journey to Catterick with his only runner Shielded 15.014/1 in the 13:45 Rob Burrow Is A Legend! Juvenile Hurdle. The trainer is a rare sight at this venue having had just seven runners here in his career yielding one winner.
Race of the day
Today's race comes from Wincanton and is a seven runner affair for the 13:30 MansionBet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Hurdle. There's a mix between potential and well-handicapped horses that need to bounce back, but it is a race that has plenty of meat on the bones to get stuck into.
Brief Times heads up the market after three successive victories and makes his handicap debut off an opening mark of 126. That handicap mark on the balance of his form looks more than fair, and the habitual front runner will be well suited to the nature of this Wincanton track.
However, the market may have just overreacted with his short price on the back of a good win at Doncaster last time and forgotten about his violent jumping out to the left at Exeter. There's no guarantee he will do that again, but it's not out of the question that he won't either, and there were signs coming down the home straight at Doncaster that he wanted to go out to the left.
He is a nice prospect for Neil Mulholland, who is firmly on the upgrade, but he will have pace pressure for the first time here, courtesy of Small Bad Bob, Kalyptra and Sofia's Rock.
Earth Company has been a typical improver for the Phillip Hobbs team since the wind operation and improved significantly for his first outing over hurdles behind Knappers Hill here last month when a ready winner at Taunton.
He ran away with that contest and beat some good rivals with the minimal of fuss and with little to no assistance in the saddle. The clock backs up that performance, and if forgiving his two below-par runs before his wind operation, his form has an upwardly mobile look to it.
On the reading of his bumper fourth over course and distance, the handicapper looks to have given him a fair chance on handicap debut off this mark of 124.
Sofia's Rock can be expected to put in an improved performance, and although the absence of Harry Skelton questions what form he will arrive in, Lorcan Williams rides this track extremely well.
He is well-handicapped on his exploits from 2019 when running off much higher handicap marks than today's 127, and there are excuses for his latest run when better than the bare result.
He rates a risky proposition but is more than capable on a going day.
Big race verdict
A trappy heat, but the most solid option and a rather appealing one looks to be EARTH COMPANY who has very few questions to answer in today's contest and is firmly on the upgrade. He also has the benefit of course experience, and the strong pace will only aid his cause. There are other options, such as Oakley, who remains reasonably treated, but he has since left Phillip Hobbs for a new yard and makes his reappearance today.
Brief Times will face a battle for the lead for the first time in his career after dictating matters the last twice and Park Paddocks returns from over 1,000 days off the track. Its hard to find reason's not to back Earth Company.
Earth Company is a strong bet for me today but the morning odds have contracted so it's difficult to advise a bet. However, should he touch odds of 5/2, 9/4 again this morning, I would advise backing him.
Timeform offer up three of their best at Newcastle
The Timeform team offer their NAP, NB and each way shout.
Read Timeform tips here.
Final Word - Jumping on the gamble, or drift, in this case
It's always easy to blame a horses performance on a drift before the off, but it makes little difference in most cases. If a horse is well supported overnight or during the morning, the those punters have usually got on at the bigger value odds and that's why they are worth highlighting early in this column.
The bookmaker will always contract a price due to the weight of money, but if that money is already down by whatever means and no more comes for it, it will naturally drift to a point where layers are willing to take it on again.
That's not to say the early money was wrong but more likely to say that backers are finding no value in that contracted price ten minutes before the off, hence the drift. The idea that all well-supported horses win and all drifters lose is barbershop talk, and one we all know is wrong.
You cannot base your betting on whether a horse is being backed or not ten minutes before the off, and it's outlandish to expect to make a long term profit in doing so - unless you're an in-running punter with an opportunity to lay off.
The likelihood of you getting any value on a selection that is already in freefall just before the race is very small. The idea is to be the one betting that horse before the market moves pre-race.
Some yards/owners, of course, like a punt and taking notice of such a thing can help you next time, but by the time you, me or the average joe is aware of it on the day, the value has likely gone. It shouldn't be a bet if you see this happening and the horse is now below the odds of your tissue or "value" price.
Yes, this is about Lusitanien's drift again in the betting yesterday. However, there was little excuse for him not to get the job done, so no, I won't be on next time; you will be glad to hear, but comments suggesting the drift before the off was the reason for defeat are just not plausible - neither is waiting for it to be backed next time.
Until tomorrow, be lucky.
Follow Daryl Carter on Twitter @DarylCarter7