Tony Calvin begins the Epsom Derby meeting with two more bets on Friday including one at 50/1 in the Oaks...
"I think Save A Forest is all about stamina, and a well-run 1m4f could see her take the big step forward to see her competitive here. I am happy to take a swing at the 50s."
If Santa Barbara wins the Oaks I will have probably lost on the race, it is as simple as that.
Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating laying her outright at around 11/4 on the Exchange - effectively backing 4/11 chances should be the pursuit of the few, if any, in my book - but she clearly has more to prove than her odds suggest.
Oaks favourite has questions to answer
Hardly revelatory, I know (everybody seems to be singing the same opposition song, hence she is on a walk in the market) and your opinion should change in accordance with the odds - there have been countless times this year when I would have tipped a horse on Saturday afternoon which I wouldn't have entertained at the prices on offer on Friday morning - but I genuinely couldn't even get excited at the prospect of backing her at around 4/1+.
Sure, she clearly is the number one work three-year-old filly in an all-powerful yard and open to any amount of improvement after just a maiden win and a Guineas fourth - I suppose we are all guilty of being underwhelmed by the Newmarket run after all of the chat, when we should have been anything but - but I do think she has plenty of questions to answer.
If she is as good as Aidan O'Brien thought she was in the spring, then she could sluice up, but I have to look elsewhere with all the five-day entries (bar Noon Star, withdrawn on Tuesday with a "temporary setback" - sure I read somewhere it was a blood disorder) standing their ground.
After what she did in the Musidora perhaps we shouldn't even have to look beyond Ballydoyle, as I didn't appreciate just how dominant Snowfall was at York until going back and watching the video on Wednesday morning.
The highly-regarded Teona (tried in a hood here, with her trainer 24 from 106 with this option in the last 10 years) may have pulled her chance away in the York race and Mystery Angel is a hardy trooper. But it surely takes a fair stretch of the imagination to see them overturning the form with the winner, especially as the daughter of Deep Impact, out of a 1m4f winner, promises to be even better over this longer trip.
I know plenty thought Ryan Moore stole it from the front off a steady gallop at York, and he may have done to an extent, but I was just very taken by the performance.
And I suspect some of her bigger-priced stablemates could do the donkey work for her here. But is she a bet at around 5s on the Exchange?
I'll ponder on that one.
Zeyaadah could struggle with draw
Now, I like nothing better than putting up one at a big price - bear with me here - but Snowfall and Zeyaadah looked the solid duo to me.
Unbeaten in three starts at two, including a Listed defeat of Mystery Angel over 1m in heavy ground at Newmarket, Zeyaadah was being tipped up at 9/4 in some places for her reappearance in the Cheshire Oaks, only to be a monumental drifter near the off, returning a Betfair SP of 7.613/2 (and she was available at a point bigger than that in the run-up to the race, too).
Afterwards, it transpired that she was 10 days behind schedule after a hold-up, which explained the drift, but, boy, did this girl still run a promising race at Chester.
Carrying a 3lb penalty for that Newmarket Listed win, she shaped like easily the best filly in the race in finishing a length second to the 110-rated Dubai Fountain - the third was nearly five lengths away and finished a close fourth in a Listed race at the Curragh on Wednesday night - and she would have won had Jim Crowley got remotely serious with her, though admittedly she did see trouble in running and was never ideally positioned throughout, unlike the winner on the front end.
You never know how horses will handle quick ground around these gradients - a concern for the favourite backers, no doubt - and Zeyaadah is not bred to be a 1m4f filly, but everything about her run-style (and Chester) suggests she is a middle-distance performer and you can make a fair case for her being the form horse going into this Classic.
The big problem with Zeyaadah is obviously her draw in one - basically stalls one and two are the death knell over 1m4f here, and no horse has won from trap one in a double-figure field over this trip since Graham "Sturm Und Drang" Goode was calling them home for Channel 4 - so we have the dilemma of the drifting price versus the killer berth.
She was 6.86/1 when the ante-post market was suspended on Wednesday morning, and she currently hasn't even shifted from that price. I have backed her small 8/1 ante-post each way, but the draw is a big turn-off now.
It has to be.
And while I have also backed Snowfall, again to small sums, at 7s after York, the current 5s is not a giveaway now.
Save A Forest could catch fire
I have decided to stick up Save A Forest at 50/1 each way, three places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
She is the bet in the race at the current prices. Odds of 40/1 would be fine and I suspect extra place terms could be coming, too.
Now, she is very much the Roger Varian third-string in the market behind Zeyaadah and Teona, and by far the least sexy in terms of profile, but she is hopefully a slow-burner (her trainer reports she is not flashy at home) ready to catch fire under these conditions.
She was very impressive in winning over 1m2f on her turf debut at Windsor in April and, while that form is lowly stuff in terms of Classics, it came on fast ground, she was very strong at the line and the runner-up is now rated 95 after winning a handicap by 10 lengths on her next start.
Her subsequent three-quarters-of-a-length second to Sherbet Lemon in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, with Ocean Road and Divinely just in behind, came in a slowly-run affair on soft ground and I came away with the impression that we didn't see the best of her there, for all that was a very modest renewal.
I think this filly is all about stamina, and a well-run 1m4f could see her take the big step forward to see her competitive here.
I am happy to take a swing at the 50s.
All not lost on Mythical Madness
I put up Mythical Madness at 20/1 for the 1m113yd handicap at 14:35 earlier in the week and at least we will get a run for our money here, even if he probably should be double the price now after finishing last of nine at Yarmouth on Tuesday night.
He has actually shortened in the betting!
However, the main case for him was that he was being primed for this race, so all is not lost yet, as he was having his first run in three weeks at Yarmouth and this is a horse who thrives on his racing.
He has twice finished runner-up in this race (in 2017 and 2018), with a fourth here over 1m2f in 2019 on his only other course outing, off marks in the 90s. He effectively races off 81 here, with a 3lb claimer up to offset, to a degree, being 6lb out of the handicap.
He is getting on as a 10-year-old now but some of this horse's best runs have been after a short turnaround - only a head defeat prevented him from notching up a hat-trick in 12 days last June, the last victory coming off 84 - and I hope Yarmouth has put the fitness edge on him.
It may be worth recalling he was ninth of 10 on the run before his second in this contest in 2018, and only 18th of 20 before taking the runner-up spot in 2017. He was trained by Simon Dow back then but I suspect David O'Meara has been plotting the same path. Or at least I hope he has.
He won at Haydock in July 2018 for Dow just three days after running at Hamilton (also won within a week at Chelmsford in 2019) and there are numerous other examples of this turnaround toughness throughout his career.
Given that hardiness, his course form, his lowly handicap mark (despite being 6lb wrong) and his liking for quick ground - plus the owner likes runners here - he may well bounce back to form. And I quite like the angle of the cheekpieces replacing the visor to freshen him up (he has won five times in pieces, and he makes his debut in them for O'Meara here).
I may be being stubborn but I still quite like his chances, though I have no need to go in again. If you are fresh to the party and want to back him, then look for 16/1+ win-only on the Exchange.
However, Irish Admiral could be a very major stumbling block, as the betting suggests, as he travelled like the winner for 95pc of the race over an extended 1m2f at York last time (hit 1.162/13 in running, before weakening late on) and you have to think the return to 1m here will be a massive plus for him. And he only got upped 1lb for that third too, so he is a massive player.
Maybe I will look to back Mythical Madness without the favourite when those markets materialise on Friday morning.
The Woodcote at 14:00 looks a typically trappy race to solve, with seven out of the 10 entries winners, and none of the field have had more than three runs.
Dairerin and Flaming Rib are just about the two to beat going into the race, on form and on the clock, but they are priced accordingly and this is not a heat that floats my boat.
I'd rather back the filly Oscula, who did it well enough in a fair time at Brighton and could be dangerous if getting on the front end here from stall two, but there is nothing doing for me. She may have done the job at the original 9/1 with the Sportsbook but, even then, these two-year-old races are not really my bag.
The obvious play to me in the Coronation Cup at 15:10 is to lay Al Aasy at anything under 11/10 on the Exchange. In fact, I'd go up to 5/4 myself.
I get the fact that he has been very impressive in a brace of Group 3 wins and William Haggas clearly loves him, but he has plenty to prove from a form, class and time perspective to be priced up as he is in this company.
Japan and Mogul are race-fit and unpenalised Group 1 winners, and I'd be a big fan of Albaflora too - the 16/1 in one place early doors was far too big and was promptly snaffled - so I think you have a few running for you if you are laying the favourite.
I will stop short of recommending the play here, but I have done it myself and I will press up again if Al Aasy's price shortens further from around the evens mark.
You're Hired can fire in fast race
The other race on ITV is the 1m2f handicap at 15:45, and there is potentially a shedload of pace in here, with seven of the 10 having gone forward in recent starts.
The layers are keeping faith in Blue Cup despite his blow-out at York last time, following his luckless run here previously when he should have won an admittedly average renewal of the City and Suburban, and perhaps a first-time hood (and the likely strong pace) will see his keen sort up his game off and win off a very workable handicap mark.
However, his stable is 0 from 10 with a first-time hood in recent years, so that isn't a positive on that score, if possibly a touch irrelevant in this case as the horse does need some assistance.
But his current price around 4/1 looks too a shade too defensive, and I like two against him.
Windsor winner HMS President is a touch too short at around 7/1, so I am going with You're Hired at 20/1 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook. He'd remain a bet at 14/1+
He is one of the horses who can race prominently but James Doyle may have to be content to take a pull and sit handy here.
If he does, then I think 16/1 underestimates his mount's chances as he has an excellent record when fresh throughout his career, including when dotting up first time out at Newmarket last season, and he finished fourth in the Cambridgeshire off a 1lb higher mark than this just two starts ago.
He is also 1lb lower than when fifth to Sky Defender in this race last season (on his second run of the campaign, so he could have been a touch stale) and I like the angle of him fresh here on quick ground that he bounces off.
Good luck all.
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2021 FLAT SEASON (started April 14)
Mythical Madness in 14:35 at Epsom on Friday at 20/1 win-only with Betfair Sportsbook at 21.0