There are some big names in action on Newbury's Betfair-sponsored card on Saturday but Tony Calvin fancies a 20/1 shot at Warwick in his second look at the weekend's racing...
"He returns to his optimum trip of 2m4f here then, and the dry forecast is another big plus to his chances."
I dealt with the Betfair Hurdle on Tuesday afternoon but the Sportsbook have also priced up Saturday's other six ITV4 races (the Betfair Exchange Chase and the Betfair Denman Chase are also available on the exchange).
It will come as no surprise to hear that neither of those Grade 2 chases make much appeal as a betting medium, and they are set to continue the trend of short-priced favourites in big races lacking real depth.
Sure, not every race has to be accompanied by a punt and it is great to see top-class horses out and strutting their stuff.
And in Native River and Altior, we have a Gold Cup winner and dual Champion Chaser set to line-up and delight the Newbury crowd.
The problem is that the former, who I think is probably just about the best value left in the Gold Cup market at around 14/1 on the exchange, is a 1/3 chance and that is not going to generate much interest, is it?
Horse racing is about betting, first and foremost, and don't let anyone tell you any different.
Mind you, the fact that Native River's old sparring partner Might Bite is still the second favourite for the race at the weekend, after going out like a light in a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, tells you that the money-buyers could well come out to play.
And he is currently 1.412/5 on the exchange, too. I wouldn't be laying 2/5 myself.
Watching brief advised on Altior
Altior is probably more opposable in the old Game Spirit simply because we haven't seen him since his Ascot defeat in November and he clearly hasn't had the smoothest of seasons, with an abscess ruling him out of an intended Christmas engagement and the media nonsense that probably caused him to miss the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in the final analysis.
I know Nicky Henderson effectively ruled him out of that race when saying "Altior is not Altior" on the Monday (or was it the Tuesday?) of that race, but you got the strong impression that the trainer would have run him that weekend (after the horse perked up it seems) but for the rubbish written in the press.
Don't get me started on that, though.
As it is, Altior comes into this race with 11lb and more in hand of this field on official ratings and apparently after working the house down in Lambourn last week, so one would presume he is plenty straight enough here.
Quite what will take him on remains to be seen, but he is easily swerved at 1.538/15 given his travails this term.
Lanka again on my radar but beware of double entries
As ever, the handicaps interest me more and my eye was immediately drawn to Star Of Lanka once again in the 3m hurdle at Newbury.
He was on my ante-post radar for the Sandown handicap won by Limited Reserve on Saturday, but luckily I resisted the temptation to back him there as he didn't even turn up.
I was worried about the combination of heavy ground and the trip that day, and the form of the stable too, but those concerns won't be valid at Newbury at the weekend as the ground is now good to soft (from soft) with a dry forecast until Saturday.
He remains a well-handicapped horse despite going up 2lb for a Kempton second last time, he showed he stayed 3m at Haydock last term, the predicted decent ground could be ideal for him, and Warren Greatrex ended a barren spell with a couple of weekend winners at Musselburgh.
Everything was set for a bet on him in the Betfair Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle (1:50pm), then - especially with the Betfair Sportsbook one of only three firms to offer four places on the race, which has attracted 19 entries - until I saw it.
Yes, the fact that he has a dreaded alternative entry in a Pertemps qualifier at Exeter on Sunday.
I suspect he will go to Newbury, but I don't know, so I can hardly put him up at price (he is 7s and 8s in the marketplace).
I will be all over him if he does rock up, though.
If you are betting on this race, please be aware that most of the field are double-entered this week. In fact, I have never seen such a pattern in a big-field handicap before at the five-day stage.
Indeed only five of the 19 entries - High Sparrow, Vive Le Roi, Ainchea, Anytime Will Do and Dell' Arca - don't have other options this week, and the first-named could simply have been fishing for a UK mark after finishing fifth at Leopardstown at the weekend (and they wouldn't have liked their answer, as he is rated 130 in Ireland and was given 140 here).
So that is an obvious angle into betting on the race at this stage, with Vive Le Roi and Anytime Will Do the ones currently jocked up.
Star Of Lanka and Anytime Will Do interest me most at this stage, but I can't play at the moment.
Bigmartre is a very fair bet on ground he'll enjoy
There are three ITV4 races priced up at Warwick, but the only one that looks a betting heat is the 15-runner Warwick Castle Handicap Chase at 3:15pm.
You can fully see the case for Belami Des Pictons and Two Taffs towards the top of the market but Bigmartre looks pretty big to me at 20/1 and he rates an each-way bet, three places, with the Sportsbook.
The horse hasn't pulled up any trees in three starts this season but he has at least come down 6lb in the weights and the step up to 3m for the first time at Kempton last time was an experiment that didn't come off.
He returns to his optimum trip of 2m4f here then, and the dry forecast is another big plus to his chances.
The Warwick ground has been changed to good to soft (soft in places) already,
All his of three modest runs this season have come on officially testing ground and, while he has an excellent soft-ground second at Doncaster back in January 2018 on his dance-card and has won on heavy, his overall record suggests he is better suited to decent ground.
All his best efforts have come when forcing the pace too, so I would expect a more prominent ride than at Kempton last time, and Page Fuller is already jocked up.
The 3lb claimer was on board when the pair ran away with a Perth handicap by 16 lengths on good ground last April and, off just a 3lb higher mark now, they are weighted to go very close once again.
This is Bigmarte's only weekend entry and trainer Harry Whittington in decent nick, with two recent Saturday winners with Simply The Betts and Stick With Bill, everything is hopefully in place for Bigmartre to return to form.
If he does, then he won't be far off winning this handicap, especially if he can get on the front end and into an attacking rhythm on a course that could suit his usual run-style.
He is a very fair bet at 20s, and I am happy to take the each-way part of the bet, too, at the price.
UPDATE (5.30pm Wednesday): I have been told that Bigmartre is a likely non-runner on Saturday. I can't vouch for the accuracy, and plans change, but you may want to hold fire until the final declarations now if you haven't already backed the horse. Apologies if he doesn't run, but that is part and parcel of ante-post betting, unfortunately.