It's day three at Doncaster's St Leger Festival and Tony Calvin has picked three to back on Friday afternoon including one with which he has a bit of history...
"I actually like Tranchee even more than Sunset Breeze, as Tranchee has been crying out for a step back in trip and he gets another vote at 8/1 with the Sportsbook."
The racing at Doncaster hasn't captured my punting imagination so far this week, and Friday's fare was a bit of a struggle once again to be honest - to be begin with, anyway - but Sleeping Lion was one that instantly leapt out at me in the opening ITV3 race at 13:40.
Repeat winning-performance under optimum conditions?
It could simply be that I have a lot of history with the horse and he is an automatic, tracker-like selection, but I am confident that I am not that lazy or shallow and there is plenty of depth to his chances.
I was with him when he won this race last season, when Jamie Spencer sat him in last, took it up at the furlong pole, and won by three-quarters-of-a-length length.
He is 3lb higher here and the form of that race didn't really work out, but the time was good and I think we are set for a repeat performance under what could be the horse's optimum conditions.
On the face of it, he hasn't pulled up any trees in three starts this season, but there have been excuses on every occasion.
He was never going to shine over 1m4f first time up at Newbury, he hit the front far too soon when second at Newcastle (which was actually a very good effort in the circumstances, especially with the winner being a course specialist), and last time out he lost a shoe and possibly didn't quite fully see out the 2m trip at Ascot.
He stays 2m but he has never won over it in four attempts (and has never when powering home late, either) and I reckon this extended 1m6f115yd on a flat track on drying ground is ideal for him.
His two best efforts have come in small fields, sub-2m, on good to firm ground, and you can easily see Spencer, on board for the first time since winning this last season, caressing him into the race late - Hochfield, Volcanic Sky and High Wells look to be the pace angles - and hopefully the horse will guts it out in the final furlong or so, as he did last year.
Unfortunately, the opening 13/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook has gone, as has the reduced offer of 11/2, but I am happy to back him at [6.4] or bigger on the exchange.
Sunset Breeze has to be a bet
Three of the horses in the 6f111yd handicap at 14:10 are officially well-in at the weights, with Sunset Breeze 5lb to the good with the handicapper after his narrow second over 7f at Ascot on Saturday.
That run clearly gives him major claims here - the winner is a well-regarded, lightly-raced improver, and the third was three lengths away - especially as the slight drop back in trip could be a small help, too.
I was surprised that the first firm to price up the race on Wednesday morning made him a 6/1 chance (and it was a very defensively-priced book, too), as I thought he would head the market.
So, with the Betfair Sportsbook offering 13/2 (was 7/1 earlier), he has to be a bet for me. I suppose he could be a non-runner if the ground quickens up appreciably - it was good at Ascot, but this could be the quickest this soft-ground winner has raced on - but I will take my chances here and now.
Tranchee must have a big run in him
I actually like Tranchee even more, as he has been crying out for a step back in trip and he gets another vote at 8/1 with the Sportsbook.
This is not a dramatic reduction in distance by any means - he has been racing over 7f in deep ground on his last two starts, and this contest is over 6f111yd - but coming down in trip is surely the way to go with him, despite the fact he has won over 1m, and I think better ground could suit him, too.
Certainly, his pedigree suggests decent going may well suit, as he is by War Front out of a Listed-placed mare who won on good to firm (and his half-sister won on good).
Tranchee has run out of petrol late on over 7f in those last two starts, and agonizingly so at Haydock last Saturday, as he traded at [1.05] in-running when skipping clear 1f out, only to get reeled in.
He is 2lb well-in here and must have a big run in him, though the quick turnaround is always a concern (as it is for Sunset Breeze), as is the fact that this is a competitive handicap.
He looks overpriced at 8s with the Sportsbook. As they are offering enhanced place terms, I am recommending both horses each way, four places.
Grand Visir could pass stamina test
The Flying Childers at 14:40 has too many possible winners to get me excited and the seven-runner Doncaster Cup at 15:10 did not look that punter-friendly to me at first viewing, either.
However, the form horses, Eagles By Day and Spanish Mission, are unproven over this 2m2f trip, as indeed are all of the field bar The Grand Visir, though most have shown a decent level at around 2m, that much is true.
In fact, guaranteed stamina could be the key to this race, and The Grand Visir interested me most at the prices.
He actually doesn't have that much to find on form either - he is only 5lb shy of the top-rated Eagles By Day - and comes here in great nick after placed efforts in the Queen Alexandra and the 2m5f handicap at Goodwood.
He is also a 2m4f Royal Ascot winner and a scorer at this track, and I expect Jim Crowley to be alive to the potential lack of pace in the race, and be ready to show initiative and make the running himself.
He is normally held up but he has made all before, and indeed he raced prominently when winning at this track in 2018. So don't be frightened to go on Jim, and make the most of that assured stamina.
I may be making too much of the drying ground (though the strong indications are that the track will not water) , but I think ideally he wants some cut and I am worried about a muddling, slowly-run race for him if there is no-one willing to make it a test.
So while The Grand Visir was very nearly a tip and a bet at a double-figure price, I am going to trade this race once the stalls open. That is the beauty of the Exchange. But I imagine there will be no bet if there looks to be a dawdle early doors.
There is nothing doing for me in the Flying Scotsman at 15:45 so I will stick with the three bets.
I am quite surprised I got so many selections out of these ITV races, in truth. It was three more than I was expecting when I first looked at the card, and very nearly four!
Sleeping Lion at [6.4] or bigger in 13:40 at Doncaster
Tranchee at 8/1 (each way, four places) with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:10 at Doncaster
Sunset Breeze at 13/2 (each way, four places) with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:10 at Doncaster