The softening ground at Chester has led to plenty of withdrawals, making picking winners from today's televised action even harder than usual, but Tony Calvin has spotted a pair of big priced runners who should go well...
"His stamina on this ground has be taken on trust but his sire gets plenty of 1m2f winners – his most famous son was Blame, who beat Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic – and Zampa Manos did it the hard way from the front at Kempton last time."
Decent punting opportunities look pretty thin on the ground in today's Channel 4 races, and that is exacerbated by what are likely to be a stream of non-runners throughout the day due to the softening conditions.
And that was highlighted by the fact that Mount Athos has just been pulled out of the Ormonde Stakes at 14:45, when I was just getting set to have a rare short-priced bet on Hillstar at around the 15/8 mark.
Mount Athos was trading as the 2/1 second favourite in that race, and I reckoned that made the market for Hillstar, as I didn't think Marco Botti's stayer would relish the ground one bit. His trainer obviously agreed.
It all looks good for Hillstar - connections think that he will have no problem with the ground, the King George third had a class edge on the field, and he is reported to have come back from Dubai in good form.
While Brown Panther is also "very well", according to his owners, has soft ground form and is a course winner, Hillstar is still a fair bet at around evens in the reformed market, but this column is not about even money shots so I am not going to recommend that as a selection here.
I am also finding a bet hard to come by in the seven-runner sprint handicap at 15:15. If my hand was forced, then See The Sun would be a token choice, even from his wide stall, but in truth I have to look elsewhere.
Chester 14:15 - Zampa Manos
I think the Betfair Cash Out Dee Stakes is ripe for an upset and I am going to take a chance with Zampa Manos at odds of 11.010/1.
Bow Creek was the obvious alternative to a vulnerable front three in the market, being a course winner who has also won in the soft, but his price of 6.411/2 looks short enough now.
But there could be some mileage in Zampa Manos' odds. Granted, he has a fair bit to find on the form of his narrow Kempton success last time, but he has a similar profile to Wednesday's Cheshire Oaks winner Anipa in that he at least comes here in winning form and his stable is enjoying a good week, too.
His stamina on this ground has be taken on trust but his sire gets plenty of 1m2f winners - his most famous son was Blame, who beat Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic - and Zampa Manos did it the hard way from the front at Kempton last time.
That tenacity will stand him in good stead in these conditions, and the form of that race has worked out OK. The runner-up apparently had excuses when a well-beaten, and well-backed, favourite in a Newmarket handicap last week,and the fifth home has won since. He is a worth a small-stakes investment.
Chester 13:45 - Balty Boys
Capo Rosso is a significant morning withdrawal in the opener so Andrew Balding and Oisin Murphy also have a decent winning chance with the well-regarded Here Comes When. He is the likeliest winner but odds of 4.77/2 do not excite me.
Initially, I was going to take him on with Big Johnny D, with the blinkers on for the first time. He ran no sort of race when very well-backed on his reappearance at Haydock, but connections obviously feel headgear could rectify whatever went awry there, and this front-runner is proven in the soft and could make a bold bid from stall two.
But at twice the price I cannot resist siding with Balty Boys.
Yes, I know he is drawn in 10 and is unlikely to be able to adopt his customary front-running tactics that have served him so well and saw him finish an excellent second to Ocean Tempest over course and distance in the soft last September.
But his inflated price of 15.5 factors that in, and he didn't run at all badly from off the pace when fifth at Haydock - the race in which Big Johnny D disappointed - and he is worth chancing to a few quid. The first-time cheekpieces are an interesting addition, too.
Back Balty Boys in the 13:45 at Chester at 15.5
Back Zampa Manos in the 14:15 at Chester at 11.010/1