Tony Calvin gets stuck into Saturday's racing with recommendations - all at double figures - for the action at Sandown and Haydock...
"I've been waiting for this one to come back out over hurdles ever since he won a Kempton 2m handicap, off a lowly mark of 60, on the Flat last month and he has been entered up a few times. Thankfully, connections have wisely decided to go down the handicap route with him as he looks fairly-treated off a mark off 137 on the evidence of his November Grade 2 Cheltenham defeat of two horses subsequently placed in the Fred Winter."
Back Wolf Of Windlesham at 11.010/1 in the 14:20 at Sandown
Sire can shock the big stars at Sandown
Head-to-heads are the order of the day at Sandown, but I reckon an outsider could send the big two home with their tails between their legs in the Celebration Chase at 15:35.
Step forward Sire De Grugy at 16.015/1. Let's deal with the negatives first though, as that is why we are getting 14-1+ about the five-time Grade 1 winner.
Firstly, he has been defeated by the principals in all of their meetings this season, and was beaten into the next parish when tailed-off in the Champion Chase last time. He will finish last of six here if he runs like that again.
Indeed, he may not even run if the rain predicted from late Friday afternoon onwards doesn't materialise.
But that Champion Chase run clearly wasn't his true form and if you fancy Sprinter Sacre to follow up that emotional Cheltenham win, then here is why you have to be backing Sire De Grugy at the prices.
For starters, I think a clean jump at the last would have seen Gary Moore's horse come out best in the battle of the 10yos at Kempton in December, and so did the in-running Betfair market as he traded at a remarkable low of 1.021/50 there.
If he comes back to that sort of form, then he is obviously no 14-1+ poke. He has form on a sound surface but it could be that the key to the horse these days is as soft ground as possible after his return from injury, which we could be heading towards - and good to soft, and a bit of ease, would be ok - if the weather forecast that I've seen proves accurate.
Yes, I know, the biggest "if" in racing.
And then we have his unbeaten record over fences at Sandown, where he is four from four, including victories in this race in 2013 and 2014. And don't forget that it was only in December that he recorded his most recent Grade 1 win with a victory in the Tingle Creek here, albeit slightly fortuitously. As I know to my considerable cost.
Yes, he was soundly put in his place by Un De Sceaux at Ascot in January (and Willie Mullins' horse would also like softer ground here) and would find it hard to cope with the Sprinter on top form - though I just wonder if Cheltenham may just have bottomed the favourite - but I'm going to have a poke at him win-only on the exchange back on his favoured stomping ground, especially as the stable's runners are going a bit better of late than they were in March.
We do need that rain to materialise, though, as we may be on a non-runner if it doesn't.
It would just be like Paul Nicholls to bring the 2015 Champion Chaser Dodging Bullets back from two poor efforts to cause a shock here - he has no equals when it comes to reviving seemingly jaded performers - but he is the same price as Sire De Grugy and I know what horse I prefer.
Stick with the Bishop for the Bet365 Gold Cup
The bet365 Gold Cup at 16:10 is the big betting race of the day but I am inclined to stick just with my 20-1 ante-post play in the race, Bishops Road.
Here is the reasoning. He has done all his winning for his new yard on heavy ground, but apparently connections think that a sounder surface could bring about improvement. Let's hope they are right.
Of the market leaders, I prefer Henri Parry Morgan and The Young Master.
Mullins' hot-shots are not unbeatable
Elsewhere on the Sandown card, Willie Mullins has been massively helped by the fact that The New One misses the Select Hurdle at 16:45 after a bad scope. But whether or not you want to be backing his Vroum Vroum Mag at heavy odds-on in the deepest field that she has raced in is another matter altogether. I don't.
Before then, Mullins may have already have bagged a fair few quid courtesy of Valseur Lido in the Grade 2 Chase at 14:55.
He probably ran a career best when chasing home Vautour in the Ryanair Chase last time, a good effort considering he has won a Grade 1 over 3m1f and his trainer regards him as a stayer.
So over a longer trip, and getting 5lb from his main form rival Menorah, he will take a fair bit of beating. But the price tells you that, and it is very interesting that Nicholls puts first-time blinkers on Saphir Du Rheu and Wonderful Charm in this race, and Le Mercurey at Ayr last week was the latest example, in a long list, of the champion trainer using this headgear option to winning effect.
Wolf can get us howling with a win in the opener
In the opener I think Wolf Of Windlesham is worth an interest at 11.010/1 in the juvenile handicap at 14:20.
I've been waiting for this one to come back out over hurdles ever since he won a Kempton 2m handicap, off a lowly mark of 60, on the Flat last month and he has been entered up a few times.
Thankfully, connections have wisely decided to go down the handicap route with him as he looks fairly-treated off a mark off 137 on the evidence of his November Grade 2 Cheltenham defeat of two horses subsequently placed in the Fred Winter.
It's obviously a very competitive contest - and I also think Deebaj could go well at a price - but he ought to make his presence felt.
Antony is our man in the penultimate race on the Sandown card
Gary Moore also has a good chance of a winner with Antony in the 17:20 as the weights have gone up 10lb at the overnight stage which brings him into the handicap.
He ran ok over an inadequate trip over 2m at Kempton last time, his first run since a poor effort on Boxing Day, and the handicapper has done him a big favour by dropping him 3lb.
He is now only 5lb higher than when winning by eight lengths over course and distance in December, and he looks dangerously well-treated just three starts later.
Again, Nicholls has reached for the blinkers for As De Mee, and that quirky sort could make a big step forward in them.
Go Wilde in the finale
The finale at 17:55 - I am going to Sandown so I will have to pace myself with that late finish - features good old Party Rock, who did us a 33-1 favour at Aintree a fortnight ago.
I don't particularly fancy him here though off a 7lb higher mark, but one horse that I may throw a few quid at if it rains is Wilde Blue Yonder, on a very fair mark on his return to the track after a two-year absence. But for now, I'll keep my powder dry on him.
Lincoln can rule at Haydock
We also have some really good flat action at Ripon and Haydock on Channel 4.
Though nothing really appeals in the one race on the former track - though I had to do a double-take when seeing Declan Carroll is sending Saigon City over 2m on his first start for the stable - I am pretty sweet on Lincoln in the 14:10.
He was only beaten just over two lengths in the Group 3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June but his form really tapered off thereafter. But at least he starts this season on a mark of just 95, 9lb lower than the 104 he raced off when a punted 7-1 chance in a 20-runner heritage handicap at Ascot in July, and a good handicap mark is not all that he has going for him here.
Anticipated drying conditions are very much in his favour, as is the return to the 7f trip, and his stable are in good form, too.
And not only can he race on a 2lb lower mark than when third in this race last year, it is very interesting that he has been gelded over the winter, so hopefully that would have revitalised him, too. He has a lot going for him, albeit in a competitive race.
Back him at 17.016/1 or bigger.
Late tactics from Lee can land another win for our final selection
Despite being drawn 17 of 17, I can't resist having a few quid of Express Himself in the 15:20, after his run in the Lincoln, where he saw far too much daylight and made his effort far too early after coasting though much of the race.
Circumstances may have been to blame there but expect Graham Lee to be delivering this quirky sort in the last 100 yards here, exactly the sort of tactics that have seen the horse win his last three starts over this course and distance. He travels like a horse with races in him off this mark, and perhaps a fair bit higher, but he will obviously need luck from his draw.
Back him at 10.09/1.
Back Lincoln at 17.016/1 in the 14:10 at Haydock
Back Wolf Of Windlesham at 11.010/1 in the 14:20 at Sandown
Back Express Himself at 10.09/1 in the 15:20 at Haydock
Back Sire De Grugy at 16.015/1 in the 15:35 at Sandown
Back Antony at 17.016/1 in the 17:20 at Sandown
Back Bishops Road at 21.020/1 in the 16:10 at Sandown