It's Betfair Tingle Creek day on Saturday and Tony Calvin is here with a runner-by-runner guide and a selection for the headline race, as well as a pair of value tips from the Aintree card, including his 'bet of the weekend'...
"I think this strong-traveller has been crying out for a step down in trip and decent ground - he ran poorly over 3m1f last time but has been given a break since - and he gets that combination here. And he does so on a very attractive mark. I am very sweet on his chances, and he rates my bet of the weekend at the prices."
If you want a bet in Saturday's Betfair Tingle Creek at 15:00 then I personally would look no further than Sire De Grugy at around the 4.77/2 mark.
His excellent record around the course is well known - form figures of 2311114 - and two of those four victories came in this race, in 2013 and last year.
The jumping demands of this track clearly suit him very well, and it is not out of the realms of possibility that he ran a career-best at Ascot last time, for all that seems unlikely given that he is an 11-year-old in under a month.
Granted, the handicapper had given him a chance going into Ascot last time after three below-par performances, but the manner in which he won there off a mark of 160, and the rock-solid substance of the form, suggested that he was at least back to within a few pounds of his 172-rated best.
That Ascot form really stacks up. The five-length third Vaniteux looked well handicapped of a mark of 154 on his novice form, while the runner-up's previous handicap win on the same track has already been franked by wins from the third, fourth and eighth.
That win also came in a very good time, and personally I would have him as favourite for this race, so I think he is worth a punt at around the 7/2 mark.
Though given my record with short-priced horses - I recommended Definitly Red at that price at Newcastle last week and he got stuffed, though he did go off a (ludicrously short) 5/4 chance, I suppose - you could be forgiven for giving it a swerve.
Un De Sceaux represents Willie Mullins - I'm done with talking about Douvan, thanks - and, as the highest-rated horse in the race, it is no surprise that he heads the market.
It may be very unfair to label this four-time Grade 1 winner a disappointment last season, given his good performances included a five-length defeat of Sire De Grugy in the Clarence House Stakes, but I do think that a bit more was expected of him given the excellence of his novice campaign.
And there are possible negatives about him. The first is the ground, as he would undoubtedly prefer it softer. He ran OK when second on good going in the Champion Chase and the ground could ride very dead here after the frost covers have been deployed, but his better efforts have been with a lot more give.
He is also unlikely to get things all his own way on front end with the returning top novice and dual course winner Ar Mad, off since injuring himself at Plumpton in February, in attendance and it could be significant that he has fallen on his last two seasonal reappearances. He is a very keen, buzzy sort who is often his own worst enemy.
Gods Own didn't look to get home over 2m5f at Ascot last time and the step down to 2m on this stiff track shouldn't be any issue for him. He beat a certain Vautour at Punchestown in April over this trip, for all that wasn't the ill-fated superstar's optimum trip on the back of a long season.
Paul Nicholls employs first-time headgear more effectively than most, so cheekpieces on Vibrato Valtat make him very interesting, even if he was beaten eight lengths by the selection in this race last season and has it all to find on official figures. He has always promised to be a better horse than he has shown, but he is taking his time, for sure.
Haldon Gold Cup winner Sir Valentino takes a big step up in class here and needs to improve another stone, so I will re-iterate what I said earlier in my assessment of this race, and I that is personally I would have Sire De Grugy as the favourite, and more of a 9/4 or 5/2 poke.
Elsewhere at Sandown...
Arkle favourite Altior continus his education in the 13:55 en route to Cheltenham in March and is a heavy odds-on poke to net the thick end of 26k for winning; he has three serious rivals though.
I don't have a strong opinion in the handicap hurdle at 14:25 but everyone has a National these days and Sandown host the "London" version in the 15:30.
However, and not a word of a lie, I had four on my shortlist at the five-day stage and not one of them has rocked up.
If I had to take another two against the field now they would be Five In A Row and Morney Wing, but I almost certainly won't be having a bet. I'm not at the moment anyway.
An 11/1 poke for the ultra competitive Becher Chase
You will rarely see a more competitive race outside of the National itself - the proper one, that is - than the 24-runner Becher Chase at Aintree at 13:35.
It is absolutely heaving with possible winners, and Double Ross has to hold a leading chance if able to reproduce the form of his third in last week's Hennessy. He also has a decent fifth in the 2014 Topham to his name, too.
But he does look like a horse who goes best with a fair gap between his races - and he has an excellent record first time out as well - so this could come a week or two too soon for him, though 20/1 quotes look a touch on the dismissive side.
I think most people's shortlists will run into double figures.
The Young Master is only 2lb higher than when winning the bet365 Gold Cup and has the assistance of that Aintree specialist Sam Waley Cohen; Irish National winner Rogue Angel has had his wind tweaked since his run at Cork four weeks ago; Alvarado has finished fourth in two Nationals and shaped well on his return at Cheltenham last month; and a convincing case can also be made for the likes of this year's Aintree second and sixth, The Last Samuri and Ucello Conti, and last year's winner Highland Lodge, not to mention the punted Vieux Lion Rouge, back in trip.
I could go on and on, so little wonder it is 10/1+ the field on the exchange. But as my old man used to say "shit, or get off the pot " (there were seven in our house, and only one indoor toilet), so I am going with Viconte Du Noyer at 13.012/1 or bigger.
The story around the former is amusing as when champion trainer-elect Colin Tizzard - no pressure, Col - got 15 or so horses form owner Alan Potts in the summer he took a guess that "one of the two-milers must be a stayer" and pitched Viconte Du Noyer into the 3m3f handicap at Cheltenham, despite Tom Scudamore riding him at home and saying he thought he was indeed one for the minimum trip (he was a 2m-2m4f performer in Ireland, and a pretty good one at that).
However, it was stamina that won him the day at Cheltenham, and he remains totally unexposed at these longer trips, so I will be punting him off a 6lb higher mark.
I was sorely tempted to go with Gas Line Boy at 23.022/1 or better as a saver, but he was declared a non-runner just after midday on Friday, so that made that decision a bit easier...
He is from the in-form Ian Williams yard, has the services of decent 7lb claimer Toby Wheeler (though he is inexperienced over fences, which is a concern given his conveyance) and is just 1lb higher than when a good third in the Kerry National last time, albeit beaten 13 lengths.
This prominent racer ran very well for a long way there considering he was far from foot-perfect and clouted a fair few (jumping mistakes for him aren't uncommon) and if he can put in an error-free round here - he fell at the first in the 2015 National - then I think he is on a winning mark on just his fourth start for the yard.
But I've just gone back and a looked at a few of his races again, and that error-free round over these fences looks heavy odds-against, especially in this such competitive company, so he is a reluctant pass.
Henryville can land the Grand Sefton
Debece has gone up 4lb for good Cheltenham third last time, but there could be more to come from him over this longer trip and he could be the one to land the 14:10. But I can't get too excited by the prices.
The same is true of a cracking staying chase at 14:40. I hope Many Clouds wins but I suspect that good Cheltenham third Minella Rocco could have too much for him in receipt of 5lb, though not enough to part with any cash.
But the wallet is definitely coming out for the Grand Sefton at 15:15. Bennys Mist and As De Mee made my last three, but they didn't survive the final cut, whereas Henryville did.
I think this strong-traveller has been crying out for a step down in trip and decent ground - he ran poorly over 3m1f last time but has been given a break since - and he gets that combination here.
And he does so on a very attractive mark.
I think he would have finished a good second in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July had he not been brought down at the last, and he can race off a 3lb lower mark here just three starts later, and one of the runs in between was a good fourth over an extended 2m7f at Chepstow in October.
I am very sweet on his chances, and he rates my bet of the weekend at the prices. Back him at 14.013/1 or better.
Back Viconte Du Noyer at 13.012/1 in the 13:35 at Aintree
Back Sire De Grugy at 4.77/2 in the 15:00 at Sandown
Back Henryville at 14.013/1 in the 15:15 at Aintree