The favourite will be hard to beat but a 10/1 shout could cause an upset in the Welsh National says Tony Calvin as he recommends four bets for Friday at Chepstow and Kempton...
"Clyne humped 11st 12lb to victory in heavy ground at Uttoxeter last year and four of his handicap wins have come under that very weight against inferior animals, in either soft or heavy ground. Get with him at 7.06/1 or bigger in 14:10."
I may as well kick off with the Welsh National at Chepstow at 14:50, even if I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the short-priced Elegant Escape is very much the one to beat.
I say unfortunate as taking odds of around 7/2 in a big-field handicap is not my usual modus operandi, but if you want to back the most likely winner, and to hell with the price, then Colin Tizzard's 7yo is your first port of call.
And 7/2 probably isn't that bad a price.
He may be 9lb higher than when winning this race last season but he is actually 4lb well-in here after his Ladbrokes Trophy third (his first try in blinkers, which are retained here), where he certainly shaped as if this thorough test of stamina would be welcomed once again.
Yala Enki will be fitter and sharper this time
Elegant Escape clearly has a big chance - and you may want to save on him at the very least - but I am going to side with a horse that finished a long way behind him in that Newbury race and is actually 1lb badly-in here, in the shape of Yala Enki at 11.010/1 or bigger.
I actually tipped him ante-post for the Ladbrokes Trophy even though trainer Paul Nicholls (pictured below) strongly hinted in a pre-season stable tour that he would need that run with a view to peaking for this race.
Yala Enki certainly shaped that way at Newbury after travelling pretty kindly for a fair way there, so expect him to be a lot fitter and sharper here.
He is a proper mudlark and he is just 1lb higher than when third to Elegant Escape in this last season when trained by Venetia Williams (when he traded at 2.76 in the run), and he could possibly be ridden with a bit more restraint this time around, too.
The ITV4 cameras start rolling at Chepstow for the 2m3f handicap chase at 13:05 and Williams' progressive Eceparti is the strong favourite at around the even money mark.
I don't have too much issue with that assessment as this course winner hacked up at Wetherby last time, so a 11lb rise was justified, and he is up against a whole host of rivals whose last-time-out runs left a lot to be desired, while One For Billy's record suggests he doesn't want it this testing.
Dual course-and-distance winner Lord Bryan is definitely overpriced at 20/1 at is best but his reappearance run last month wasn't overflowing with promise and all roads appear to lead to the jolly. But he is easily left alone at the price.
Allmankind and recent JP McManus purchase Cerberus dominate the betting in Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at 13:35 and their recent victories, and their subsequent official ratings, tell you that is justified.
But if Elysian Flame has learned to jump after his third to Botax Has at Cheltenham last time - he looked as though he hadn't seen a hurdle before and did remarkably well to be beaten just nine lengths there - then he could be a player.
And Newcastle winner Tavus could appeal, each-way at 6/1, to plenty of punters here as the runner-up advertised the form when winning a Grade 2 at Doncaster next time and Jedd O'Keeffe's 3yo was a progressive horse on the Flat when with Roger Charlton (he was bought for 105,000gns by a shrewd outfit at the October sales).
I would possibly side with Tavus win and place at a push, but the front two do set a pretty high standard, and there is no point forcing a bet for the sake of it.
Clyne is the bet of the day
I was disappointed by Clyne at Aintree last time but maybe 2m4f on good to soft ground is an insufficient test for him these days, and it isn't as if he ran badly that day, either. He just looked short of a gear in those conditions.
But he could have a class edge of these rivals in a 0-145, and the step back up to 3m in testing ground can see him a much more positive light.
Certainly, a mark of 143 could prove very generous if he came back to the form of his soft-ground Grade 2 3m second at Newbury last year - he was rated 152 at the time - and he is a sizeable horse who is built to carry big weights.
Indeed, he humped 11st 12lb to victory in heavy ground at Uttoxeter last year, and it is striking that four of his handicap wins have come under that very weight against inferior animals, in either soft or heavy ground.
That looks to be a back-able angle - very much so - so get with him at 7.06/1 or bigger in 14:10. He is the bet of the day.
Gutsy Ding Ding is worth backing at Kempton
The Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at 13:20 starts the terrestrial action at Kempton and the six-runner race leaves me cold punting-wise.
You couldn't fail to be impressed by Fanion D'Estruval at Newbury and he is the most likely winner, as the market suggests at around 7/4. Nothing doing for me, though.
However, I will be backing Ding Ding at 13.012/1 in the 3m handicap hurdle at 13:55, despite the mare being 1lb out of the handicap.
I have a soft spot for Sheena West hurdlers and this one shaped well over 3m1f in the mud at Plumpton on her comeback earlier this month, her first outing since dotting up by six lengths in February.
She came on appreciably for her reappearance run last season when winning at the same Sussex course, and I reckon 3m around here in this ground, under a light weight, can see her very competitive. She is a small mare but gutsy, so will appreciate her feather weight.
I am quite happy to watch the following five-runner Desert Orchid Chase - I often don't find bets in the best races - and this race has lost a bit of its interest too, with Altior being forced to sidestep the Grade 2 with an abscess.
Fingerontheswitch needs a bit of cajoling and knowing but Millie Wonnacott has had four rides on him now and they come here after a good second against an unexposed chaser and well-handicapped winner at Wincanton last time.
That came on good ground and he was always thought to need a decent surface, but there was nothing wrong with his soft-ground second at Wetherby the time before, other than the fact that was further evidence that he needs to be presented as late as possible.
Over to you Millie, but I will be backing you at 19.018/1 or bigger to get a difficult job done in this 3m handicap chase at 15:05.
Keep tabs on Eddiemaurice
One of my most enjoyable days out and bets last year was when Eddiemaurice won the concluding 2m handicap hurdle on this card last year - we had a fire-up in the box afterwards, with the trainer John Flint in attendance - and he rocks up again in the last.
He had a spin at Huntingdon last month to put him straight for this - that was his first start since winning over fences at Ascot in March - and he is only 1lb higher than when winning this contest last year (and 1lb lower than when second in the race on soft ground in 2017).
At the time of writing, the only firm to have priced up the Racing TV-race made him 12/1 - and that factors in the slight doubt about the worsening ground - and he is well worth considering if he is that kind of price when you read this.
But I will stop short of putting him up here.
Ding Ding at 13.012/1 or bigger in 13:55 at Kempton
Clyne at 7.06/1 or bigger in 14:10 at Chepstow
Yala Enki at 11.010/1 or bigger in 14:50 at Chepstow
Fingerontheswitch at 19.018/1 or bigger in 15:05 at Kempton