Tony Calvin previews the pick of the Friday card at Ascot and makes the case for backing Warren Greatrix's six-year-old in the opener...
"Dhowin will probably start at a fair bit bigger than 12s – the first firm up on Wednesday made him a 20/1 chance, and the next a 22s poke – but he is a bet at 17.016/1 or bigger."
I know it promises to be bad ground everywhere once again in the coming days and trainers will be holding back a lot of their horses for the busy Christmas schedule and beyond. But let's face it - the racing on ITV4 on Friday is pretty unappealing from a betting point of view.
My point of view, anyway.
Only one of the five races lends itself to 1,2,3 each-way betting, and the eight-runner handicap chase at Ascot is not a big price to lose a runner if we get yet more rain and the ground deteriorates accordingly.
Don't get me wrong, the Ascot card is genuinely full of quality, if not quantity - sponsors tend to say that through gritted teeth when their race attracts four runners, featuring a heavy odds-on poke - but good horses do not necessarily make for attractive punting contests.
Anyway, moan over.
Let's look on the bright side, we have a televised novices' chase that has attracted a whole six runners.
We may not get any more rain until Friday afternoon, but I am working on the basis of heavy ground.
Greatrex to continue upturn in fortunes?
I am going to start Ascot's opener at 12:45 even though it is only on Sky Sports Racing (when it clearly should have been switched with ITV's five-runner maiden hurdle) and the prices have been slow to materialize.
It's a genuinely competitive 14-runner handicap hurdle, with lot of different angles to it. Two well-in runners, in-form, recent winners, unexposed contenders and stable-switchers, and horses making their English debuts are all catered for, and it sets a fair puzzle as a result.
I think it is a touch premature to say Warren Greatrex - who was very badly done to by the Newbury stewards on Wednesday - finally has his horses in top nick after a very frustrating start to the season, but four recent victories are obvious evidence of a marked upturn in his fortunes.
And, perhaps even more encouraging is that those four wins came from only seven of his runners to have started at 12/1 or less in recent days.
Greatrex's Dhowin will probably start at a fair bit bigger than 12s - the first firm up on Wednesday made him a 20/1 chance, and the next a 22s poke - but he is a bet at 19.018/1 or bigger.
There is 20s and 18s generally available in the marketplace, but I make him a bet at 14/1 and upwards (keep an eye out for the Betfair Sportsbook price).
He was one of the horses that Trevor Hemmings sent to the sales earlier in the year, and current connections (of Cole Harden fame) picked him up for a fairly hefty £40,000 in September, which suggests they liked what they saw (or what they were told).
And they were certainly buying a relatively unexposed six-year-old, whose sole win in his five starts came in a soft-ground novices' hurdle at Hereford last November. He showed a very good attitude to beat the two market leaders that day in what was very testing ground, and that ability to act in the mud will be crucial here.
He can look awkward in his races - and that was again the case on his return on good to soft at Wincanton last month, where he definitely could have jumped more fluently - but maybe he is just the raw, store kind of horse that Hemmings liked to nurture from an early stage and he will progress as he strengthens.
He was a soundly-beaten, 12-lengths sixth at Wincanton, but he was having his first start for nearly a year there, for a stable under a cloud at the time, so I would take a more positive view of that effort than most. More so than the handicapper who dropped him 3lb for it, though that was understandable enough in isolation.
Off a mark of 120 now (which looks very fair on the Hereford win) and back on softer ground, I am happy to take a chance to small stakes.
I asked around and connections think "he has improved a lot...in great form" for that reappearance run, which is always nice to hear, if not a comment to necessarily hang your betting hat on.
I thought Jacamar was fair at a similar price, too.
First race up on ITV4 is the aforementioned five-runner maiden hurdle at 13:20, a race in which Everglow was put in as the even-money favourite by the Betfair Sportsbook on Wednesday afternoon (cut into 10-11 since).
That is a fair assessment as he clearly bumped into one when second to Star Gate at Chepstow (and the third won next time up, too), and I wouldn't have any issues with it.
In fact, I would probably have him a fair bit tighter still than 10/11 - so I am not putting you off by any means if you like going in short - but I am not into playing at those kind of prices personally, especially when his rivals are all similarly unexposed.
Fingers crossed, all eight stand their ground in the 2m1f handicap chase at 13:55 for each-way bully bunters, though I found it pretty hard to eke out a bet myself.
Keep an eye on Editeur Du Gite
Editeur Du Gite has been well found in the market since opening up at 12/1 in a place earlier in the week - though, I appreciate we have lost a fair few runners along the way and these ante-post markets are very thin - and you can see the case for him.
Whether he went too hard, too soon from the front at Newbury last time, I am not so sure, but maybe that was partly to blame for the underwhelming effort, or maybe it was the quicker ground (it was good).
But a return to a softer surface has to be considered a plus for him given his record to date (he won on heavy in France, but don't they all?), and a reproduction of his reappearance second over 2m3f here could see him as the one to beat.
The manner in which he went from the front there and traded at 1.6 in-running (a mistake at the last didn't help) suggests this shorter trip in more testing ground could be ideal for him.
The problem is that potential pace rivals include Numitor, Sir Valentine and Enzo D'Airy (and maybe even Oistrakh Le Noir, though he runs in a hood for the first time), so I was torn as to whether to put him up at around 9/2 on the Exchange.
I love the way he jumped in the main here last month, and indeed at Newbury last time, even when he got tired, so I was very tempted to throw a few quid at him back in trip on deeper ground.
But I decided against the bet with so much probable pace opposition on the front end. If he does drift to 11/2 or bigger, I may take my chances.
Six good prospects in the Supreme Trial at 14:30 but no bets for me in the Grade 2 2m hurdle, I am afraid.
Same comments apply to the six-runner novices' chase at 15:05 a race in which Nicky Henderson takes the chasing wraps off his well-regarded Allart.
However, the grey faces a baptism of fire on his fencing debut here and a price of around 3/1 may underplay the task he faces against five classy rivals who all come here race-fit.
Holymacapony is well-fancied at Navan
ITV4 also give us a Brucie Bonus in the shape of the seven-runner Grade 2 hurdle at Navan at 13:35.
Five of the seven come into the race on the back of a win and most have a very attractive profile, but the market has landed on Holymacapony as the most likely winner and it is easy to see why after his impressive Punchestown win last month.
Henry de Bromhead immediately namechecked this race after that victory, and I like to see that kind of planning from trainers. But he hasn't been missed in the market, like I said.
A small-stakes day, and just the one non-ITV play. Good luck.
Back Dhowin at 19.018/1 or bigger in 12:45 at Ascot (remains a bet at 14/1+)