You lucky things! Tony Calvin files his second antepost preview of the week and here he turns his attention away from the Arc and towards domestic matters at Ascot...
"All So Beloved's best performances have come over 7f - and that falling handicap mark of 98 is made ever more attractive by the booking of 7lb claimer Angus Villiers (one from three for the stable)."
Enable likely to shorten further
The more I think about the Arc - now down to 12 runners before Wednesday's supplementary stage - the more it surprises me that Enable isn't a 1/2 chance across-the-board already.
She'd surely win at least two of every three runnings of Sunday's race - it is hardly a 1986 Dancing Brave-type renewal (then again, how many contests have possessed that much depth and class, in any country, down the years?) - so her current price of 8/11 (and bigger on the exchange) is obviously tempting in that regard.
Read my Monday article on the race here.
I appreciate many punters like backing what they think will win, often regardless of price - and the same goes for some tipsters, too - and I imagine they will all be on the Enable Express come the weekend.
I very, very rarely play at these kind of odds though, as most will know, but I think the "money buyers" could be smiling on Sunday afternoon. The usual traffic problems of a big-field Arc are dwindling away, too.
Anyway, more of that on Saturday.
Bedouin a bet for many but I can't have him just yet
The late, day-of-race defection of Bedouin's Story (pictured below) in the Cambridgeshire last Saturday with an absence hit me hard, coming on the back of two brutal reverses in Rugby World Cup games earlier that morning, as I had put him up ante-post here and managed to have a decent each-way bet on him at 25/1 for the Newmarket race.
So he was the one that immediately leaped out at me when I had a glance at Ascot's 7f Challenge Cup on Monday afternoon, as Saturday's complaint was clearly a minor one for him to be entered up.
In the circumstances, he should have manned up and run in the Cambridgeshire, if you ask me.
Someone has clearly already had more than a brief look at his claims this weekend though, as the early 20/1 and 16/1 in the marketplace has all been hovered up, and 10/1 are now the general odds of reward.
That immediately puts me on the back foot if I was thinking of tipping him, as getting involved in the tail-end of a mini-gamble - others could even call it a plunge - is never a good look to me.
And one of the reasons that I fancied him for the Cambridgeshire was that I liked the idea of the four-year-old, out of a 1m4f winner and a half-brother to a brace of 1m3f scorers, going up to 1m1f for the first time.
But everyone knows how stiff Ascot's 7f is, and the ground will surely not dry out a drop from the current soft conditions, given the forecast this week, and that is very much in his favour.
We saw how effective he was over 7f in soft ground when bolting up at York in July and I don't have an issue with him going up 2lb for his Chelmsford second last time, as he did very well to get as close as he did there considering his tardy start and the progressive winner made all on a track where it is often very hard to reel in front-runners.
Hector Crouch is already jocked up, the Saeed bin Suroor stable continues in fine form, and everything does look in place for him to run a huge race.
And the cheek pieces that he wore for the first time when winning at York, and again at Chelmsford last time, were due to be on again at Newmarket, so I imagine that headgear will be retained on Saturday.
My price-sensitivity (often overdone, no doubt) does prompt me to walk away, though the fact that the Betfair Sportsbook are offering 10/1 and an extra place (they are alone with Paddy Power in offering five places) very nearly reeled me in.
And especially as the 46 entries will be whittled down to a maximum of 18 runners on Thursday morning, so the handicap won't be as dauntingly-competitive as it looks now.
If you are having a bet on the race, Bedouin's Story should be one of your first ports of call, but I'll just about hold fire until Friday with him.
The usual Ascot suspects - last year's winner Raising Sand, Kynren and Ripp Orf - have obvious claims too, but it is interesting that the Sportsbook make Casanova their 5/1 favourite.
He has a similarly progressive profile to the stable's Cambridgeshire winner Lord North and has to be respected, but he is taking on rock-solid handicappers on ground he hasn't faced before.
The same ground comments applies to another three-year-old improver in Mutamaasik - others of interest are the Irish entry Current Option and Young Fire should they sneak in here (the latter will have needed to have won the 16:20 at Ayr on Tuesday to give himself a chance of getting in) - but I am going to have a bet and a tip in the race, after all.
So Beloved is my early bet
Back So Beloved at 33/1 each way with the Betfair Sportsbook, five places.
Yes, I know he hardly has the scope of the three-year-olds and the improvers, and it was sobering to see that he hasn't won since May 2016.
But the handicapper has given the nine-year-old a real chance here.
You could argue that he has been doing that for a while, as his mark has been falling since his ½-length second to Sir Dancelot in a 7f Group 2 at the Curragh last season.
But he has now come down from 112 then to 98 here, after being dropped another 1lb for his Sandown third last time, where he did very well to get so close considering he was last after a slow start from a wide draw there.
The softer ground will be no hardship here whatsoever, and he is now 7lb lower than when beaten only 4 lengths in the Hunt Cup here in June, where a threatening run on the far side petered out in the eighth furlong.
He is much better at this trip - all his best performances have come over 7f - and that falling handicap mark of 98 is made ever more attractive by the booking of 7lb claimer Angus Villiers (one from three for the stable).
Young Angus may not look as scary as his namesake Theresa, currently haunting the Tory Conference in Manchester - sorry, that's harsh and is withdrawn - but let's hope he is more effective.
At 33/1 each way, five places, I am paying to find out, anyway. The place angle, in particular, is very attractive on those terms.