Our main man, Tony Calvin, is in the hot seat for the beginning of the Dante Festival at York, where he has two bets lined up on day one...
"The form of Wobwobwob's Newmarket third on his return has obviously worked out well with the runner-up Crossford winning easily next time, so I think he is still well handicapped off a 1lb higher mark."
Lightly raced Cooke can triumph
Good-sized fields at York on Wednesday, but I have seen easier openings into a big meeting than the 16-runner 1m3f188yd at 13:40.
I could take you around the houses by saying how much more there is to come from the likes of My Frankel, Ilaraab and Shandoz but these handicappers from top yards were never going to be missed in the market - nor have they, filling the first four spots, alongside Throne Hall - but I do think there is some punting mileage in Sam Cooke at 13.012/1 or bigger.
He looked a good prospect when winning here on his third and final start at two, and all looked even rosier when he gagged up at Chester on his opening start the following season.
But it transpired that he broke a cannon bone in winning there and we have only seen him four times since May 2019, though one of those was a nose second at Ascot off just a 2lb higher mark than this, a race in which they pulled 5 lengths clear of the third.
He probably meets at least one or two opponents here with more upside off their current marks, and he is maybe still a fragile horse himself, but those are not insurmountable problems.
That Ascot run marks him down as well-treated and he has just eight runs his belt too, and horses with his kind of profile tend to be pretty straight on their returns for obvious reasons (ie running them half-cocked is asking for trouble).
I appreciate he was well-beaten at Newmarket first time out last season but that run was a lot better than it looked as he raced widest of all there and 1m6f in soft ground stretched his stamina to the limit too (indeed, he hit 1.66 in running).
This trip with a bit of ease in the ground is probably ideal for this course winner, who has been done a favour with a midfield draw, so I will take my chances at 14s or bigger. Strait Of Hormuz was my alternative at a similar price.
I am trying to wean myself off betting in sprint handicaps as it really is a case of "whose turn is it today?"
That is fine - after all, most handicaps are, to a certain extent - but the 18-runner contest at 14:10, does make giving them a swerve very easy.
Most of the pace looks middle to high here and that was one of the reasons that I was most drawn, if you pardon the pun, to Bielsa in ten.
I know he went off 5/4 favourite on his return at Ayr but the manner in which got tired late on after trading short (1.53 to be exact) suggests he may have needed that, his first run after a wind op since running here in October, more than was thought.
Conversely, connections may have thought he needed some help and encouragement, as he wears first-time cheekpieces.
Whatever the reason, he will love any rain - we are due some throughout the week, but the amounts vary whatever site you look at - and he ran well when fifth here off a 1lb higher mark in October. Plus he has very few miles on the clock for a 6yo sprinter who started last term off a 5lb higher mark.
I better stop there as I am in danger of persuading myself to stick him up, though the fact that the Betfair Sportsbook, understandably, made him their 13/2 favourite, was definitely off-putting from a price and punting perspective in a field this deep.
I was also a little bit disappointed to see Art Power put in at 7/2 across the board on Monday, as I give him a good shot of beating Oxted and co in the Duke Of York at 14:40.
Expecting bigger was perhaps a touch optimistic but he does meet race-fit rivals, chief among them the July Cup winner, and unexposed sorts like Starman, so I can leave the race alone.
Wobwobwob is the value play
The same is also true of the eight-runner Musidora - normal rules and advice applies to potential each-way punters - at 15:10.
This race sees the return of Oaks second favourite Teona, and there has been plenty of chat about this wide-margin Newcastle winner of late.
She has the pedigree, as she is out the stable's Group 1 winner Ambivalent, and the potential, but what she certainly doesn't have is the price for a filly with a lot to prove.
An opening price of 5/4 was skinny enough, especially when you consider race-fit recent winners Noon Star and Mystery Angel have achieved more, too. And Snowfall could easily sprout wings form-wise now stepping up to a trip more in keeping with her middle-distance pedigree.
No, give me a handicap to go at any day of the week, and especially one in which the Sportsbook gives punters an extra place, as they do in the 12-runner 7f handicap at 15:40.
I would have loved to been in the room on the Tuesday morning that John and Thady discovered Rifleman, the opening 3/1 favourite in here, had gone up 7lb after unshipping Ryan Moore at Sandown.
Now, there are ball-busters and then there is that, for all he was clearly running a huge race when getting rid of his jockey around 1f out, and they were a mile clear of the third.
I am not saying a rise wasn't justified, far from it, but 7lb was hefty and must have been hard to take, especially as the eventual runner-up was a well-chinned fifth of seven at Chester last week. And first-time blinkers also suggest connections are not marking down that Sandown miss-step as a one-off.
There is potentially a lot of pace on in here - I have seven of the 12 down as potential forward-goers - and that may not be ideal for Wobwobwob, as he likes to get on the lead. But he came from off the pace when winning at Thirsk last season, so you just have to trust Tom Marquand to play the right hand at the right time.
The form of Wobwobwob's Newmarket third on his return has obviously worked out well with the runner-up Crossford winning easily next time (the sixth was only just beaten at Doncaster, too), so I think he is still well handicapped off a 1lb higher mark.
I also think coming back from a mile to 7f is a plus - his run petered out a little over 1m at Newmarket - and hopefully he can bring to an end the trainer's long losing run going back to February.
That has to be a concern of sorts but he had two horses beaten into second at Beverley last week - one by a short-head - so it is not as bad as it sounds.
His horse also handles quick and soft ground alike, so the weather can do what it wants. Back him at 7/1 each way, four places.
A rare hunch at Newton Abbot
I surprised myself by nearly having a betting opinion in the six-runner handicap at Newton Abbot, as it does look a horrible little race to unpick, with horses coming back after very lengthy lay-offs and others out of form.
The obvious exception was Mon Frere, and the recent Taunton winner is the short-priced favourite by default to a large degree - and I'd be worried by the forecast for him, as he has never raced on soft ground before - but I must say Reserve Tank did interest me a little.
An Aintree and Punchestown Grade 1 hurdle winner in 2019, and a winner of the Grade 2 Rising Stars' novice chase later that year, his racing world has rather fallen apart in the last 12 months of so.
But he did show a little more at Uttoxeter last time and his hurdles mark has fallen to just 137 (he was 151 after Punchestown), so it wouldn't be a massive shock if he won here, given he creeps into 0-135 off the ceiling mark.
And the fact that they have ditched the tongue-tie he has worn on his last two outings could be seen as another positive if you were looking for another angle (or getting desperate).
But will there be better 5/1+ shots this week?
You betcha, and hopefully I have already mentioned two of them.
Back on Wednesday.