Epsom Oaks day is here and it looks like the weather will be grim. There are, though, some horses that will relish the testing conditions and Tony Calvin has chosen four to put his money on...
"She is the second highest-rated filly in the race courtesy of her impressive Blue Wind success last time, and all three of her successes has been when she has made all. She loves deep ground and her pedigree (by Galileo out of an Oaks third) suggests the step up in trip will suit."
All eyes will have been, and continue to be, on the Epsom weather on Thursday, with some forecasts predicting just light showers and others up to 17mm of rain before the day is out.
So with the ground already soft on Wednesday morning, there is a risk that it could turn towards heavy and extremely testing on Friday.
That could also make a big difference as to whether the action heads towards the stands' rail, as it sometimes does at Epsom, but I am going to make it simple for myself and follow the bleedin' obvious...
I am going to ignore the draw, and any horse that hasn't got a solid level of form on soft or worse isn't getting the time of day. Unless their pedigree suggests otherwise, which actually gives me a pretty open brief.
Bye Bye Baby is the bet in the Oaks
The Oaks at 16:30 has cut up to just nine runners and, most significantly, Magical has come out after her setback on Tuesday morning and Sea Of Class is a no-show, presumably due to inexperience and testing conditions or a combination of both.
It was plainly obvious the latter's trainer William Haggas never wanted to run her, even though she was mightily impressive at Newbury and this is about as winnable English Classic as you will come across.
But they tend to be harder to win after the event, and there are a few completely unexposed fillies in here, that much is true.
Wild Illusion is the one to beat on form and on the clock, courtesy mainly of her soft-ground Boussac win, and she is out of a mare who won over two miles, to boot. And her reappearance fourth in the Guineas was a perfectly respectable effort, with the Newmarket form standing up to a fair degree since.
But she doesn't overly-appeal to me at the 11/4 mark - though that probably isn't a bad price, to be honest - and the form of that Group 1 win in France is probably not as good as it looked at the time; the placed horses were the last two home in the 14-runner French 1,000 Guineas, while fourth-placed Magical didn't do a lot on her comeback.
You can easily make a case for the Cheshire Oaks 1-2, Magic Wand and Forever Together, and Lingfield winner Perfect Clarity, but their recent improvement has come on better ground and I have to look elsewhere.
And I am landing on where I was leaning on Tuesday in the shape of Bye Bye Baby at [8.0] or bigger. Read what I wrote about here earlier in the week here.
She has stood her ground, and hopefully will be allowed to get her own way front, as I wouldn't have thought that Aidan O'Brien would want her to get into a battle with Magic Wand, who made all at Chester and who looks the only other pace angle in the race. And it could be that Bye Bye Baby needs to lead.
She is the second highest-rated filly in the race courtesy of her impressive Blue Wind success last time, and all three of her successes has been when she has made all.
She loves deep ground and her pedigree (by Galileo out of an Oaks third) suggests the step up in trip will suit.
Her stablemates may improve past her in the race, in both senses, but I am happy to take my chances at 7/1+.
Cotubanama looks solid in the 14:00
I don't normally get involved in 2yo races but I thought long and hard about sticking up Cotubanama in the Woodcote at 14:00.
He was 25/1 on Tuesday, and still available at 20/1 before declarations on Wednesday morning, and he is now trading at around the 10/1 mark on the exchange.
But, clearly, that is because a fair few came out at overnight stage, and on balance I reckon she is a win-only bet at [10.0] or bigger on the exchange.
I was obviously tempted to go each-way on the Sportsbook but a non-runner wouldn't surprise me in this eight-runner field if we got a lot more rain (we were still waiting for any at the time of writing...), and the 12/1 soon became 9/1 anyway on Thursday morning)
Mick Channon's filly looks very solid to me at the price.
To my way of thinking, she boasts the form and time credentials in the race courtesy of her heavy-ground Salisbury win and she again shaped as if crying out for this extra furlong when sixth in a Listed race at York last time, when the fast ground may not have been ideal.
You can never be confident in these types of races, and Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston are responsible for six of the last seven winners of this contest. Then again, Channon did the win he other one in 2012, his Chilworth Icon beating Johnston's Heavy Metal by a short head.
Fourth time lucky for King's Pavilion?
Channon looks to have a decent team of juveniles this season, with 12 winners on turf going into Thursday's racing at a strike rate of over 31%. My old mate Masham Star is 4lb well-in in the 1m handicap at 14:35, after his recent short-head second at Ayr.
Of course, he is weighted to win but he doesn't have the profile of a horse you want to be backing at favouritism levels (he was as short as 3/1 with the Sportsbook when the market opened). He handles soft ground fine, but he is arguably better on a quicker surface, too.
I liked King's Pavilion in here at 8/1 each-way with the Sportsbook, but the price went and they are only 5s at the time of writing. So it will have to be a win-only bet on the exchange at [7.6] or bigger.
He won a 7f handicap at this meeting two years ago on good to soft, and all his best form has come from 7f to 1m2f on deep ground. Indeed, his heavy-ground form figures read 3124 and he ran another excellent race from the off pace when third on soft at Ripon in April.
He also ran far better than it first appears in the Hunt Cup at Wetherby last time too, as he got badly checked when trying to get motoring at the furlong marker, and a 1lb drop for that run looks a bit of a result.
His small stable is 4 from 23 this season, with a further six placed, and they were on the mark with Roll On Rory at Newmarket 13 days ago.
The selection can hopefully strike at the fourth time of asking for the yard, having been bought out of David Barron's yard for £35,000 in November. They will nearly cover that outlay in one fell swoop here if he wins this.
The races to avoid
Most people will fall off their chair if Cracksman gets beat in the Coronation Cup at 15:10, so let's not dwell on this race - I've overwritten already, anyway - and I was not remotely surprised to see Ajman King trading so short (around the 2/1 mark) for the 1m2f handicap at 15:45.
He meets some solid course lovers here, but I don't think a 5lb rise is going to stop him following up his impressive track and trip win here in April. He has also won on heavy ground at this course, and he looks one of those typical improving Roger Varian 4yos. Unfortunately, they are rarely missed in the market, and he is no different.
You can make an each-way case for a few against him, possibly the in-form, 16/1 chance Maratha on the pace angle front and the fact that his dam liked soft ground, but I can leave this race alone.
A final bet of the day...
That just leaves the two RUK races on the end of the card, and only one of those interests me. Back Galloway Hills at [8.0] or bigger in the 17:50.
I had a moan-up on Twitter when he didn't get the run of the race behind Maybride first time up at Newmarket. He then looks to have been disadvantaged by racing alone on the stands' side when third over the same course and distance last time.
That form looks red-hot, too. The winner is a progressive type, and the runner-up is now rated 11lb higher after following up on the Rowley course.
Granted, those in behind haven't done a lot since but, even so, a 2lb rise looks very satisfactory to me, and there is hope that his first run on soft ground will suit.
He has raced only on the all-weather or good (in just seven starts to date) but he is by Kyllachy out of a mare, Bonnie Brae, who excelled in soft and heavy ground. He has had problems with his knees, so perhaps he will love the conditions, too.
Go on mate, take after mum.
Cotubanama at [10.0] or bigger in 14:00 at Epsom
Kings Pavilion at [7.6] or bigger in 14:35 at Epsom
Bye Bye Baby at [8.0] or bigger in 16:30 at Epsom
Galloway Hills at [8.0] or bigger in 17:50 at Epsom