Sandown's two-day meeting commences on Friday with a card high on quality if a little low on numbers, and our big-price tipster Tony Calvin has had his head in the form book in search of more winners...
"He has a QEII second on his CV and his near-miss off a mark of 108 in a valuable York handicap last August wasn’t far off that level of performance. In fact, he is probably the form horse on that run and what seals the bet is that Brian Ellison has his horses in excellent shape."
I don't think I've ever put up a recommendation that I haven't backed myself - though the pressure of going in strong in print, and hopefully being proved right on the odd occasion, is often enough of an investment in itself - so I'm not going to beat around the bush.
Tomorrow's Sandown card on Channel 4 is certainly not short on quality, but the numbers are lacking slightly and plenty of the races are a guessing game as to how fit and primed many of the horses are.
So, as a result, I am going to keep my bets and selections pretty low-key today.
Trust me, with five and more meetings a day for the next few months, betting opportunities certainly won't be lacking in the very near future, so we can afford to go lightly on the odd occasion. And I fully expect normal punting service to be resumed on Saturday.
But it's a great card as I said and, even though there are only five runners, the Gordon Richards Stakes at 14:00 is probably as strong a Group 3 as you will find this season, and all bar outsider Ayrad can be given a decent shout.
Tullius has the advantage of a run and is the highest rated horse in the race, but he is unproven over this trip and I expect both Cannock Chase and Postponed to improve past him this season.
The question mark is their fitness. To that end, you have to say that Arab Spring's win at Newbury on Saturday gives you hope that his work partner Cannock Chase will be straight enough, and the stable always thought the world of him last season.
He didn't race after winning the Tercentary at Royal Ascot - Postponed was nearly two lengths away in third there - as he had a couple of minor problems. But, as everyone knows, Sir Michael Stoute is a master with progressing these types. I am not playing in the race but he'd me my idea of the likeliest winner if you are.
The Classic Trial at 15:00 lost a lot of its appeal when Grey Lion was withdrawn with a temperature on Thursday morning and it is little surprise to see Commemorative now a short-priced favourite. But I can't be siding with him at odds-on.
I was going to put up Bow Creek for the Mile at 14:30 as he was a really progressive horse last season and new trainer Charlie Appleby obviously feels the first-time cheekpieces could eke out some more improvement.
As ever, the price was the stumbling block, as I was hoping for bigger than 4-1 given that he does carry a 4lb penalty.
It's a really competitive race, and the Hannon yard seem sweet on Shifting Power, but I am going to take a chance on Top Notch Tonto at odds of 15.014/1 to small stakes.
The reason why we are getting those odds is that he probably wants a bit more cut - though he has won on fast ground and there is a chance that Sandown will get some rain in the next 24 hours - and he did need the race badly in this contest last season.
But apparently he has had a racecourse gallop in preparation for this, and he is certainly no 14-1 poke on form.
He has a QEII second on his CV and his near-miss off a mark of 108 in a valuable York handicap last August wasn't far off that level of performance. In fact, he is probably the form horse on that run and what seals the bet is that Brian Ellison has his horses in excellent shape.
I have fond memories of the Esher Cup - I seem to remember having it right off when Luca Cumani's Raykour won it in 1988 before coming second in the St James' Palace Stakes - but there doesn't look any stand-out in this year's renewal.
But I will be having a few quid on Shaakis at odds of 12.011/1 - and it will literally be a few quid, nothing heavy - in the 13:30.
He won't mind if the ground remains on the quick side, and I was quite impressed by his win at Chelmsford last time.
He has gone up 6lb for that victory but he won well and I suspect that will prove a strong handicap for the course. He rates a fair bet at the odds, as I thought he'd be a single-figure price.
The rest of the card is on RUK and they are three decent races, too.
I suspect Waady will not be missed in the market for the 5f sprint at 15:35, and the 3yo handicap at 16:45 really does have a terrifyingly competitive look to it.
I reckon at least six of the trainers will go into the race thinking they have well-handicapped horses. Your guess is as good as mine to who will be proved right, if any. The early market moves suggest it is Gosden again and Jack Hobbs, but this isn't one for me, thanks.
Good luck, and stock up on that punting ammo for tomorrow. I suspect it will be lively.
Back Shaakis @ 12.011/1 in the 13:30 at Sandown
Back Top Notch Tonto @ 15.014/1 in the 14:30 at Sandown