13:50 Newbury - Hills' outsider to give trainer more success?
The Listed Denford Stakes (or in old money the Washington Singer) has thrown up some top-notchers in the past. The likes of Lammtarra won this back in 1994, whilst Rodrigo De Triano also appears on the roll of honour. It's not the race it used to be, and this year's renewal doesn't look a strong affair.
It's a mix between those with plenty of experience and the up-and-comers. The favourite Hey Gaman doesn't represent a particularly exciting bet at 7/4 - and he beat just two rivals by five lengths last time. Another Batt is another with a stack of experience, and from a price of around 7.06/1, he could be worth trading considering he likes to bowl along in front. He was chinned at 1.201/5 in-running at Ascot recently.
A flip-side horse is Learn By Heart - who looked very green but won going away at Doncaster in a Novice by nearly four lengths. He saw it out very strongly on soft ground, but reportedly doesn't want extremes of going. Learn By Heart was priced up early on the Sportsbook at 5/2 - so I am hardly Gandalf in revealing he has a big chance.
For small stakes I would take a bit of the 16/1 on the once-raced Ripley.
Her trainer Charlie Hills won this in 2012 with Just The Judge on just her second start, and this will be Ripley's second outing after running at Goodwood. The ground was awful on that occasion and the winner (Roulette) had the run of the race in front, with the benefit of experience too. It bodes well for Ripley that she handled those awful conditions well on her debut.
She's bred to get a mile, and has entries later on in the Fillies' Mile and the Rockfel. Again, I wouldn't go overboard, but fillies can improve a lot from their debut run. Charlie's dad Barry liked to win this race too.
14:25 Newbury - Do we risk Murphy after lengthy absence?
If we can get around 11.010/1 on Agent Murphy to win the Geoffrey Freer - he might be worth the risk. There's a big caveat here, though, as the horse hasn't been seen for 539 days. A lot has happened since then.
In fact, I am hoping he drifts to a bigger price, as he was a brilliant winner of this race back in 2015. He travelled strongly that day but he's a stayer to boot. He subsequently pitched up in the Irish St Leger (but was well beaten by Order Of St George), and was only seen once in 2016 - and that was the Emirs Trophy race in Doha in February that year.
The angle is backing him fresh, as he was gone well before off a break and has won first time out. However, there's first time out and first time for 539 days. Good to soft ground is ideal for him. So there are plenty of reasons to back him, as there are a few not to back him. His rider Jimmy Fortune who returns from a back injury, described him and the horse as a pair of crocks.
I half thought about chucking in Harlequeen as a complete flyer at 40/1 on the Sportsbook judged on her runs in the Oaks in Ireland and England last term. She would have needed her comeback outing at Goodwood recently, and she's given the impression this sort of trip could be ideal. She looks tricky, though.
The top of the market is dominated by Defoe and Frontiersman both at 2/1. The former has two handicap wins to his name and a Listed race - but he is a touch lazy. He is one of two three-year-olds in this line-up, and is currently a 12/1 chance for the St Leger. I also think he'll like a bit of rain.
Meanwhile Frontiersman still does a lot wrong in races for me not to back him in this. He flew home in the Group 1 Coronation Cup behind Highland Reed at Epsom, whilst his second to Hawkbill in a Group 2 recently highlighted once again his inexperience in the first time cheekpieces. Those are retained today, and on ratings he is the best horse in this with 117. However his attitude is something he needs to sort out - and that makes him a no-go at such cramped odds.
In fact, he could be worth throwing in a lay at a short price using Keep Bets.
This is traditionally a fairly good handicap for a 0-95, and I'll get straight to the selection here at a decent price of 16/1 - and that's Fighting Temeraire. I was surprised he was that big in truth, as he showed up well in some very competitive races last term. He's another first-time-out merchant.
Trained by Dean Ivory, the four-year-old makes his belated seasonal reappearance - but that shouldn't put us off backing him as he has performed well when running for the first time (finishing second on both debut and his three-year-old run last term).
Ivory has said in the past he's a good ground horse that likes running on a straight track. Hopefully we'll get the good with a dry day forecast on Saturday, and tactics shouldn't be a problem for this race. They tend to race down the centre in a diamond formation, and he'll have enough time to be delivered by Robert Winston. He looks the sort that might stay a mile anyway, so a well-run race at this trip will play to his strengths.
He won a nice pot at Newmarket last term after a few runner-up finishes, and that came from a mark of 89. He is only 4lb higher today.
For those that backed him a couple of times in handicaps at Ascot and York - you are still probably feeling a bit miffed. He was unlucky in both of those races. He was on the wrong side at Ascot, and he was very unlucky in his final start of 2016 at York. That was a hot handicap behind Weekend Offender and Another Touch off today's mark - so he is well up to winning a race of this nature.
He's very well bred and cost plenty as a youngster, and he can make up for those two unlucky efforts last term.
15:35 Newbury - Nathra to show true form in Hungerford
This looks one of the most open races of the weekend. Librisa Breeze is the favourite, but chances can be given to most of the field.
There are a couple of question mark horses - the likes of Guineas second Massaat makes his return to action, whilst Spangled also returns to the track for the first time this year.
We also have the 2014 winner Breton Rock - a real 7f specialist. He won the Lennox recently at Goodwood at a huge 163.8 Betfair SP. He's a remarkably consistent horse that has held his rating of 112 since winning this three years ago - and for that he should be lavished with a bit of praise.
The John Gosden pair of Nathra and Daban come into the equation here for me; but the former shades it as the bet at the bigger price of 10/1 on the Sportsbook.
On her two and three-year-old form she would be a massive player (and not a double-figure price). She was runner-up in the French 1,000 Guineas last term, and also finished second behind Minding in the Fillies' Mile as a juvenile.
We've only seen her once this term (hence the price), but it was a pleasing reappearance at Ascot in a messy race. They went steady and she was held up, so we cannot really judge her too harshly on that. Whether she is up to her 2016 level is the question - but we are getting a decent price to pay to find out at 10s.
She is unbeaten over 7f and this race could be ideal with a bit of cut on good to soft.
The Grey Horse Handicap has a few out of form runners that need a big revival, but they could all be playing for place money behind Dark Power.
He's a three-year-old and really progressive - quite different from some of his rivals. Prize money for first is over £12,000 for a 0-85, so connections have found a substantial purse for the grade, he's a real up-and-comer. The advantages of being a grey!
Dark Power won a handicap in good style at Leicester recently to mark himself down as very progressive, and the grey also likes to sit handy and be up with the pace - something that should suit at Newmarket. He has a penalty to carry and is off top weight - but he will take some stopping here.
He's a 3/1 chance so he cannot really feature in this column (although apologies for the well-backed Gawdawpalin last week who was sent off at 2/1! I didn't quite expect that price).
I backed Champagne Bob in the race last year and he finished second from a mark of 59 - which won't put the frightheners on connections of Dark Power. However, he is 16/1 and he'll be charging home late. He'll be receiving bundles of weight from the favourite too, whilst the first and third from last year are back for more this time around (Syrian Pearl and Case Key).
Of the other contenders; Cappananty Con travelled quite well to win a race at Wolverhampton last time. He came from off the pace there, but he might be a better horse on the all-weather. He's probably a fair price at 8/1 but no more than that.
Paul Midgley is always a man to be feared in these sprints, but Buccaneers Vault hasn't won for a while and he deserves his price of 16/1. He was beaten by Cliff and Kenny The Captain last time out Carlisle - and if you get beaten by those two - there isn't much confidence for the next.
I'll stick with a small bet each-way on Champagne Bob. He's won a couple of races this term and he does stay 6f very well on good to soft ground, and it was good to firm last year when he was runner-up.
The second ITV4 race from Newmarket looks a cracking sprint over 6f - and this is a hot race.
Kevin Ryan's Tommy Taylor would be the obvious one as he was nearly wiped out in a rough race over course and distance last time. He'll be popular I am sure, so I expect that 13/2 to probably shorten up. He ran really well at Newmarket in July from a mark of 95, and he's now off a 5lb higher mark.
I hope he's named after the former West Ham centre-back Tommy Taylor. I used to enjoy my interviews with him as a reporter at Leyton Orient many years ago when he was the manager. Him (the horse) being sideswiped at Newmarket recently reminded me of a Taylor tackle - he was a fairly uncompromising player.
At a slightly bigger price here I am going with Ultimate Avenue - and I think he's a fascinating runner in this at 7/1.
His trainer Ed Walker called him a "proper horse" last term. He was clearly raw and immature with his size, so he wasn't over-faced as a juvenile. Although he did run in a Group 3 over 7f.
He made his comeback run in April over 1m at Kempton, but he was too keen and still looked a little immature with the way he carried his head.
Walker dropped him down to sprinting last time over course and distance - and he was only just behind Tommy Taylor there. He was a massive price, but it was more like it from a horse who clearly has a lot of ability. The winner of that race is progressive, but Ultimate Avenue ran well in the first-time tongue-tie. He met some trouble as well over the far side. But he was back - that was the main thing.
For a big horse, I hope his jockey Pat Cosgrave lets him use his stride and go from the front here. He made the running to win a Newbury Maiden as a juvenile - so I hope they switch to more aggressive tactics here, especially as these Newmarket 6f sprints can be rough-and-tumble sort of affairs.
Along with Fighting Temeraire each-way, he's my best bet of the weekend.
15:15 Ripon - Fell sprinter deserve to land a big prize
The Great St Wilfird is the feature race of the year at Ripon, and for the big sprint on ITV4 I am starting with the draw in 14 with a bet on Muntadab at 20.019/1.
He's got a few near misses on his CV this term to suggest he can be a player in this handicap. He likes to be up there with the speed and he can make the running, but there's plenty of pace around him with high number gate positions. The likes of Al Qahwa, Robero and Flying Pursuit all can be fired out, and throw in Nameitwhatyoulike as a pacesetter too.
Back to the near misses; Muntadab made the running over course and distance earlier in the season to finish second on the stands' side that day. He beat horses such as Out Do, Orions Bow and Right Touch, but the smaller group over the far side threw up the winner. He showed he acted at the course, and Ripon is a tricky track with the undulations and ridges.
He was also very unlucky with the draw in the Scottish Stewards' Cup at Hamilton.
Muntadab has blown out in a couple of races this term - notably the no-show in the Wokingham and last time at York. But he is still low-mileage as a sprinter and his trainer Roger Fell has been in fairly good form of late.
You can also play 3 Places or 5 Places on the Exchange.
Tony Calvin returns next week, good luck for Saturday.
Saturday's Recommended Bets
Back Ripley @ 16/1 Sportsbook in the 13:50 at Newbury
Back Agent Murphy @ 11.010/1 or bigger in the 14:25 at Newbury
Back Fighting Temeraire @ 16/1 each-way Sportsbook in the 15:00 at Newbury
Back Nathra @ 10/1 Sportsbook in the 15:35 at Newbury
Back Champagne Bob each-way @ 16/1 Sportsbook in the 14:10 Newmarket
Back Ultimate Avenue @ 7/1 Sportsbook in the 14:45 at Newmarket
Back Muntadab @ 20.019/1 in the 15:15 at Ripon
Back Muntadab in Place Market in the 15:15 at Ripon