Tony Calvin is on board for his usual Saturday shift and he has found a pair of wagers for your consideration...
"We know that his best run to date came here when he won the Grand National Trial by nine lengths in heavy ground last year (he is now only 5lb higher), so if it gets down and dirty in testing conditions he could be our man."
To say I've been under the weather for the past fortnight would be the understatement of the century - with my incessant, annoying coughing and spluttering, I would have made myself a shade of odds-on to be murdered by one of the household - but there is no use feeling sorry for yourself, so we crack on.
Mind you, Ascot racecourse is also very much under the weather itself with a hard frost forecast overnight - the clerk of the course is "fairly pessimistic" - so an inspection at 6.30am on Saturday morning could well put paid to the meeting.
Anyway, we have to progress as if it goes ahead, though it sounds heavy odds-on to bite the dust.
Clarence House Chase is one to enjoy
I don't think anyone can argue that last year's winner Un De Sceaux shouldn't be the clear favourite over Ar Mad in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at 15:00 but neither appeals at the prices. As you would expect really in a race that is very easy to price up.
That said, the Betfair Sportsbook went a stand-out 9/4 on Ar Mad after the final declarations were known on Tuesday morning, and you can see their logic.
He has 6lb to find with the favourite on official ratings, his jumping was far from perfect at Sandown, and then there is that "bounce" factor to consider as this is his second start on the back of an injury-enforced absence.
Against that, he clearly shaped very encouragingly at Sandown when rallying to be beaten just 3½ lengths by Un De Sceaux after those mid-race jumping problems, and it doesn't need a great leap of faith to see him bridging that gap.
I don't have a strong opinion to be honest, but you do wonder if the pair are beatable in what is sure be very testing and cloying ground after all the frosts this week, and the resulting use of the covers.
The rest have 10lb and more to find with the favourite on official figures but course favourite Royal Regatta and Top Gamble certainly have the stamina to shine if this does develop into a real grind. Marginal preference would be for the latter but this is a race easily swerved for betting reasons.
Get Happy at Ascot
Anyone who saw Happy Diva win at Wetherby last time will be happy to dive in for her at 6.05/1 or better in the 13:50.
Okay, that win only came off a mark of 121 and this is a big step up in class but she was ridiculously impressive and looks a different horse since being stepped up in trip.
Richard Johnson replaces 7lb claimer Richard Patrick who was on board for her last two wins - he couldn't claim here - and I think she can take this rise in class in her stride.
I covered some of the weekend action in my ante-post column on Tuesday - you can read it here - and that covered the handicap hurdle at 14:25.
I put Drumcliff at 10/1 each-way, and I will stick will that advice, especially as the meeting is likely to be off anyway!
In the handicap chase at 15:35 nothing really appeals.
A 20/1 alternative to Alary
The bookmakers going non-runner, no-bet on the Gold Cup have reported that Grade 1 French performer Alary has been very popular at 20/1 and it is easy to see why.
If he wins the Peter Marsh at Haydock off a mark of 162 then he will have to be considered a serious prospect for the big one - he is a player even if goes close in defeat as this is a field with plenty of depth and we know that the extra 2f on a stiffer track like Cheltenham will suit him (though this race is run over 78 yards further than advertised due to rail movements) - and if he blows out then he probably won't even go there.
So the logic is sound.
It could well be that Colin Tizzard has improved the ex-French chaser, who appeared to run a career-best on his most recent start in November, further and has a fourth Gold Cup peach on his hands to go alongside Thistlecrack, Native River and Cue Card.
But it is some ask for him to give weight to some seriously talented in-form, race-fit rivals here and odds of around 4/1 probably underplay what a tough job he has on his hands. Apparently only Denman has won a 3m-plus handicap chase from a mark higher than 161 in the last ten years.
Rowland Meyrick winner Definitly Red and the Rehearsal Chase 1-2 of Otago Trail and Bristol De Mai are obvious alternatives - particularly the latter, even if the jury is still out on his stamina - but I like the chances of Bishops Road and Sausalito Sunrise at the prices.
My betting hammer came down on the side of Bishops Road, so back him at 17.016/1 or better.
I am always willing to give any horse the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a bad run at Chepstow and particularly so if the handicapper has obliged by allowing him to race off a 5lb lower mark on his next start.
He may well have been set to drop him anyway after his reappearance nine-length fourth to Otago Trail, Bristol de Mai and Definitly Red, but I thought there was a lot of promise in that Newcastle run, where he travelled well for much of the race before getting tired from 2 out.
We know that his best run to date came here when he won the Grand National Trial by nine lengths in heavy ground last year (he is now only 5lb higher), so if it gets down and dirty in testing conditions he could be our man.
He also has 2m4f form last year so he isn't just a dour stayer, though. He just doesn't look a 20/1 chance, and his stable have been in decent form this season, with Alfie Spinner a good winner for them at Wincanton on Thursday.
There is nothing doing in the Grade 2 novices' hurdle at 14:05, and the betting has the Champion Hurdle trial at 14:40, pretty much spot-on, too. Good races but not really betting mediums.
Back Happy Diva at 6.05/1 or better in 13:50 at Ascot
Back Bishops Road at 17.016/1 in the 15:15 at Haydock
Back Drumcliff each-way at 10-1 with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:25 at Ascot