Saturday sees the first Classic of 2016 as the finest three-year-old colts in flat racing do battle for the 2,000 Guineas. Our top tipster Tony Calvin goes through the Newmarket card in search of the best value bets, as well as a selection from Goodwood...
"Trainer Jim Bolger doesn't bring his horses over here so he can hit De Niros' dance floor in Newmarket town centre on Saturday night and Herald The Dawn, a full brother to 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach, can outrun his odds. But the drier the better for him from hereon in after Thursday night's 8mm of rain."
Guineas all about Air Force Blue but here's one to back if he fails
The Ballydoyle steamroller bids to iron out the Classic opposition at HQ this weekend, starting with Air Force Blue in Newmarket's 2,000 Guineas at 15:45 on Saturday.
Not everyone buys into the fact that his Dewhurst win entitles him to a lofty official mark of 124 - and it is higher still at Timeform - and therefore to tower over the opposition from a ratings perspective.
But whatever way you cut it, he is the best horse in here on his Dewhurst win and rumours about how well he has progressed physically since last season have been the talk of Ireland for months.
In summary, he carries maximum stable confidence and he is a very worthy favourite, even if 1.748/11 is far too short for this column's modus operandi to be even considering him, especially as he is unproven over the mile and certainly wouldn't want any more rain.
I stuck up Marcel on Tuesday and he is basically still the same price in the same field - there were four defections at the overnight stage, none of which were a surprise - so I am certainly not shying away from that selection.
So the reasoning earlier in the week stands. Read it here.
The big mover in the last 48 hours has been Galileo Gold, whose trainer Hugo Palmer made no secret in his Betfair column earlier in the week as to how highly he rates the Lagardere third, who shone in a gallop at the Craven meeting and whose homework and well-being since has led to his handler getting increasingly more bullish.
But he has near enough halved in price since Wednesday morning, and the juice in his price has not only been squeezed, it has also been swallowed whole.
Basically, if the favourite underperforms - and some high-profile Ballydoyle colts have in this race - then this Classic is really up for grabs and if there is an overpriced horse in the field now it is probably Herald The Dawn at 38.037/1 in the win and 7.06/1 or bigger in the place.
Winner of the Group 2 Futurity Stakes, he had no answer to three-length winner Air Force Blue in the National Stakes. But he had subsequent Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf third Birchwood nearly two lengths behind him there, and he pulled far too hard, and didn't get the best of runs - like most of the field in a messy race, admittedly - when going off a 9-2 chance for the Lagardere on his final start.
Trainer Jim Bolger doesn't bring his horses over here so he can hit De Niros' dance floor in Newmarket town centre on Saturday night and Herald The Dawn, a full brother to 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach, can outrun his odds. But the drier the better for him from hereon in after Thursday night's 8mm of rain.
Back Palmer to strike in the opener
The 22-runner Palace House Stakes at 14:30 really does look impossible - 10-1 the field probably wouldn't do it justice, though Sole Power and Jungle Cat head the betting at nearly half those odds - and I can't see much of an angle in the seven-runner Jockey Club Stakes at 15:05 where Jack Hobbs looks a very worthy odds-on favourite and the race obviously has limited appeal as an each-way contest.
But I do like the look of Hugo Palmer's Strong Steps in the opener at 14:00. The case for him is reasonably straightforward.
He should be plenty fit for enough for his reappearance, being Galileo Gold's lead horse at home, and he has big-field handicap form, being beaten just two heads in a 16-runner contest over 1m at Glorious Goodwood, where he got going too late. So the step up to 1m1f could suit.
Presumably he will go from the front here, given his new job at home, and he will do so from a very fair handicap mark, 1lb lower than that Goodwood effort just five starts ago. And the final piece in the betting jigsaw could be the fact that he has been gelded since last season, too, which occasionally improves horses.
At 17.016/1 or bigger, he is worth an interest.
Still got the Lincoln love so I'm going in again at Goodwood
Apologies to anyone who overheard me in the champagne bar around 2.12pm at Sandown on Saturday, as Lincoln's jockey was all dressed up with nowhere to go up the straight and finished full of running, if only beating two home. That was mildly irritating.
He was well-backed from 16/1 the night before into 7/1 on account of being well-treated, and having been gelded since last season, among other things. So by dropping him a rather generous 2lb for that luckless run, the handicapper is effectively saying to us "have another go if you want."
Unfortunately, I am not only predictable but I always rise to a challenge, even when the horse in question in drawn 15 of 16 at Goodwood, so I have to chuck a few quid - and I will be having a far smaller bet than I did on him last week - at him again at 8.07/1 or bigger in the 14:50 at Goodwood.
The Channon stable remain in really good form, currently operating at a strike rate of around 20 per cent when it is usually nearer 10.
The fillies' listed race at 14:15 features last year's winner Miss Marjurie, who ended the season being beaten just 1½ lengths into fifth in the Yorkshire Oaks.
She will take the beating here but it doesn't take a big leap of imagination to see some of the others in here improving enough to give her a fright, notably Bateel and Moderah, so it is a race easily swerved.
I'll be back same time tomorrow. Good luck on Saturday, whatever you punt.
Back Strong Steps at 17.016/1 or bigger in the 14:00 at Newmarket
Back Lincoln at 8.07/1 or bigger in the 14:50 at Goodwood
Back Herald The Dawn at 38.037/1 win and 7.06/1 place in the 15:45 at Newmarket
Back Marcel at 15.5 for the 2,000 Guineas ante-post