Tony Calvin settles in for a week of tipping at the premier mid-summer racing festival with a quartet of horses to back...
"Snoano stays 1m4f, don't get me wrong, but his last two starts over that trip suggested a strongly-run race over the near-1m2f here could be ideal for him."
I have a punting dilemma, trust me.
Prompted by Master Of Finance's inexplicably bad effort at Epsom on Oaks Day, I got in a strop and vowed never to tip and back another Mark Johnston handicapper again, for the foreseeable future at least, on the grounds that it appeared a virtual toin-coss whether they either won or were tailed off.
His method of training his horses on the racecourse, and keeping them on the go-go-go come rain or shine, obviously works for him but it certainly doesn't help punters with trying to decipher when they are ready to oblige.
Put it simply, I find the yard's handicappers incredibly hard to call, and I am not alone.
Indeed, it appears the trainer himself is one of those to judge from a typically entertaining, and at times extreme, interview in Saturday's Racing Post.
To paraphrase, in the piece he said that most trainers - or "we, the racing professionals" - don't know when their horse is going to win, and of course he is bang right there.
Anyone who disagrees is living in cloud cuckoo land. Trainers may occasionally be extremely confident, but of course they don't know.
They may know about everything about their own horse, but they are by no means sure to even have a detailed overview of the opposition's known strengths and weaknesses, let alone the unknown, of which common sense tells you there is plenty.
And he had a point, albeit a well-disguised one perhaps, about potential negatives of courses putting on music nights, too. Another weekend column in the Racing Post, that of Richard Hughes, backed him up there.
However, I nearly fell off my chair when I read in that same interview that he declared that his is "the most consistent yard in the country."
In numerical terms of winners year-in, year-out, and in the percentage of how many of his horses win a race every season, perhaps that may be true. However, it depends on how big the string is, and if one horse runs 20 times a season, as opposed to five, then the law of averages suggests it is likely to pop up once or twice. And he isn't known as a "binary" trainer by some for no good reason.
After all that I am backing another Johnston runner!
Anyway, I digress, as I like people who speak their mind, right or wrong, and we should never deter that. So am I tipping Notarised at [11.0] in the 15:45 or not?
Yes, he answered sheepishly.
The horse's form this season has been typically in-and-out, and he has run poorly on his last three starts. But at least he has edged down 3lb in the weights as a result, and returns to a track on which he has a good record, and he handles fast ground well, too.
His last good run this season was a third to subsequent Royal Ascot winner Kinema over course and distance in May, and that brought his form figures at this course to 1633.
That sixth placing was when beaten just over two lengths in this race last year off a 5lb higher mark, and I can see him bouncing out from stall five - he has led in three of his four starts here, and contested the pace in the other - and making all.
Or finishing last obviously, but at around 10-1 I will take my chances. I may be throwing my toys out of the pram at around ten to four, though, just as I was after Above the Rest ran at York on Saturday. He was the unluckiest loser of the season, bar none, and Graham Lee is the new one on the "unwanted" list.
Watching brief advised for the Vintage Stakes
The Vintage Stakes at 14:35 doesn't make any betting appeal.
There were a few burnt fingers when War Decree was beaten ¾ length by Boynton in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket earlier in the month - the Ballydoyle juvenile was absolutely smashed in the betting - and the "punters" could well be on a retrieval mission here.
The Irish colt is 3lb better off and may well reverse the form, but all the 10 runners are winners in their own right and that Newmarket form doesn't set too high a standard, even if the pair did pull 5 lengths clear of the third.
The Coventry form is represented by Medieval and Thunder Snow, fourth and sixth respectively at Ascot, and who knows who much more there is to come from recent winners Larchmont Lad and Isomer.
As ever, I find 2yo races a bit of a guessing game and I rarely play in them.
Dutch should be the Lennox favourite
I am also sitting out the Lennox Stakes at 15:10 though I would have Dutch Connection as the clear favourite.
This is the first time he has raced over 7f since being beaten ¾ length by Toormore in this race last season, and I reckon this is his optimum trip, despite a couple of excellent efforts over a mile in this campaign.
Home Of The Brave and Gifted Master are unlikely to take each other on up front, given they both hail form the Hugo Palmer barn, but a decent pace looks assured and that should suit this strong-travelling closer down to a tee. He is also a course-and-distance winner on fast ground.
Snoano a huge price for a winning start to the meeting
The bet of the day could be Snoano at [21.0] in the opener at 14:00.
He has looked an improved horse on his last two starts, and could easily be coming here on a four-timer in different circumstances.
He stays 1m4f, don't get me wrong, but his last two starts over that trip suggested a strongly-run race over the near-1m2f here could be ideal for him.
He was sent on far too soon when taking up the running 2f out in the Old Newton Cup - he sauntered into the lead and traded at [2.54] - and a 5¼ length fourth of 17 was no indication of how well he ran.
And then for all the world he looked like winning when edging to the front 1f out at Ripon last time, trading [1.26] in the run, only to be worried out of by a back-to-form Johnston handicapper who hadn't got to within 10 lengths of the winner on his previous three starts.
That was still a fair effort and a 1lb rise is more than justified, and I think there is more to come from this strong-traveller dropped in trip. His draw in 17 of 18 probably isn't ideal, but recent results tell you a wide berth is not the negative it first appears at this track, at least not before the rail is moved out later in the week.
I will also add in Best Of Times at [14.5], as I think this trip on fast ground is what he needs.
Ignore his run over 1m on soft ground last time and concentrate on his effort in the Wolferton Stakes previously, in which he looked like dotting up for much of the race before finding disappointingly little.
The handicapper is not budging him from a mark of 105 despite three defeats this season, which is a touch harsh. But if he comes back to the form of his second to Storm The Stars in the Cocked Hat over 1m3f here last year then he will go close, and the first-time cheekpieces may enable him to do that.
Faris is my final fancy
I will also play in the 5f sprint on RUK at 16:20 with Waseem Faris at [26.0] and bigger.
As ever, you can make a case for nearly the whole field in these sprints, and course-and-distance winner Humidor is handicapped to pop up if he ever consents to get away on terms, but I do like Waseem Faris.
He was undoubtedly very disappointing when last of eight at Newmarket in the soft last time but concentrate on his earlier fourth over 6f at Epsom and he has more than a fighting chance off a 2lb lower mark.
He ran really well there considering 6f stretches his stamina to the limit and he invariably runs well here, the pick of his efforts coming in a fourth of 20 in a 5f handicap at this meeting in 2013.
He comes out of stall one, so hopefully there won't be any bias here, and while a lot of the pace is drawn high, he does have the speedy Hay Chewed close by in four.
His stable are having a very poor season so it was good to see them have a welcome winner with their most recent runner in Clever Bob at Lingfield at the weekend. A Michael Jackson tribute band are playing on the "Hooves And Grooves" card after racing at that track next Saturday night, if you are interested, Mark.....
There are another two RUK-only races at the end of the card, and Ascot runner-up Harry's Angel looks the form and speed-figure choice in the 6f maiden at 16:55.
However, he hasn't been seen out since that highly-promising debut in May and it doesn't take a big leap of faith to see one of the other raced horses, or the newcomers - there seems to be a word doing the rounds for Hugo Palmer's Al Shaqab-owned debutant Mazyoun, a half-brother to Cheveley Park winner Hooray - progressing past him.
Nothing much stands out in the 1m handicap at 17:30 but if you are desperate for a bet, here is a tip. Save your money, as this is a five-day meeting, ladies and gentlemen.
Back Snoano at [21.0] in the 14:00
Back Best Of Times at [14.5] in the 14:00
Back Notarised at [11.0] in the 15:45
Back Waseem Faris at [26.0] in the 16:20
You can read my Horse Racing Tips for Wednesday at Glorious Goodwood behind the link.