We have ITV racing from Newbury and Newmarket on Saturday afternoon with the Group 1 Lockinge Stage and the London Gold Cup catching Tony Calvin's eye from a punting perspective...
"Now, he wouldn't have the most consistent profile, but he is very good on his day, as underlined by the fact that he is officially the joint-highest rated in here on a mark of 119."
I can't readily recall seeing a Group 1 race with as much class and depth as the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury at 15:40.
Sure, there isn't a stand-out performer along the lines of a Frankel in 2012 - the 2/7 wasn't a bad price in hindsight, was it? - but we have eight horses rated between 119 and 116 and the joint-biggest ever field for the 1m Group 1 prize.
And it is rather hard to pick the winner, I can tell you.
The race features two of my "cliff" horses in the past year or so in the shape of Lancaster Bomber and Lightning Spear, though to be fair I won a few quid on the former when he was an agonising second in the St James's Palace Stakes and the latter very nearly did it for me when third in the Sussex Stakes.
Nearly horses, though, and you suspect that Lightning Spear's chances of a big Group 1 prize have gone now he has reached the age of seven and that the rider of Lancaster Bomber, who revels on fast ground over a mile, may just have one eye on setting a strong pace to suit his stablemate Rhododendron.
Ballydoyle filly looks to short in deep Lockinge field
To me, Rhododendron is the most interesting contender in the race, because she is currently trading as the [4.7] favourite and I couldn't even have her on my mind at 5/1 in such a deep field.
Of course, she has every chance on form, she ran well enough on her comeback over 1m2f+ in the Prix Ganay, and one of her better efforts came when second to Winter on fast ground in the 1,000 Guineas, and after a troubled passage, too.
She has also been drawn next to stablemates Lancaster Bomber and Deauville (and another potential pace angle Zabeel Prince is nearby, too), and I think this Oaks runner-up will get the strong pace to aim at that she needs back at a mile. Though, second-guessing the tactics of Ballydoyle is not normally recommended!
However, it is all about price and no way should this 116-rated filly be a fraction of the price other similarly talented opposition here - and there are plenty of them - even if I detected a fair bit of "between the lines" confidence when talking to her jockey on Friday morning.
You suspect dual Group 1 winner Limato has the best engine of them all but will he stay in a searching mile contest?; will the hugely progressive and impressive Sandown winner Addeybb handle this quicker ground and better opposition?: and can Beat The Bank return as good as he looked when winning the Joel Stakes last year?
I'd probably be in the negative camp for all of those questions, at the prices anyway, but there is enough depth further down the betting to suggest that I personally will end up laying Rhododendron for a place on the exchange, stable confidence or not.
Deauville the pick of my three-horse shortlist
But I am not effectively going to tip that up at around even money here, and the three on my short list at the prices are Librisa Breeze, Deauville and Suedois at 16/1+.
I forgot just how effective Librisa Breeze was over a mile-plus before he went down in trip and he put up a huge performance, form-wise and on the clock, when winning the Champions Sprint at Ascot in October.
Most of his better runs have come at that track, but he did finish second in a Hungerford Stakes here. The worry for him is will the ground be too quick for him, for all that he has won on good to firm.
At the age of seven, it seems surprising that Suedois appears to have improved all of a sudden, but that looks to have happened as he has been stepped up to a mile. He is a very plausible winner of this race at 20/1 given his recent improvement at this trip.
But my pin has come down on Deauville at [17.0] or bigger.
Now, he wouldn't have the most consistent profile, but he is very good on his day, as underlined by the fact that he is officially the joint-highest rated in here on a mark of 119.
That came courtesy of his fast-ground third to Ribchester in last year's Queen Anne and the form of his reappearance second to Forest Ranger in the Earl Of Sefton looked better than it did at the time after the winner followed up in the Huxley Stakes.
He came on a good deal on his second run of the season last year when running dual subsequent Group 1 winner Ulysses to a length at Sandown, and he reportedly really needed it at Newmarket, where he was just ridden with hands and heels.
He will probably be on the front end here but, in the expectation of this being a strongly-run race, his proven stamina over 1m2f will stand him in good stead. Let's hope he doesn't have to do all the donkey work himself.
Prince can rule in London Gold Cup
Crystal Ocean possibly has a harder task than the betting suggests in the 14:25 as Raheen House is just 1lb shy of him on official ratings at these weights and Second Step loves Newbury.
But it will be more than a shade disappointing were he not be up to winning this after a good comeback win over an inadequate 1m2f from a race-fit rival at Sandown.
This is traditionally one of the hottest 3yo handicaps of the season, and probably the hottest as a recent roll call of winners include Defoe last year (off a mark of 88), Time Test, Cannock Chase and Al Kazeem to name just four.
It appears you need at least a Group 2 win in hand to be winning this race!
There are a few likely sorts in here and I don't suppose I would argue with Masaarr heading the betting around the 9/2 mark.
He was doing all his best work late on when winning over a mile at Doncaster and his pedigree tells you quite clearly that the step up 1m2f will see him in a better light.
But I am going to go against the grain and the MO of recent winners of this race, and tip the most "exposed" horse in the line-up in the shape of Poet's Prince, having his 12th start, and his sixth outing in 2018.
Back him at [15.0] or bigger, and the 14/1 each way with the Sportsbook is very well considering. He only has Connect behind him in the betting, and I can't have that.
He shaped really well when a length second to Completion over a mile on fast ground at Redcar two starts ago, and it is worth bearing in mind that the winner would have been one of the favourites here had he stood his ground at the overnight stage.
That race was run in a really good time, and the front two pulled well clear.
He was then stepped up to 1m2f for the first time at Chelmsford, winning very nicely from a field that included plenty of progressive and in-form rivals, and I reckon a 5lb rise will not stop him being very competitive here.
He looks a very scopey and progressive horse, and he could shake up some horses with fewer miles on the clock.
Small-field Newmarket races lack betting appeal
Newmarket has been rather let down by its field sizes in two of the three ITV races there.
The £40k 1m2f Listed contest at 14:05 has attracted just the three runners, but it is an interesting little race, all the same.
Old Persian is the obvious and short-priced favourite after two good course-and-distance efforts this season, which set the form benchmark here, but there is definitely potential for his two rivals to come up to his level.
Department Of War looked good in his Nottingham debut win and Court House has some pretty useful all-weather form to his name. This isn't a race to bet in, though.
Another £40k pot in the 14:40 has tempted in just five, but once again it is not easy to sort out the probable winner.
The layers find it hard to split the form horse Purser and promising course-and-distance maiden winner Aurum at around the 2/1 mark, but the 8/1 or so about Great Prospector had me taking a second look.
He was a good juvenile, only beaten 7½ lengths when sixth in the Dewhurst, but he has clearly given connections some headaches this term.
He was tried in a first-time visor when disappointing in the Free Handicap, and connections have since decided to take the balls by the horn and gelded him.
He would definitely be my idea of the punt in the race if I was playing, but it is a touch too much guesswork as to whether he still possesses that 2yo ability.
Extra place available... if you have a fancy
The reason for that generosity, though, is that it is a devilishly difficult race.
I went round the houses looking for a bet, ending up with Yafta and Tricksy Spirit on my shortlist, and then deciding no bets for me at Newmarket. Great Prospector came closest.