Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot is the best punting card of the week so far says Tony Calvin, and our resident tipster is going to war with eight recommended bets...
"But his premier performance came when running away with the Long Distance Cup by 7 ½ lengths in the soft over 2m here in October, and that win came in a good time, with Trueshan really pouring it on late."
Three words that strike fear into clerks of courses, owners, trainers, jockeys and punters alike during Royal Ascot.
No, not, "time gentlemen, please" - though, of course, jockeys don't either drink or bet - but "heavy overnight rain" and if we get as much as is forecast on some sites from late Wednesday afternoon through Thursday then we will be kissing goodbye to fast ground and saying hello to good to soft come race-time.
Alternatively, if, in the grand old tradition of weather forecasts, none materialises, then non-watered ground could be lightning quick, and all those speculative plays on horses that like dig will be looking a touch premature.
The site I tend to use says Ascot may get 24mm on Thursday (and 16mm on Friday), though another says just 3mm.
Tipping a day in advance is hardly ideal then, but I have decided to work on the basis of good/good to soft ground - they must cop some rain - and take my medicine if that proves wide of the mark.
Two closely matched youngsters in the Norfolk
I won't be doing any damage in the second race anyway, as I am not having a swing in that, but I am having two in the opening 2yo contest, which is very unlike me.
First up is Project Dante at 12/1 each-way, four places, in the Norfolk at 14:30.
He was clearly fancied by some as he went off a 7/2 chance on his debut at York - though his trainer afterwards said he looked a bit "porky" in the paddock - and he didn't disappoint them, travelling well throughout, finding once asked, and winning a shade cheekily by a head.
That win stacked up very well on the clock, and the second, third (who absolutely gagged up, by the way) and fourth all won next time, and he is a very fair 12s poke, even if his 16 of 16 draw is a touch worrying if changing ground changes the tactics dynamic.
A basic, cursory glance at the form figures of the opposition, and the trainers' names attached to them, gives you a clear illustration of how difficult a puzzle this is to solve, but I am going to make it very simple and also back the horse Project Dante beat at York as the saver.
Step forward Korker, who was beaten a head by Project Dante on the Knavesmire in that novice.
I think the winner was the best horse in the race that day but I fully accept that some may think Korker could overturn the form given he blew the start and finished off to such good effect.
His Carlisle win next time was underwhelming but it was all grist to the mill in terms of experience. That York form on good to soft ground is mustard.
Back him at 16/1 each-way, four places.
Rain in favour of a big improver in the Ribblesdale
Heavy overnight rain and a going change will present connections of Mohaafeth with another dilemma in the Hampton Court Stakes at 15:05.
They pulled the horse out on drying good to soft just hours before the Derby - a mad decision if you ask me - so you would have thought they would do the same here, even if 1m2f in Group 3 company will be a less taxing assignment.
It will be disappointing if he is beaten here, but I can let him win unbacked if he does take his chance.
I hope the ground does turn on the easy side as I am backing Twisted Reality at 16/1 each-way, four places, in the Ribblesdale at 15:40.
It could well be she operates perfectly fine on a quickish surface but her two starts to date have come with cut, her dam liked it soft, as did her stablemate and half-sister Afraid Of Nothing.
This Fastnet Rock filly seems to be to crying out for this 1m4f trip, and at one point I considered backing her for the Oaks, which was sidestepped to come here.
She needed all of the extended 1m to win on her debut in soft ground at Nottingham last season and she found the 1m2f inadequate when fourth to Eshaada and Gloria Mundi in Listed company at Newbury last time, a performance than can be marked up as she made up her late ground on her own on the far side of the track.
The run-style suggests 1m4f is the right call and the dam was a 1m5f winner who stayed 1m7f, so that is a pedigree positive on the stamina front, too.
I think she is a big improver at the trip.
Trueshan looks a huge price in the Gold Cup
I have laid Stradivarius at even money in the Gold Cup at 16:15, and I am tipping up Trueshan at 7/1 each-way, three places.
Cue a rain dance. But he looks a huge chance even if they get a steady drizzle.
He has good-ground form and ran an absolute screamer under a 5lb penalty when ½ length second to Japan in the Omonde Stakes on his comeback, even allowing for the fact the winner disappointed in the Coronation Cup next time.
But his premier performance came when running away with the Long Distance Cup by 7 ½ lengths in the soft over 2m here in October, and that win came in a good time, with Trueshan really pouring it on late.
I love the angle of him stepping up to 2m4f for the first time, and feel he is much the likely winner should the favourite falter.
And he could well improve past the three-time Gold Cup winner anyway, even if he runs his race, such is his potential as these staying trips. He looks a huge price.
Rapid improver can go well in Britannia while big run on cards from Surefire in 1m4f handicap
Hopefully, the weather can do what it wants for Air To Air in the Britannia at 17:00 and I think he is a worthy market leader at 10.09/1 or bigger.
It sounds like this horse badly disappointed George Boughey in failing to win in his first five starts - and punters, as he was chinned at odds-on three times - but he finally came good over 7f on soft ground at Newmarket last month, after which Boughey revealed that "works like a monster at home, but things have not gone right until now."
They did at Newmarket and again when he dotted up on good to firm at Doncaster last time, and the 8lb he was raised for that win was a blessing is in disguise as it allowed him to scrape into this race at the bottom of the weights.
He is a rapid improver, and hopefully his draw in eight is not a negative, as he does have pace either side of him in seven and nine.
Surefire has it to prove on the clock and on the ground if it does turn softish, and the trip as well, but I don't have any major concerns on any of those three fronts for his chances in the 1m4f handicap at 17:35.
Back him at 9/1 each-way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
He is related to two decent stayers, and his dam won in Listed company over 1m6f in the soft, and the way he finished off his race when winning over 1m2f at Leicester recently gives you every encouragement this extra 2f will suit.
He is officially 3lb well-in here under his 6lb penalty and, after just four starts, has masses of scope for improvement. A draw in 17 does not bother me at all, as statistically high is the best place to be over 1m4f here.
A very big run is on the cards, albeit this does look a very competitive handicap, hence I want to go with the each-way play.
A cracking outsider and a saver in the finale
Aldaary is clearly a big danger - and he could be worth a saver at around 8/1 - but Lord Rapscallion looks a cracking bet in the last at 18:10 at 25/1 each-way, five places.
This horse was rated as high as 102 when trained by Johnny Murtagh in Ireland, and he won a handicap at Gowran Park over 7f on good ground last August off a mark of 94.
So while he has looked in the handicapper's grip of late, and has been beaten off marks of 92 and 93 on his last three starts, a deeper look suggests he is weighted to make his presence felt here.
He bumped into two well handicapped horses when second to Chil Chil at Newmarket and Dulas at Goodwood, and he didn't get the run of the race when fourth at Epsom last time, his rider struggling to get a clear run in the final furlong or so.
He wouldn't have beaten the hugely progressive winner but he may have notched another runner-up spot, and this could be his day if it all clicks for him here.
Who knows how his draw in 29 will pan out, especially if the ground changes, but that is up to his jockey to sort out.
I will also back Aldaary at 7/1 each way, five places, in trap 21.
He is obviously the least exposed in the field, he is a course winner on good to soft (and handles much deeper ground if needed) and he wasn't at all suited by the way the race developed when third to Rhoscoyln, who followed up in Lord Rapscallion's Epsom race, at Goodwood last time.
He is better than that - he was given far too much to do in deep ground - and he looks too dangerous a rival to ignore, and maybe the first-time tongue-tie is an edge, too.
Good luck. I think this is the best punting day so far, by some way.
You may have noticed.
Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples - Every Day!
Place £20 worth of Multiples or Bet Builders over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 bet to use on Multiples or Bet Builders. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.
Back Project Dante in 14:30 at Ascot at 12/1 each-way, four places, at 13.012/1
Back Korker in 14:30 at Ascot at 16/1 each-way, four places, at 17.016/1
Back Twisted Realty in 15:40 at Ascot at 16/1 each-way, four places, at 17.016/1
Back Trueshan in 16:15 at Ascot at 7/1 each-way, three places, at 8.07/1
Back Air To Air in 17:00 at Ascot at 10.09/1
Back Surefire in 17:35 at Ascot at 9/1 each-way, five places, at 10.09/1
Back Lord Rapscallion in 18:10 at Ascot at 25/1 each-way, five places, at 26.025/1
Back Aldaary in 18:10 at Ascot at 7/1 each-way, five places, at 8.07/1