ITV are showing races from three meetings on Saturday including the return of Enable at Kempton and the Sprint Cup at Haydock. Tony Calvin previews the action and provides his best betting tips...
"Three-year-olds have won the last four runnings of this race and Speak in Colours, having just his eighth start and a very attractive profile, has a big run in him, I feel."
Difficult to oppose Harry but I have to look elsewhere
Take Harry Angel out of the equation, and the Haydock Sprint Cup at 16:15 is there for the taking and I just feel that Speak In Colours is the best bet in the race win and place, at [20.0] and [3.75] or bigger respectively.
Of course, no-one is ignoring the outstanding form claims of the favourite.
In a curious twist of coincidence, he is nought from five at Ascot - though he has run a couple of crackers there, so let's not get lazy - and unbeaten everywhere else, including two starts here.
He broke the 6f track record when winning the Sandy Lane on fast ground last May and then plundered the opposition by 4 lengths and more in this race on heavy last season, putting Group 1 performers Tasleet and The Tin Man to the sword.
If he runs up to that level, or indeed his York reappearance where he carried a 5lb penalty and easily saw off Brando and Sir Dancealot, then he looks an odds-on poke to win this.
I am not going to sit here and tap away that he is a bad price at 11/8, but context is everything and the fact is that he had an exceptionally nasty experience when getting stuck in the stalls at Ascot, where he suffered a puncture wound and severe bruising.
For all he would have been put through plenty of stalls tests at home since, and he has had a day out at Kempton too, that must play on the mind of anyone backing him at the price, if not the horse himself.
I have to look elsewhere and the most solid play is probably The Tin Man, placed in the last two runnings of this race and who did exceptionally well to finish third to Polydream and James Garfield in the Prix Maurice de Gheest last time given that he was positioned way off the pace and on the wrong side of the track.
Jockey-of-the-moment Oisin Murphy gets on him for the first time - the media love-in for the rider is getting a bit excessive, mind you - and that is clearly no negative, and he looks a rock solid each-way proposition at around the 9/1 mark.
And go and take a look at his previous fourth in the Diamond Jubilee, where he had to wait for a run. The more you look at the race, the unluckier he looks.
I am going to recommend backing him as a saver at [10.0] win and [3.25] place, as I think soft ground would be fine for him, even if his trainer believes he is better on a quick surface. He has done okay in this race for the past two years in testing ground, and he comes here ready to peak, given more luck.
The prospect of heavy ground though, given Saturday's forecast, means it is a minimum-stakes bet. Indeed, on a wider point, I expect non-runners to filter through on Friday and Saturday, so bear that in mind as regards the recommended prices.
Irish raider can add some colour to a rainy day
Speak In Colours is my number one bet at the prices, though, and the more rain that falls at Haydock, so much the better. And Saturday's forecast looks promising for him on that score.
He actually has fast-ground form, so it isn't essential, but the ground was thought too lively for him when he was beaten 7 lengths into midfield by Eqtidaar in the Commonwealth Cup.
He was a soft-ground winner when trained by Marco Botti last year and he appreciated the easier ground when beating Gordon Lord Byron (winner of this race in 2013) and Spirit of Valor in a Group 3 at the Curragh last time.
He clearly has to take a big step forward from that form to even get competitive against a peak-form Harry Angel - or indeed a few others in here - but I liked the manner in which he picked up in the closing stages, and the runner-up franked the form at York next time and the third is rated 111.
Three-year-olds have won the last four runnings of this race and Speak in Colours, having just his eighth start and a very attractive profile, has a big run in him, I feel. Connections have been delighted to see the rain, apparently, and are not bothered about it stopping.
Staying trip bringing out the best in Stoute colt
Before we get on to Enable's return at Kempton - and let's face it the race isn't an attractive betting medium - let's deal with the rest of ITV races at Haydock.
The opening 1m6f handicap at sees just seven horses line-up for a £100k handicap (Rude Awakening was a NR on Friday morning, and he has just been joined by the favourite Ben Vrackie at the time of writing), the result of too many similar 1m4f/1m6f options on Saturday and the the deteriorating ground.
It is still a strong field but I was surprised to see Mekong available at general 7/1 after Thursday's declarations - it didn't last unfortunately though there has been those non-runners, obviously - and I am happy to back him at [4.0] or bigger.
At the outset, I thought he would be near to disputing favouritism, and it looks like he may indeed go off as the jolly. The 3/1 is probably my cut-off point though, and is my guide price for supporting him.
He has taken a fair step forward since being stepped up to this 1m6f trip, seeing off Rude Awakening in gutsy style in a strong Chelmsford handicap and then running a cracker when fourth off a 3lb higher mark in the Melrose.
He did really well to hang on for fourth after being prominent throughout, and he can cope with another 3lb rise here. The slower ground won't be a problem here for a horse who won on heavy at Leicester in April.
Appealing mark makes Bed a rock-solid selection
Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore could have a quickfire double with Regal Reality in the 14:25 but I can let him win unbacked at around 2/1. He was very impressive at Goodwood last time and won his maiden in the soft, too.
I am in danger of throwing too many darts on Saturday but no way am I letting Bedrock go unbacked at [11.0] or bigger in the 15:35.
Again, the 16/1 and 14/1 from Thursday night has long gone, but I still rate him as a bet at 10/1+, though I fear Mam'Selle and Reshoun in the ground. Once again, I fear plenty of non-runners here.
His smart hurdling exploits tells you that he will relish any more rain that falls, and his trainer is also of the opinion that plenty of ease suits him.
That said, he allowed him to run, and bolt up, on officially good to firm ground at Musselburgh in June, though he certainly hasn't pulled up any trees in his two subsequent Flat efforts.
However, he probably ran better than it seemed from off the pace at York last time and his current mark of 87, down 1lb from that run, underestimates his raw ability (he is rated 145 over hurdles, where he finished third in a soft-ground Grade 1 at Aintree in April).
The return of Enable the highlight of Kempton's card
It is obviously superb to see Enable take on Crystal Ocean in the opener at 14:05 at Kempton but it is of little concern to a betting column.
Crystal Ocean has his work cut out with his 5lb penalty but who knows the state of readiness for the Arc heroine Enable? Not me, so no interest, I am afraid, though of course I am purist, too, and I will be tuning in.
The London Mile Series Final 1m handicap at 15:15 is incredibly trappy. If pressed, I would maybe plump for recent course-and-distance winner King's Slipper at a double-figure price, or maybe Hakeem at a shorter price, but you could seriously make a case for about a dozen.
Midi looks interesting but no bets at Ascot
There is also a good meeting at Ascot down the road and the 7f handicap at 14:45 is another very tricky puzzle to solve.
Ripp Orf looks set to go well again on a track which he loves, and the booking of 3lb claimer Jason Watson again is a considerable bonus.
He would be my shortlist of two along with Goodwood runner-up Cape Byron but, predictably enough, neither have been missed in the market and I am happy to sit the race out as a result.
Ghostwatch won what looked a very strong Melrose in a quick time - his first run after a gelding operation - and I don't think a 6lb rise is too punitive in the circumstances.
He had three Saturday options but connections have decided to keep him to his own age group in a fascinating 1m4f handicap at 15:55.
He is only third favourite behind First Eleven and Midi, though, and the latter is the hard-to-gauge one in here.
He has done nothing on the clock but this beautifully-bred colt (Frankel out of Midday) could have been let in lightly off a mark of 88 here on the evidence of his Newcastle win last time.
The runner-up had previously beaten Midi's stablemate Sextant by 4 ½ lengths (Sextant won impressively at Newbury next time) and pedigree and run-style suggests the Frankel colt is likely to improve for being stepped up to 1m4f.
However, with two of three improvers in here and First Eleven probably still fairly handicapped on his unlucky Royal Ascot third (he had Cross Counter behind him in fourth, though he did go up 6lb for it), I am happy to stick with just the four Haydock bets.
Back Mekong at [4.0] or better in 13:50 at Haydock
Back Bedrock at [11.0] or bigger in 15:35 at Haydock
Back Speak In Colours [20.0] win and [3.75] place in 16:15 at Haydock
Back The Tin Man [10.0] win and [3.25] place, to minimum stakes, in 16:15 at Haydock