We have a mixture of Flat and National Hunt racing on ITV on Saturday, and our top tipster Tony Calvin has added a fresh selection to his ante-post pick in the big handicap at Doncaster...
"In fact, the handicapper has played very fair with him for his three Flat starts, raising him just 1lb for three very solid and consistent placed efforts, and two narrow defeats."
With the Breeders' Cup in Keeneland on Saturday night, and Doncaster's Betfair November Handicap in the afternoon, it really is a final farewell to the 2020 Flat turf season this weekend.
It doesn't seem that long ago since racing resumed on the all-weather at Newcastle on June 1, but we have fitted a lot in since then, and hopefully this column can sign off with a winner in the big Donny handicap at 15:15 with Euchen Glen.
I stuck him up at 9/1 each-way, five places, in the ante-post column on Tuesday and it is always a relief when they get confirmed for the race. Let's just hope he gets to the start now, as we have got a decent price about him.
I won't put him up afresh here, but the case that I made for him earlier in the week stands.
Classy performer in the form of his life
He may be rated a lofty 109 in this 23-runner handicap and be giving lumps of weight away to some progressive recent winners, but his winning exploits of late fully deserve that rating. And perhaps a higher one, too.
He suffered an injury in trouncing a good handicap field at York in July 2018 and he took a while to re-find his racing legs after making his return after a long absence in the June of this year.
But he has struck form with a vengeance of late, winning three of his last four - they included the Old Borough Cup off 9st 7lb and a brace of recent Group 3 wins - and his sole defeat in between came over an inadequate 1m2f against Group 1 winners and operators at Ayr, a race which was won by subsequent Champion Stakes victor Addeybb.
Yes, this is a tough ask but this course-and-distance winner has conditions to suit, and he is in the form of his life.
A strict interpretation of his ½-length, level-weights defeat of the 111-rated Desert Encounter in the Cumberland Lodge at York last month makes him a fairly handicapped horse off 109, and he absolutely gagged up at Newbury last time.
Class came to the fore when Litigant won this race off 106 and 9st 10lb in 2015 and Royal Line did the business off 105 and 9st 8lb in 2018 (the meeting was abandoned last season), and hopefully it will be more of the same here.
He is tactically-versatile, so that is handy in a race which has tons of pace in it. On paper, at least.
So while I am happy with the Euchen Glen ante-post position - and his position in stall 18 too for that matter, as high numbers have dominated in this race in recent years - the question is do I have a fresh bet in the race?
Cooke a big player but I'm going for Victory
Sam Cooke, in 20, surely has a big run in him with the Ralph Beckett yard in such great form, even if it is slightly off-putting we haven't seen him since July - I doubt he would have been put aside specifically for this - and, as the owners pointed out to me on Twitter on Wednesday, Surrey Pride has had excuses for his last two runs, though he has had a long (ish) season, having been ready to rock in early June.
Having mentioned Beckett, I really should underline just how red-hot his horses are at the moment.
Going into Friday, he had nine winners from his last 33 runners, but dig deeper and it is even more impressive, with seven of the last 14 placed as well, and three of those were beaten a neck or less.
You have to give all his runners maximum respect, and he may just have a Breeders' Cup winner with New Mandate on Friday night, too.
Sam Cooke is clearly a massive player then but the problem with this handicap is that looking for a second bet unearths so many possible candidates, but I am content to go with On To Victory.
Alan King has had a highly satisfactory time of it on the Flat this season, with Coeur De Lion and Scarlet Dragon getting the ball rolling at Royal Ascot and Trueshan proving the new kid on the staying block in his runaway Long Distance Cup success at that course last month.
Like Scarlet Dragon, On To Victory runs in the Henry Ponsonby syndicate red and white colours and he looked a little unlucky not to win over 1m6f at Haydock last time considering he had to momentarily wait to get into top gear.
As it is, he went down by just a neck, but the positive is that he can race off the same mark here. In fact, the handicapper has played very fair with him for his three Flat starts, raising him just 1lb for three very solid and consistent placed efforts, and two narrow defeats.
His current mark is some 9lb lower than his 2019 peak too, and the step back to 1m4f on soft ground (and maybe even better for him if it dries out to good to soft) is fine for him.
His fourth in a Melrose proves he can do it in a big-field handicap too, and his midfield draw is more than acceptable.
Hopefully, he can return to hurdles this winter as a November Handicap winner (if Euchen Glen cannot) and it was encouraging to read King say the horse is "working much better now than he did last year" in the Weekender on Wednesday.
We didn't see him from March to August, so he comes here a fresh horse after just those three outings, and he looks a pretty good win and place proposition.
Back him at 10/1 each-way, six places, with the Sportsbook.
The 12s went on Thursday night, but 10s is fair.
Brando a worthy fav but of the Rest I like Irish raider Son
The Betfair-sponsored 1m2f Listed fillies' race at 14:05 looks a nasty little contest from a betting point of view - maybe the progressive Trefoil for Beckett (who has three in here) at 8/1 was the pick of the prices, but she won't be getting an easy lead here with five or six others also having gone forward in the recent past - but I do like the look of the 6f Betfair Wentworth Stakes at 13:30 as a punting heat.
The obvious one in here is Brando, who was an inch away from his second Group 1 success at Ascot time, and he actually gets weight from his main form rivals Dakota Gold and Ostilio, the latter making his debut for Paul Midgely here after fetching 90,000gns at the sales last month.
And not only does he get weight from that pair, both of those like to go forward too, which may not be ideal here for the in-form duo - four others in here like to press the pace - and the race could set up very well tactically for the held-up Brando.
Okay, he may not have the most consistent profile, but I thought 3/1 about him was very fair.
I am inclined to look elsewhere though, and it is Gulliver who actually may give him most to do at these weights if you believe the official handicapper, as he is now rated 109 after his impressive handicap success last time.
But I really like the look of the Irish raider Son Of Rest, who is also a hold-up performer who should get the pace scenario he relishes.
He has clearly had his problems since dead-heating for the Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 101 in September 2018, as this is just his fifth start since.
But he has had two recent outings since returning from a 17-month break in September and he shaped much better at the Curragh last time, despite being poorly drawn and positioned on the track throughout, towards the centre.
He was last in the early stages but he stuck on well enough to finish fifth in that Listed contest once switched inside, and I reckon we could see a much sharper version of him here given his lightly-raced, recent profile.
He won that Ayr race on the back of two runs in the proceeding six weeks - he was rated 111 after that, which puts him bang in the form mix - and that is the case again here, and the fact that Fozzy Stack is coming over to England with him is a sign of intent.
He is 4 from 22 in the UK since 2016, and one from four this season, with 28/1 chance Lady Wannabe winning a Newmarket Group 3 under Jamie Spencer last month.
Spencer is booked again here and he has a long association with the yard, going back to 1998 when he won the Irish 1,000 Guineas for Tommy Stack on Tarascon in 1998. Let us hope it is another successful one.
Royal the pick of the small field affairs but no tip
Aintree has a great card full of competitive handicaps but unfortunately ITV have chosen to broadcast just the one race and that is the six-runner 2m4f conditions hurdle at 14:40.
It is a decent enough contest and the top four in the betting all have fair (and pretty equal) claims - Ch'tibello would just about shade it for me at these weights, for what it is worth - but it is not at all punter-friendly to these eyes.
Over to the four ITV races at Wincanton, which has a high-class six-runner hurdle of its own and just three competing in the novices' chase.
I really do have no idea why the latter class of races are scheduled on the channel, as they regularly fail to deliver in the numbers and interest stakes.
Mind you, the short-priced Sceau Royal, winner of this race in 2016, could take a lot of whacking in the Elite Hurdle at 15:00, but I rarely play at even money in horse racing - though I would side with him in a coin-toss here - so let's focus on the two handicaps.
Fleur can go in at a big price again
First up is the 14-runner mares' handicap hurdle, and I imagine Paul Nicholls will be very keen to win a race run in honour of Ditcheat legend Richard Barber (the trainer had the beaten favourite last season). And he has two lively contenders in Cill Anna and Eglantine Du Seuil.
The one I am willing to chance is Fleur Irlandaise at 26.025/1 or bigger, though. I think this decent ground is important to her.
She has yet to add to her stunning 100/1 defeat of Thursday's Newbury winner Morning Vicar at Kempton over 2m5f on good ground last season - the time of the race confirmed it was no fluke - but she wasn't beaten far in a Grade 2 over 2m at Doncaster earlier in the year and a mark of 130 looks very workable if she returns to her best.
There were signs of that at Market Rasen last time, a race in which she probably sat too far off the pace and found herself even more detached rounding the bend, before plugging on late. Timeform had the ground as good to soft there, as opposed to the official good.
That hopefully would have brought her on fitness-wise, following on from two Flat runs in September, and the marked aspect of her best performances to date - at Kempton and Doncaster - has been how well she has travelled.
If she can sit handier to the pace here on what could be getting on for fast ground, and quicken like she did at Kempton, then a mark of 130 underestimates her ability and she has much better claims than 25/1+ suggests.
The small stable got a couple of jumps wins into chaser Captain Speaking in September, and had a 20/1 second on the Kempton all-weather on Wednesday night. They have had four runners at Wincanton, and three have been placed.
Back her at 26.025/1 or bigger on the exchange at 13:50.
Last chance saloon for Cobra
The Badger Beers sees Present Man going for a third win in the race in the last four years, having been pulled up on good to soft ground last season.
He will get his favoured good (or maybe quicker) ground here as the forecast is set fair, and he is only 2lb higher than when winning on his return at Chepstow, so he deserves his place at or near the head of the market, for all he is the old man of the party and he has to give 24lb and six years to a progressive horse like Kitty's Light, for example.
However, at the risk of severe ridicule, I am going to serve Cobra De Mai in the last-chance saloon and back him at 19.018/1 or bigger in this 3m1f handicap chase at 15:35.
In the immediate aftermath of his Cheltenham run last time, I vowed to give him the heave-ho once and for all, but he was given a bit of a brain-dead ride there.
One of the last horses you want to go toe-to-toe with on the front end at Cheltenham is Frodon, but that is what Harry Skelton did and the horse's jumping fell apart on ground that was softening all the time (and was officially soft just two races later).
The rain was probably responsible for his market weakness near the off too - or maybe someone got wind of the forthcoming tactics! - having been so strong in the betting for the previous 24 hours or so.
So I think his pulled-up effort is just about excusable and he is now 15lb lower than for his peak mark (he was dropped another 2lb for that run last time) and is guaranteed to get his favoured good or quick ground here.
And if the first-time blinkers sharpen up his fencing - and Dan Skelton is a very acceptable five from 25 with this option in recent years - then he could just reward the seemingly blind faith from this quarter.
My hard hat is at the ready.
If you have given up on him - and he ran badly in this race last season as a 50/1 chance, and he is certainly a win-only bet - then Potterman at a double-figure price would be my alternative recommendation as he shaped very well on his return at Chepstow.
Son Of Rest at 12/1 each-way, four places, in 13:30 at Doncaster
Fleur Irlandaise at 26.025/1 or bigger in 13:50 at Wincanton
On To Victory at 10/1 each-way, six places, in 15:15 at Doncaster
Cobra De Mai at 19.018/1 or bigger in 15:35 at Wincanton