"It's all about the price in this game," says Tony Calvin as he selects his bets for this Saturday's Channel 4 races at Ascot and has a brief look at the Haydock card...
"It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Gassin Golf could break a series of near-misses here. He goes well when fresh, has solid handicap course form, goes in the ground and his stable is in good form. Back him at 26.025/1 or bigger.
"First class after-timing" was one of the more printable responses when I mentioned to someone on Monday morning that I had averaged 11.46 on Activial for the Ladbroke on Betfair's ante-post market. Hardly master trading I thought, and that was when the horse was still freely available - well, relatively anyway but we wont go there - at 8/1.
So heaven knows the abuse that will rain down on me for admitting to that when the horse is now just a 4/1 chance for the 15:30 at Ascot, which of course means that I have to now desert him here.
Don't get me wrong. I have no intention of laying my stake back for a free bet - though if you have played at the bigger prices that's always fair option in a near 100% book - as I think that he is much the likeliest winner.
But it's all about the price in this game, it's not just about tipping the obvious or the favourite for the short-term bragging rights.
Activial was a 10/1 chance this time last week, with 12s in a place, but after Rock On Ruby's Relkeel win his odds started to shorten. And haven't stopped since.
The reason for this is possibly rumours that Activial has been working all over that horse at home.
Granted, the former champion hurdler did little more than he was entitled to at Cheltenham but the fact remains that he is an in-form, 160-rated horse and Activial races here off 137, and Harry Fry tends to know what he has before he brings them to the track.
Indeed, he - along with Dan Skelton - are young trainers who seem to have a different MO to their former boss in that Paul Nicholls tends to learn and plan from the evidence of the racetrack, and not homework.
But you suspect that Fry and Skelton, particularly the former - perhaps with impressive strike rates in mind - do a lot more with their horses at home to see where they stand.
So I say it's a fair bet that Fry knows Activial is far better than 137 from what he has seen at home. Indeed, on his Kempton win, you can argue that mark is very workable anyway, and testing ground shouldn't be an issue. And perhaps he will even be Champion Hurdle bound if sluicing up here.
But he has surely hit his basement price now in such a competitive 19-runner handicap - I'd want 6s to get involved again - and I am always slightly wary when good homeworkers race first time up in what could become very testing and sticky ground indeed.
I think Baradari is overpriced at 18.017/1.
He was very disappointing at Cheltenham last time where he dropped away tamely but it could well be that he needs a lot more time between his races than was the case there.
That below par effort came only 15 days after an excellent third to Sign Of A Victory on good ground here last month - he actually races off a 1lb lower mark here - and he handles soft just as well. Freshened up since then, here is hope that he can be another big Saturday winner for Venetia Williams after Niceonefrankie's runaway win last weekend.
There are plenty of "likely" ones in here from the Pipe, Martin and Mullins stables but I like the more solid claims of Garde Le Victoire and Gassin Golf.
They may not be as unexposed as some in here but it is not out of the realms of possibility that Gassin Golf could break that series of near-misses here. He goes well when fresh, has solid handicap course form, goes in the ground and his stable is in good form. Back him at odds of 26.025/1 or bigger.
It's all very predictable but it is hard to quibble with any of the current prices for the five-runner Long Walk Hurdle at 14:25.
If Zarkandar is as good as he looked when winning at Auteuil - his first start after a summer breathing op -then Reve De Sivola will need a career-best to win this race for the third time in a row, as will all of the opposition in fact. But prices around the 11-8 mark more than reflect that.
It will be very interesting to see how low Polisky trades in-running if and when he looks like dotting up in the 15:00, as he has been backed at a remarkable 1.011/100, 1.021/50 and 1.031/33 in the run when second on his three chase starts here.
I suspect that he will find at least one too good for him today again - especially from out of the handicap - and many will have The Young Master marked down as that very horse.
He has gone up 14lb for not winning the Badger Ales by 7 lengths last time - it transpired he wasn't eligible for the race and was subsequently disqualified for those who have been out of the country for the past seven weeks - but he clearly has the profile of a very progressive horse who could still be feasibly treated.
This race does look very winnable but I am not overly-enthused by the price. No bet here.
I will be still be head-butting the wall if Bellenos has won the earlier handicap chase at 13:50, as I have had a decent bet on him on both his starts this season, only to see him fail to travel with any fluency or jump with the accuracy that were the hallmarks of his scintillating win at this meeting last season.
He is reluctantly passed over in favour of last year's winner Lancetto. The story with him is straightforward. He is only 4lb higher than when winning this race in the soft last season - and the cheekpieces that he wore that day are back on today - and really bumped into one when second to Croco Bay here last time.
He was beaten 19 lengths but, as he had the rest well beaten off, I think the handicapper has played fair by leaving him on the same mark.
He rates a bet at 6.05/1 or bigger. Ballygarvey is the one that I fear most of the opposition.
Over at Haydock, I liked the look Skelton's Toby Lerone in the Tommy Whittle at 14:05, but came up just shy of a recommendation.
The handicapper could have hit him harder than he did for winning by 20 lengths in a good time over 2m4f at Lingfield last Saturday, in first time blinkers, and off an 8lb higher mark he could make these all go if getting his own way out in front.
The quick turnaround and the step up to 3m is a concern in what are likely to be pretty filthy conditions - though he has form over the trip in the past - and they were enough to deter me.
The 14:40 is a tricky handicap hurdle. Slight preference is for Muckle Roe, but not enough to tempt me in.
Be lucky. Back on Boxing Day. Have a good one,
Back Baradari at 18.017/1 in the 15:30 at Ascot
Back Gassin Golf at odds of 25.024/1 or bigger in the 15:30 at Ascot
Back Lancetto at 6.05/1 in the 13:50 at Ascot