There is plenty of top quality action on Channel 4 on Saturday and Tony Calvin is here with his regular look at the key races and best bets, revealing that he remains very keen on his midweek antepost tip...
"Now 3lb lower - and that was his first run for 10 weeks after a seasonal reappearance in Ireland - I can see him running a massive race, particularly if his jockey can get him into a nice rhythm, hopefully on the inner, towards the head of the race."
Even keener on Opening Batsman
If you haven't already played in the 15:35 at Kempton then I have no hesitation in suggesting you back Opening Batsman at 20/1 each way on the Sportsbook, or at 21.020/1 or bigger on the Exchange.
That was pretty much the recommendation in my ante-post column on Tuesday but I have warmed to his chances more as the rain has stayed away all week.
Basically, although he has plenty of winning form on soft ground, I am certain that the horse needs good ground to have a winning chance when racing over 3m, as that is the upper limit of his stamina range - and he looks set to get that tomorrow.
If I'm being honest I would have preferred Noel Fehily to be riding him rather than stablemate Thomas Brown - 7lb claimer Liam McKenna has proved his worth on Unowhatimeanharry this season, but there is the possibility of him putting up a 1lb or so overweight here - but other than that I think he has an awful lot going for him for a 20/1 chance, even in a race as competitive as this.
He has been dropped 2lb for a poor run on ground he disliked here last time, and that puts him on the same mark as when winning this race under an excellent ride from Fehily three years ago.
He returned to that level of form when winning twice at the end of last season, but the real eye-catching recent performance for me was his fifth here over course and distance on his penultimate start, when he looked like bolting up when bounding clear early in the straight - he traded at 1.42/5 - before dropping away quickly from two out after racing wide for most of the way.
Now 3lb lower - and that was his first run for 10 weeks after a seasonal reappearance in Ireland - I can see him running a massive race, particularly if his jockey can get him into a nice rhythm, hopefully on the inner, towards the head of the race.
As you expect, you can make a case out for any of the 16-strong field - watch out for non-runners if you are playing each-way on the Sportsbook - and the most obvious are the likes of Champagne West, Ziga Boy and Theatre Guide, but Opening Batsman looks the stand-out win and place play to me.
Small fields are the order of the day elsewhere at Kempton
Gibralfaro will be favourite in the Adonis at 14:00, given the form of his Ascot win has been franked since. But whether he should be rated 151 is questionable and there are obviously potential improvers in here, not to mention the pair of Paul Nicholls' hurdling debutants from France.
I think Wolfcatcher could improve a good deal given this better ground, but not enough to part with my cash.
The Dovecote at 15:05 is a similarly interesting contest, with Welsh Shadow also expected to enjoy decent ground, but it has no bet written all over it.
Twelve Roses to flower
I am going to suggest a small-stakes bet on Twelve Roses though, as I have been waiting for connections to run him over this sort of trip on decent ground for a while. Back him at 8.415/2 or better in the 14:35.
I am inclined to forgive him his last two pulled-up efforts at around 3m, and concentrate on the merit of his chasing debut success at Wetherby in October from Southfield Royale, who has gone to underline the merit of the form with two successes and a second in the Feltham.
I am not sure why he has been off since November - I am guessing waiting for the ground to turn - but he goes well when fresh anyway. And he has had his wind tweaked since his last run, too.
Positive update on Ballyculla
On Tuesday, I also put up Ballyculla in the Eider Chase at 12/1, and have seen and heard nothing since to put me off him, even if his price has contracted a fair bit.
Indeed, you will rarely get a more positive update from a trainer of a horse trading at odds-on for a race, let alone around the current 8/1 mark, than Ballyculla's trainer Warren Greatrex in his Oddschecker column:
"I've got to say I think we go there with a huge chance as Ballyculla goes into the race in great form and conditions will be ideal. We've deliberately kept him fresh for this after his Bangor win and we know he'll get the trip so he ticks a lot of boxes. I think he's a better horse than last year, he's much stronger, and he really ought to be very competitive off this sort of mark. He's got to have a great chance."
He still looks a fair price at around 8/1, but we will just stick to our ante-post play.
Another that takes my eye at Newcastle is Cape Caster at 11.010/1 or bigger in the 14:20.
The reasoning is very straightforward. The form of his fifth at Cheltenham last time has worked out very well, and he looks fairly treated off a 1lb higher mark with conditions to suit. The weights going up 10lb at the overnight stage mean he is now in the handicap proper, too.
A watching brief at Lingfield
The uplift in the class and quality of all-weather action is amply illustrated by the two Lingfield races on C4.
Eight of the 10 runners in the 5f listed sprint at 13:45 are rated 100 or above (the other two are on 97), and all of the 10 runners the Winter Derby at 15:20 are rated 100 and above. That is some talent on show.
Muthmir is the favourite in the sprint and probably justifiably so, but he does carry a 7lb penalty - for his Group 2 head defeat of Take Cover at Goodwood in July - is unproven on the track and we are guessing on his level of fitness. And a draw in one could also prove troublesome if he doesn't ping the gates.
I am a big fan of the horse but he looks opposable at the prices, but picking one against him - as the ratings suggest, you can make a case for a number of these, particularly those with proven fitness on their side and form on the surface - is a touch problematical.
I was going to take a chance on Take Cover, who has run well on his only start on the track (over 6f), as this speedster could be a sight to see blasting off over 5f here. But, while being drawn 10 of 10, isn't insurmountable, it clearly isn't a positive, especially with at least two other confirmed front-runners in the race. No bet.
The Winter Derby is equally trappy, with recent course and distance 1-2, Grendisar and Festive Fare, heading the market.
I'd be inclined to take that pair on and have the field running for me at odds-against, if possible. But that is not really the MO of this column and, as with the sprint, you can pretty much pick any of the remainder as winning alternatives.
Maverick Wave looks to be the sole pace angle in the race - not that envisaged pre-race tactics always go to plan - and he is interesting on that basis alone, and you have to love a horse like Fire Fighting, who looks sure to be coming home strong late on given his form over further.
And then you have the unknown in the pack, Furia Cruzada, a dual Grade 1 winner in Argentina making her debut for John Gosden.
So I'm happy to leave the all-weather action alone this week. Good luck.
Back Cape Caster at 11.010/1 in the 14:20 at Newcastle
Back Twelve Roses at 8.415/2 in the 14:35 at Kempton
Back Opening Batsman at 21.020/1 or bigger in the 15:35 at Kempton
Back Opening Batsman at 20/1 each way in the 15:35 at Kempton (Sportsbook)
Back Ballyculla at 13.012/1 in the Eider Chase