It's a bit of an odd weekend for me, as the ITV races are dominated largely by conditions races and I still fancy a few - and a couple are fairly-priced favourites, as well. And a big positive is that we know what the ground will be like, namely as soft as a tee-totaller's drink.
Midterm a nearly bet after a price plunge
The early 4/1 in the marketplace about Midterm in Newbury's opener at 13:50 has disappeared and it is easy to see why.
He has been a bit of a nearly-horse so far - though that may be a touch harsh on him, as he has been the victim of his illustrious pedigree to a large degree, and he did fracture his pelvis in the Dante last season - but I sense we could see a career-best from him here, and he has only 2lb to find on official figures with the form horses.
One of the reasons is that I think, or rather hope, that Ryan Moore goes from the front on him here, as there doesn't look to be any other obvious pace angles in the race and Midterm probably ran his best race to date when forcing tactics were adopted in the Prix Niel last season.
Connections have stuck a visor on him to stop him racing lazily as he did on his return here in the John Porter - Sir Michael Stoute is 22 from 141 when trying his horses in a first-time visor in the last 10 years - and I can see him being hard to pass if he does go from the front again.
That Newbury reappearance run hinted that the race was needed more than the betting suggested, and at one point he looked booked for last there before staying on again under hands and heels riding to finish fifth.
This is the softest ground he has raced on, but both of his wins have come on good to soft, and that is promising as to his chances of coping with what the going stick suggested on Friday morning may be verging on heavy ground, especially if the unsettled forecast in the 24 hours brings with it more showers. Two of his dam's Group 1 wins came on soft.
It's an exceptionally strong Group 3 though, with a couple of 1m2f Group 1 winners represented in My Dream Boat and Hawkbill - for all that they are yet to prove themselves as effective over 1m4f - and I wouldn't rule out the outsider To Be Wild either, as the Newcastle all-weather surface was put forward as a reason for his below-par effort last time and he did look all over a Group horse when winning at Doncaster last autumn. He is bordering on backable at 25/1.
So is Midterm a bet at around 10/3, especially when you consider we haven't even mentioned the favourite, his stablemate Across The Stars, yet? The answer, on balance, is no. Just.
Big, strong Visionary can pass this test
The 6f conditions race at 14:20 is normally the kind of race that I wouldn't touch with a bargepole. There is precious little between most of the field on official figures, but I nearly made an exception for Visionary at around 13/2.
He posted an improved performance (in a very good time) at Lingfield on Good Friday, has won on good to soft and is apparently a big, strong horse for whom testing conditions are not expected to be an issue.
In fact, I will make an exception, as, if he continues the rate of progress we saw at Lingfield when second to a very good horse, and does handle the ground, then he will go close to winning. Back him at [7.6] or bigger, for all this a very closely-knit race.
Century Dream can land another one for the favs
I rarely tip favourites - though our two winners last Saturday both went off as well-backed jollies (good job my P&L isn't settled at Betfair SP, and not my guide prices, eh?) - and Century Dream does come with negatives in the 14:55.
He is unproven on soft ground, his stable have been uncommonly quiet this season and are only operating at a 13 per cent strike rate, and he pulled his chance away at Sandown last time.
But it was the Sandown run that highlighted his claims here, as he tugged far too hard for the first half of that race and was still there with every chance in the furlong.
I think you have to mark the run up in the circumstances - I'm no fan of that phrase, but it does the job - and indeed the handicapper has upped him 1lb for his two-length third.
His Nottingham maiden win on good to soft in a good time last season has worked out very well - the second hasn't run since, the third has won his two subsequent starts, and the fourth is now rated 82 after winning his maiden - and he looks better than his current mark of 87.
There is plenty of pace in here to help him settle better, and he still holds a King Edward VII entry at Royal Ascot. He could prove a class apart from these and warrants a tickle at [6.6] or bigger. Betfair Sportsbook were 6/1 about him when I filed this, so that is obviously tempting, too, if the price is still there.
And Ribchester should oblige in the Lockinge
I do think the 2/1 favourite Ribchester will take all the beating in the Lockinge at 15:30 - he is the best horse on what we know, and very testing ground appears to hold no fears for him - but I can't see a bet in the race.
Lightning Spear each-way at 5/1 (if you can get it) came the closest to getting the nod - he has soft-ground form in the Queen Anne and was given hold-up shockers in three Group 1 races last season - as I think he will win a prize at the highest level this season if ridden closer to the pace. He deserves a ride to underline his talent, but this may not be it.
I can leave the race alone.
Back Britain to bash the bookies
I was also going to give a miss to Newmarket's 14:05 until I saw Grey Britain was a 14/1 chance, which is available with the Betfair Sportsbook among others.
He clearly faces far less exposed and sexier horses here, and all his good recent form has come on fast ground and over 1m, but he has an excellent form and time chance on those handicap runs of late and he did finish fourth in a Mill Reef on the only occasion he has encountered ground softer than good.
The step up to 1m2f is an unknown, but he is a half-brother to two winners at the distance and his run-style also suggests it is well worth a try.
Two to back in Newmarket handicap
I don't have a punting opinion in the 14:40 but I am going in two-handed in the 6f handicap at 15:15.
It is a rare for a horse that so was obviously unlucky last time - not to go close to winning, at the very least - to be installed as the outsider of the party but that is what most bookmakers did when initially pricing up Kreb's Cycle at 20/1.
That price has all but disappeared in the marketplace but he is well worth a punt at [18.0] or better still.
He was having his first start for a new stable at Chester, and his first since being gelded too, and he was one of the many hard-luck stories of the week when getting no run up the straight after travelling well into the race.
Granted, he is 2lb out of the handicap here but, as a heavy-ground winner for Richard Hannon, it can rain as much as it likes for him.
The same is apparently also true of Holmeswood, and a look at his breeding tells you why. He is by the heavy-ground July Cup winner Mayson and his dam ran one of her better efforts when second in a soft-ground Flying Childers.
He shaped very well, despite pulling hard early, when third at Doncaster in April and first-time cheekpieces can help him settle better. If they do, and he takes after Mum and Dad, he is well worth a saver at [7.0] or bigger on the exchange, and/or at 6/1 with the Sportsbook.
Back Grey Britain at [15.0] or bigger in 14:05 at Newmarket
Back Visionary at [7.6] or bigger in 14:20 at Newbury
Back Century Dream at [6.6] or bigger in the 14:55 at Newbury
Back Kreb's Cycle at [18.0] or bigger in 15:15 at Newmarket
Back Holmeswood at [7.0] or bigger in 15:15 at Newmarket