Tony Calvin is back with some big-priced tips for Saturday's racing across York and Ascot...
"The likes of Clever Cookie and Madame Chiang would come firmly into the reckoning if there is a sustained deluge but the horse I like win and place, regardless of the levels of rain, is The Corsican."
At the time of writing, I don't have any idea of what the ground will exactly be like at Ascot come race-time on Saturday but given the forecast for the next 24 hours - famous last words these - I am going to proceed on the basis on at least soft ground.
With probably a lot of heavy thrown in, too, even if the course (or rather the straight) will drain well if and when the rain finally stops.
And if it does turn out be on the very testing side, then, unfortunately, I expect non-runners in the King George at 15:50.
The likes of Snow Sky, Flintshire and Postponed would all ideally like fast ground and Eagle Top is unproven on anything worse than good, though the fact that he is by Pivotal gives him some hope on that score.
One or two of those could well be saved for another day.
And, whisper it quietly, if soft (or even worse) does appear in the title then maybe even the main man himself, Golden Horn, may not be risked, though his Nottingham maiden win over Storm The Stars did come on officially good to soft.
With a stallion career on the not-too-distant horizon, they wouldn't want to be taking any chances with their unbeaten superstar. But let's hope that he runs.
The likes of Clever Cookie and Madame Chiang will obviously come firmly into the reckoning if there continues to be a sustained deluge but the horse I like win and place, regardless of the levels of rain, is The Corsican. Heavy ground will be an unknown for him, though, but I am willing to take the risk at the price.
He rounded off last season with a win with cut in the ground off a mark of 93 at Doncaster and he has continued on that upward curve with an impressive listed race success at Goodwood before finishing an excellent fourth in the Prince Of Wales on his first foray into Group 1 company.
And, had he been ridden closer to the pace and enjoyed a clearer passage, then he could well have been a very respectable third at the Royal meeting.
So, the favourite aside, I give him as good a chance as any in this, especially as I think the step back up to 1m4f has been a long time coming for this progressive individual who finishes off his 1m2f races so strongly.
Back him to win and place at 26.025/1 and 4.57/2 respectively, but watch out for those non-runners.
For all the talent on show I can't get excited by the Princess Margaret Stakes at 14:05, and I will be kicking myself if Laidback Romeo wins the 14:40, as he was impressive last time, has course form and is proven with a bit of dig.
But I just prefer the chances of Azraff at the prices against some "sexier" types, and he rates a bet at 9.08/1.
I'm not sure why connections tried him in first-time blinkers last time - and they are left on here - but they didn't seem to do him any harm, even if that six-runner race probably didn't see him to best effect.
An earlier fourth in the red-hot London Gold Cup over 1m2f at Newbury certainly did - even if he flattened out a bit in the final furlong - but he also has plenty of form over shorter and in soft ground. So a strongly-run 1m with a bit of juice in the ground, and more cover, can see him step forward again.
I put up Brazos at 33-1 on Wednesday - the reasoning is here - and have no hesitation in adding to that tip with Suzi's Connoisseur at 17.016/1 in the 15:15.
He didn't quite land my each way bets at a big price when sixth at Newmarket last time but he was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths and I obviously saw more promise in the run than the handicapper, who has dropped him a generous 3lb.
He is now 4lb lower than when a good eighth in the Victoria Cup over track and trip in May, is tried in a first-time visor and crucially looks at home on any ground, having won in the heavy at Leicester last October. He has a soft-ground action, too.
Being drawn in one may not be ideal, as there isn't a lot of pace on that side, but there are plenty of fancied horses housed around him and hopefully Majestic Moon in four will give them a good tow into the race.
Over at York, the ground promises to be a lot better than at Ascot. And while fast ground possibly wouldn't be ideal for Prince Gibraltar, I fully expect him to outclass his rivals in the Sky Bet York Stakes at 14:55.
I rarely play at the top end of the market, and at around 4.57/2 I was going to make an exception. But then I stopped myself from tipping him, as I am going to wait until I see the ground come off-time.
A Group 1 winner at two, he went off the 2-1 favourite for the French Derby after winning the Greffulhe on his 3yo reappearance but met all kinds of trouble after being held up in the rear, finishing well on the outside to be beaten just over three lengths into third behind The Grey Gatsby. With a clear run he may well have bustled up the winner.
He hasn't recorded a win in his last six starts, but he was only beaten in a photo in the Grand Prix De Paris and under five lengths when seventh in the Arc - proper Group 1 form - and he could well be at his peak after coming back to near his best at Chantilly in late May.
He doesn't carry a penalty for his Group 1/2 wins here and it will be disappointing if he can't see off this opposition, though I admit I am a bit worried about fast ground and the jockey, though he didn't do anything wrong on the horse in the Arc.
So no bet for me - at this stage, anyway.
I toyed with putting up Abbey Angel against Chain Of Daisies in the opener at 13:45, but there isn't a great betting shape to the race.
There are definite prospects about Alejandro following up last year's win in the 7f contest at 14:20, though as the handicapper appears to have been very kind to him, too.
He ran too badly to be true when last of 16 here in May but has bounced back with two promising efforts over course and distance and at Haydock last time, where he was collared only in the final furlong after trying to make all, as per usual.
So what the handicapper is doing dropping him 4lb for those efforts - and that makes it 6lb since the start of the season - is slightly beyond me, and he can now race off a 4lb lower mark than when beating Alfred Hutchinson a neck in this race last year.
The problem is that there is plenty of other pace in here, but he is in his element over 7f on good or faster ground at this track - his last two starts came with a bit of cut, too - and he rates a small-stakes bet at 7.613/2 to see off the other pace-setters and make all.
Kimberella, Tanzeel and Willbeme head the list of most probable winners in the Dash at 15:30 - with preference for the latter - but I am more than happy to chuck a few quid at Encore D'Or at 15.014/1.
There is no real story to his chance here, other than the fact that I think he ran well when sixth at Newmarket last time and the handicapper has dropped him 1lb for it. That was his first start for six weeks, and there is more to come from this lightly-raced 3yo.
Back Alejandro at 7.613/2 in the 14:20 at York
Back Azraff at 9.08/1 in the 14:40 at Ascot
Back Suzi's Connoisseur at 17.016/1 in the 15:15 at Ascot
Back Encore D'Or at 15.014/1 in the 15:30 at York
Back The Corsican at 26.025/1 and 4.57/2 win and place in the 15:50 at Ascot
ALREADY RECOMMENDED (ante-post)
Back Brazos at 33-1 for the 15:15 at Ascot with Betfair Sportsbook