Tony Calvin returns with a detailed look at the Saturday cards at Doncaster and Cheltenham, where his main betting fancy is available at a 'huge' 20/1...
"Federici's price has come crashing down, with Thursday's 16/1 now a distant memory... So what to do? I am going to put him up at [13.0] or bigger as I really do think he has plenty going for him."
My Doncaster dilemma
Doncaster's field sizes have been pretty badly hit with the dry spell, even though the course was still watering on Thursday and have put on 40mm since January 15.
There are three ITV races on the card, but the only one that interests me is the SkyBet Chase at 15:15 and I have been left with a dilemma there, too.
Federici was 33/1 when he first came on my radar for the race on Monday, he was into 22/1 when I did my ante-post piece the following day, when an alternative entry at Fakenham on Thursday and trainer Donald McCain saying on Twitter that his participation this weekend was dependent on the ground led me to keep my tipping powder dry.
I took that McCain comment to mean that rain was needed for him to run - even though he has plenty of form on good ground - so I decided to hold fire.
Ever since, Federici's price has come crashing down, with Thursday's 16/1 now a distant memory and Friday afternoon's 14/1 in a place soon to disappear, too, I imagine.
So what to do about Federici?
I normally walk away in these circumstances, sulking, but I am going to put him up at [13.0] or bigger - and he is also 12/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook - as I really do think he has plenty going for him.
As I mentioned, he does have a fair bit of form on good, including two victories, so I am not particularly bothered by the ground. I accept that a bit more ease would have been ideal, as two of his better, more recent, runs have come on soft.
Most pertinently, one of those came in this race last season, when beaten under three lengths into fifth off a 1lb higher mark than this in first-time blinkers.
He ran a screamer there, still leading at the second-last and trading as low as 5/2 in running before getting a bit swamped after the final fence.
He was ridden more conservatively when 4lb out of the handicap in the Becher on his reappearance, so shaped very well in the circumstances, and it is interesting that the blinkers once again replace the cheekpieces that he wore at Aintree.
Indeed, his two best recent efforts have come when wearing blinkers, including a third at Ludlow on good to soft after his run here last season, so I think we can expect Brian Hughes to ride him a lot more prominently.
His jockey may have to be sensible with other pace-setters like Go Conquer and the favourite Dingo Dollar in here - and at least three others have also made it in recent outings - but the excellent Hughes knows what he is doing.
Like, I said nothing excites me in the other small-field ITV contests on the Doncaster card, so let's head over to Cheltenham Festival Trials Day.
Improving horse is so not under-priced
I am not going to mess around here, so straight to my main betting fancy on the card in the form of Not That Fuisse at a huge [21.0] or bigger in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at 15:00.
I admit to snaffling some 20/1 each way, three places, earlier in the week, but I am more than happy to press up win-only at the same price now the field has cut up, numbers-wise at least. He should be at least half those odds.
I know Birchdale looked very good in beating a subsequent winner at Warwick in December, and that Jarveys Plate and Olly Murphy's Brewin'Upastorm are rated a lot higher than the selection, but none of that trio particularly scare me. Or, rather, interest me at their current prices.
I thought the course-and-distance race that Jarveys Plate won, admittedly impressively, last time rather fell apart a bit and a 5lb penalty for that success is troublesome for him (though his earlier form over 2m1f is admittedly very solid), while the well-touted Challow fourth Brewin'Upastorm looks under-priced to me.
Not That Fuisse is certainly not under-price, and I really like his profile.
Yes, he was getting 13lb when beating Style De Garde (second in last year's Fred Winter) by one-and-a-quarter lengths in a 2m3f Taunton handicap last time, so you can't rate the form too highly, but I loved the way he travelled throughout the race and put it to bed after the last.
That was his first attempt beyond 2m1f, and he had previously been crying out for a test of stamina.
He rattled home when sixth in the Greatwood, and could have been meeting a very good horse indeed when again staying on all too late behind Al Dancer here, albeit at a very respectful distance.
So we know he comes into this race as an improving horse, he acts well at the track, and is unexposed and open to a lot more improvement at the trip as he steps up another furlong or so on a stiffer track.
Connections think decent ground is the key to him, so hopefully what rain is forecast from Saturday afternoon onwards (and it is only about 3mm) comes after 3pm.
He has a lot more going for him than his price suggests, and the ever in-form Dan Skelton yard have been operating at a 27% strike-rate in the past fortnight, going into Friday's racing.
On to Cheltenham
Not all of the Cheltenham races are on ITV, but I may as well attack them in chronological order. The juvenile hurdle at 12:40 sees Finale runner-up Adjali head the market but he carries a 5lb penalty and meets some other good winners, a couple of Joseph O'Brien "raiders", and a couple of likely sorts purchased by top stables from France.
The race looks something of a minefield to me, and I can leave well alone.
Ballyhill looks a solid option
Nothing screams out at me at the prices in the next, but I think there is some betting mileage in Ballyhill at [8.6] or bigger in the 13:45.
He went up a punchy 10lb for his Aintree win in December, and the runner-up did little for the form next time, but Ballyhill himself ran an excellent race off his revised mark when third to Aso here last time (the runner-up, Happy Diva, won a valuable pot at Huntingdon on Friday afternoon).
That was the latest in a string of good efforts by him at this track, and he just looks a very solid option, with the ground ideal for him.
He may not have many secrets from the handicapper now after that Aintree win, but he should be on the premises if running his race, and 8/1+ is a very fair price.
The Cotswold Chase looks a very trappy little race to me, with doubts of sorts surrounding all of the field, and it leaves me cold as a betting medium. The same is pretty much true of the Cleeve Hurdle, where I am already on the back foot after an ante-post interest on no-show Sykes.
It woudn't surprise me if any 10 of the 12 won the race, and I am certainly not drawn in by the market leaders Paisley Park, Black Op and Midnight Shadow at the prices - maybe I would prefer the latter of that trio, if pushed - so I am happy to leave the race well alone now. I've done my money and I am not inclined to chase it.
Rounding off with a bet on Champagne City
I was going to leave it there until I saw Champagne City (pictured) trading at a double-figure price in the last at 16:10.
Back him at 10/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
He has a similar profile to Ballyhill, in that there could well be better handicapped horses in here - Benny's Bridge is the most obvious of those, despite being 1lb out of the weights - but he tends to reserve his best efforts for Cheltenham, and that could count for a lot.
He has finished third in his three starts at this track, most recently when filling the places behind Al Dancer and Not That Fuisse over course and distance in December.
The assessor refused to drop him for that run, but hopefully that turns out to be very strong handicap form, and that was his first outing since July too, and we know track and ground are ideal.
Touch wood, he will be hard to kick out of the first four, at the very least.
Best of luck.
Ballyhill at [8.6] or bigger in 13:45 at Cheltenham
Not That Fuisse at [21.0] or bigger in 15:00 at Cheltenham
Federici at [13.0] or bigger in 15:15 at Doncaster
Champagne City at 10/1 each way, four places, in 16:10 at Cheltenham