The top class racing continues at Kempton on Sunday and we also have the Welsh National at Chepstow. Tony Calvin gives his insight and tips on a fascinating day...
"Back in trip and with forcing tactics surely assured on this sharper track, and having been dropped 2lb for Newbury, I think everything in his place for a huge run here."
I hope all of those who mocked and sneered at Nicky Henderson for withdrawing Altior from the Betfair Tingle Creek - some of the criticism, mostly centering around his use of the term "welfare", was a touch pathetic - have finally got it out of their systems now (the digs were even still flying when Santini was supplemented for the King George on Monday), as the star 2m chaser returns in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase at 14:30.
When discussing his intended reappearance at Sandown on the Friday morning Racing Only Bettor Podcast, I said I detected some "trepidation" in the Henderson ranks about Altior's return - I was reading between the lines, so maybe that was guff on my part, too - and potential odds-on backers have a tricky decision to make here.
A quick word on the weather before that, though. The weather for Kempton is wet and very windy from Saturday night into Sunday (maybe 10mm+, which could turn it soft), so fingers crossed some of the gusts are not as punchy and damaging as some are forecasting.
Henderson stars can be left alone, or even opposed
Altior's task has been made a lot easier by the necessary withdrawal of the dangerous Irish pair of Put The Kettle On and Sizing Pottsie, but we are dealing with a horse who will be 11 next week and one for whom connections are clearly minding to an extent these days.
And we haven't seen him since the Game Spirit last February, the horse having missed Cheltenham with an injury.
He should just about be taking care of these if anywhere near his best but he has just 3lb in hand of Sceau Royal at these weights - and 6lb when it comes to Rouge Vif and Duc Des Genievres - and I'd probably be more against, than with, him at 4/6, facing those race-fit rivals.
But it is not a race that I will be getting financially involved in, and the same applies to the four-runner novices' chase at 13:20 a race in which Shishkin is another Henderson odds-on poke.
Yes, the Supreme winner looked great when he won here on his chasing debut but it was a case of "after you Claude" with his main market rival and runner-up Mick Pastor not being given a hard time, as they say, and we will learn a lot more about his Arkle claims (for which he already trades at around 5/4 on the exchange) here.
I can most definitely let him go unbacked at around 2/7 on the exchange against three decent rivals, thank you very much.
Tricky day so these races are left alone too
There are a lot of in-form horses in the mares' 3m handicap hurdle at 13:55 and the four last-time-out winners predictably dominate the market.
But I liked the claims of Coded Message and Danse Idol, first and third in this race last year and both returning to hurdles having been running badly over fences, far more at the prices. They are 20/1 and 14/1 respectively with the Betfair Sportsbook.
However, I concluded that I was looking for a bet largely based on the fact that I found Sunday a very tricky punting day, so I had a word with myself and moved on. Especially as I was also coming round to Hotter Than Hell by the end of the race study!
The same comments apply to the 3m handicap chase at 15:05 a race in which I toyed with course favourites Double Shuffle and Adrien Du Point, but they both have to step up their game considerably from their decidedly modest reappearance runs.
Hang on In There in Kempton finale
I would have liked to have seen the 2m handicap hurdle at 15:40 on the box myself, not least because we would have got some prices on the race a lot earlier (especially with the 24-hour declarations turnaround, which were understandable here).
But it is the best betting race on the card for me.
It is a race which has fond memories for me after backing and tipping Eddiemaurice to win in it in 2018, and being on course to cheer it home. Matters got even more cheerier in the sponsors 32Red's box (i.e. free bar) afterwards.
That horse finished third last year and has probably been teed up for another shot again after his Ascot reappearance - he was dropped a generous 3lb for it, too - and he is a definite runner again here. In fact, he has run in the last four renewals of this contest and his form figures read 5213 (and he was beaten only 1½ lengths when fifth).
The horse I have kept on my radar, if not on my non-existent tracker, since his Newbury run last time was Hang In There. I thought he was going to run in the Betfair Exchange Trophy hurdle won by Not So Sleepy last time, but connections decided to wait for this easier assignment.
I hope that doesn't mean he has had a problem (he is part-owned by Andrew Gemmell, who obviously also had Paisley Park win on that Ascot card, so I thought that race was an obvious port of call), but he has an excellent chance here if everything is hunky dory with him. And we have to assume it is.
I had a good go on him at Newbury last time and perhaps he was never going to be seen at his best over an extended 2m4f, but tactically they got it wrong there.
The horse can be very keen but they tried to restrain him in what was a slowly-run race, and it didn't work, as he pulled too hard again. He should have been allowed to stride on sooner. He still ran a good race there before his stamina ebbed away from 2 out.
Back in trip and with forcing tactics surely assured on this sharper track, and having been dropped 2lb for Newbury, I think everything in his place for a huge run here.
A mark of 134 surely underestimates him on his Cheltenham Grade 2 victory last season (and he was also running a big race when coming down 2 out in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon), and I hope Tom Bellamy goes on here from the start (two or three have gone forward in the past, notably Sternrubin, but I don't see too many pace rivals).
The opening 6/1 in the marketplace, with each-way angles attached, was too big and went. So I am happy to go with the win-only angle on the exchange.
He is a bet at 6.411/2 or bigger - he is the clear bet of the day for me, and I would back him at 4/1+ each-way with extra places, too - and I will probably end up having a small saver on my old mucker Eddiemaurice, too.
In fact, on a betting quiet day I am going to recommend an interest on him at 15.014/1 or bigger, too. I imagine you will get 16/1+.
The Two Amigos could relish Welsh National slog
You get the impression that Chepstow are determined to race come what may, and I did chuckle to myself when they said the course took the 65mm - yes, 65mm !! - that fell on Tuesday "exceptionally well."
Jesus, that place can absorb water the way I can Christmas gin.
The track's powers of recovery may be tested again from Saturday night onwards as another 15mm-20mm is expected via Storm Bella. Saturation point can't be far away, and an inspection has now been called for 7:45am on Sunday morning.
I don't have a clue as to which horses will handle this level slog of it goes ahead - it was already heavy before they got 30mm on Monday before that 65mm - but it is probably no negative to be carrying a light weight in the Welsh National at 14:50.
The favourite Secret Reprieve has a mere 10st 1lb and he just happens to be 8lb well-in here under a 4lb penalty after his 12-length stroll in the trial here last month.
He has an outstanding chance as a fast-progressing 6yo with just five chase starts under his belt, but should we be backing him at around 4/1 on the exchange?
It would be the easiest answer in the world to say yes, but he did fall in atrocious conditions at Haydock last month, so he is not bomb-proof on that front, and people get blasé about horses going up in trip. He looks a dour stayer all right, but he is going up over 6f in trip and it is no gimme whatsoever he lasts home.
I am going to chuck a few quid on the horse he beat 12 lengths last time, and that is The Two Amigos at 10/1 each-way, six places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
The case for him is straightforward. He ran well from the front when fifth in this race last season, shaped well when second over that extended 2m7f here last time, and we know a slog over a marathon trip in bad ground are his bag.
He has won a Sussex National over 3m4f and over an extended 3m6f at Exeter, and this dual heavy ground-winner will surely run his race. He may be undone by a better handicapped rival but I suspect the ability to handle conditions will be more crucial than pounds and ounces here.
I am going to end my Chepstow betting involvement there as it is obviously going to basically be un-raceable even if they get the green light - fingers crossed they get the lower end of the scale as regards the rain forecast - and we could get some very odd results.
No further tips at Chepstow
Aso at around 5/1 in the 2m3f handicap chase at 13:05 was a fair enough price though - an extra runner in this seven-strong field may have even see me put him up each-way - but, then again, his career-best performances hardly suggests he wants it this bad (though he actually has a fair record on heavy).
There are only seven in the handicap hurdle at 14:15 but if you are inclined to have a bet then old slugger Clyne has his conditions and comes here on the back of a good second at Haydock last week. The fact that he went up 2lb and had a very hard race there just put me off at around the 7/1 mark, though.
The Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at 13:40 has cut up a fair bit class-wise at the overnight stage and, boy, are these youngsters going to know they have had a race in this ground.
Paul Nicholls' French recruit Houx Gris has won on heavy and is the 6/4 favourite but that makes no appeal to me.
Maybe the way the Tom Symonds horses have been running this season warrants an each-way bet on his own French purchase, the filly Marta Des Mottes, but I couldn't get overly-enthused by a price of around 9/2.
Good luck on what I thought was a very tough punting day. As you may have gathered!