Tony Calvin explains why he can't resist backing two runners at long odds at Sandown on Saturday afternoon and why he just has to have a bet on the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday.
"Fourth Act's price underplays his chances of following up his Fontwell win in this valuable contest and it was heartening to see his trainer Colin Tizzard have a treble at Wincanton on Thursday after a January that saw him have just four winners. Hopefully, a corner has been turned."
I didn't have any intention to side with Fourth Act in Sandown's 2m7f handicap hurdle at 15:00 when I started looking at the race on Tuesday but I am driven solely by price and no way was I expecting him to be available at 25/1 after the declarations were finalised on Thursday morning. So back him at [23.0] win and [5.0] place, or bigger, in the 100k race.
Harry Cobden was quick to the point to say he believed the wind op that Fourth Act had before Fontwell was key to his returning to winning form there - it "definitely worked" - and hopefully that will have been the case going forwards and he can progress again.
It is also worth remembering that his 2m5f hurdles win came off a 19lb lower mark than his peak chase level of 2016, and a subsequent 6lb rise still leaves him attractively weighted.
He wasn't visually impressive when winning that Fontwell race on bad ground and this is another level in terms of competitiveness and class, but the runner-up Theo's Charm was fairly handicapped going into that race, and the winning time was good.
The extra 2f or so here, on soft ground, should obviously be no problem at all for a horse whose best chase form came over 3m4f.
I just think his price, to a fair degree, underplays his chances of following up in this valuable contest and it was heartening to see his trainer Colin Tizzard have a treble at Wincanton on Thursday after a January that saw him have just four winners at a strike rate of just eight per cent. Hopefully, a corner has been turned.
I have no argument at all with Topofthegame and Melrose Boy heading the market, and preference would be the former. He is a winning pointer and shaped as if this test would suit when staying on into fourth over 2m5f in the Lanzarote last time. He has a similar profile to the trainer's Beshabar, who won this in 2010 after cutting short a novice chase campaign after just one run over fences.
Melrose Boy was beaten at odds-on at Newbury before winning easily at heavy odds-on last time, but the form of that race is turning out to be very smart, with the winner obliging in a Grade 2 at Warwick and the fourth and fifth having also run good seconds in defeat since. A mark of 135 could underplay his strengths.
Man of Plenty can outrun his massive odds
It is easy to see the case for King Of Fashion on his first start for Kerry Lee and more exposed, though arguably more solid, propositions include Man Of Plenty and, once again, the price has lured me into a bet on this one and I recommend you look to play at [34.0] and [6.0], or bigger, win and place on the exchange.
His recent good efforts have been over a lot shorter - he finished fifth in the old Ladbroke at Ascot over 2m and fourth to Jenkins over an extended 2m3f last time - but it could be that a return to further will see him shake off the seeming shackles of the handicapper.
He hasn't raced over this kind of trip since finishing a good third over 3m at Musselburgh on New Year's Day last year and, with Sean Houlihan's claim taking his racing weight down to 9st 9lb, I can see him outrunning his massive odds.
A few quid on Loose Chips
Earlier on in the card I don't have any betting interest in the Contenders Hurdle or the Scilly Isles Novice Chase - or indeed the Towton, an RSA trial, at Wetherby, as those three races have really cut up - but I have to throw a few quid at Loose Chips in the 15:35, given the way the old boy went for a long way in the Veterans' Chase here last time.
He raced with a lot of zest and enthusiasm under today's 5lb claimer Paul O'Brien before giving best up the straight and I take a very positive view of the form. They were oldies but goodies.
He has been dropped another 1lb and he is now on the same mark as when second in this race last year. He loves it at this course - most of his best runs have come here, including two track and trip wins - and I am looking forward to seeing him bounce out and getting the youngsters at it.
Of course, there are plenty of dangers, not least stablemate Ballydine (who had the option of going for the Towton at Warwick) and if Shanroe Santos puts in an error-free round then he will be a force to be reckoned with.
But back the 12-year-old Loose Chips at [15.0] or better.
Nothing to float your boat at wet Musselburgh
Up at Musselburgh, the ground is currently good to soft, but there is rain forecast on Saturday, so it promises to be more testing than we are used to for this meeting (that said, it was soft last year).
Doubtless, this will annoy the connections of a few if it does turn soft, but it will still probably be better ground than they have been racing on anywhere for the past couple of months.
I thought Sir Chauvelin was still competitively handicapped despite going up 8lb for his defeat of Silver Concorde here last time, but he is one horse who definitely wouldn't want any more rain, and I struggled to see a bet in the Scottish County Hurdle, especially with so few taking up the challenge.
Same comments apply to the Edinburgh National at 15:15 where my two against the field would be Southfield Theatre and Bells 'N' Banjos. But there was nothing much in their prices that floated my boat.
Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea on Sunday...
The Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown is obviously where the class is at this weekend, and I am going to go outside my brief and make Djakadam a bet at [10.0] or bigger in the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday.
My logic is fairly straightforward. I think he is comfortably the best horse in the race at his best and I am willing to forgive him for two below-par efforts this season.
Actually, his reappearance second to Sizing John in a heavy-ground John Durkan wasn't at all a bad effort but, judging from his and the winner's effort here over Christmas, it bottomed the pair of them.
Hopefully, a break since would have sweetened him up, and the recent vibes seem positive enough, and if he returns to his best then I think he can put this field to the sword.
In fact, a reproduction of any of his four efforts last season, notably his short-head second to Sizing John in the Punchestown Gold Cup, could well be enough to see him in the winners' enclosure here and maybe in line for yet another pop at the main Gold Cup in March.
Fourth Act at [23.0] win and [5.0] place, or bigger, in 15:00 at Sandown.
Man Of Plenty at [34.0] and [6.0], or bigger, win and place in 15:00 at Sandown
Loose Chips at [15.0] or bigger in 15:35 at Sandown
Djakadam at [10.0] or bigger in the 15:35 at Leopardstown on Sunday