I am just going to focus on Saturday's Skybet Chase at Doncaster here - there may be another column from me tomorrow on the other weekend races at Donny and Cheltenham - as there has been an ante-post market on it for a while now, both fixed-odds and on the Exchange, so we can come at it from a reasonably informed starting point.
Just a bit of ground housekeeping first though.
Adequate grass cover at Doncaster has been an issue in recent seasons but apparently there is plenty of fresh ground in place for the two-day meeting on Friday-Saturday, and they will be starting on a decent surface by the looks of it.
It is currently good (good to soft) in places with yet another dry week in store, so one-trick mud-loving ponies need not apply.
In fact, the course say they haven't had any rain since January 11. But then, worryingly, they also reported that selective watering will take place this week in order to maintain the current going description.
Leave it alone folks, good will be grand - some of us can remember it being hard in the West Country - but I am sure they won't go overboard, either way. At least, I hope not.
It probably hasn't been the most actively-traded long-range market but, prior to Monday's five-day entries, there were 37 in the race and Does He Know edged to the forefront of the betting, trading as the 8.615/2 favourite on the Exchange when the market was suspended on Monday.
Bad news was to quickly emerge for his backers though, as he was actually taken out of the race on Monday morning.
Two vying for favouritism in competitive field
We still have 23 in here at the five-day stage though, so competition is considerable - this is a 100k prize after all, with nearly 57k to the winner - and now Fusil Raffles and Commodore are vying for favouritism, at 9/2 and 5/1 respectively, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
More housekeeping before we kick on though, and that is our double-entries list this week for the following horses, so that rules them out of my betting consideration for now.
Those with possible alternative engagements at the weekend are Fusil Raffles, Aye Right, Checkitout and Kauto Riko.
The first pair would be significant players if running here, as the market suggests, but clearly they have been given Cheltenham options on Saturday, so I would personally hold fire if you fancy those.
Debece has plenty going for him
My eye was immediately drawn to Debece, but I have to admit his price of around 8/1 was a touch underwhelming given that I expect we may well get a maximum field of 20 here (or near to it) and that will mean competitive prices and enhanced place terms come the day.
Debece clearly has a lot going for him, as his prominence in the betting suggests. He wasn't given an optimal ride when second to Fortescue on his debut for Dan Skelton at Sandown last season - it was poor, actually - and still remains well treated, despite going up 5lb for the run. The winner ran a cracker when third off a 15lb higher mark in the Peter Marsh on Saturday.
However, in addition to the price, the other problem Debece backers face is that he is clearly fragile (the trainer said he never really had a clear run with him last season, and has given him a wind op since Sandown) and he has been pulled out late on his two subsequent intended targets, including in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day.
He looks exactly the kind of horse to back at the overnight stage, when it is obviously money back if he comes out, rather than ante-post.
Commodore went up 9lb for his sauntering success at Cheltenham last time (which was very fair, I thought) and he has to be a factor in anyone's assessment of this race, as does Newbury winner Kapcorse, and Annsam too, given that the latter's Ascot defeat of Phoenix Way was franked by the runner-up on Saturday (albeit he was clearly suited by stepping down from 3m when obliging at the weekend).
Annsam was raised 6lb for that Ascot win but he could actually be given another small hit if the handicapper has re-assessed him after the weekend, so he could actually be officially well-in here. Either way, he is a danger to all.
It could be that the Kempton handicap won by Five Star Getaway is a major key to finding the winner of this race, as the horse he beat a length there, Fortescue, ran such a good race at Haydock on Saturday - as mentioned earlier in this piece - and I'd be one to take a reasonably positive view of that handicap, for all the fourth and fifth were stuffed last time.
At face value, the runs of Canelo and Cap Du Nord in seventh and eighth (they were 1-2 at Newbury last season, too) were not overly-promising, but the former shaped a lot better than his beaten distance of 40 lengths suggests there and apparently the latter can be made fitter than he was that day on his first start for 51 days.
And, of course, the handicapper has since given the pair every chance on their possible return to this race.
Cap Du Nord is 10lb lower than when under four lengths third in this contest last year - he is currently 4lb out of the handicap so Christian Williams will be hoping top weight Aye Right heads to the Cotswold Chase, which has only attracted eight runners, at Cheltenham instead - and he has a great weights and measures chance if back on song, but 7/1 after that run last time is no bargain to these eyes.
Back Canelo at small stakes
Canelo is nearly three times his price and is the only one that interests me most at this stage, given he is so closely matched with Cap Du Nord.
I thought he wasn't given a hard time at Kempton, for all he jumped stickily in his new headgear, and the assessor eased him another 5lb for it.
He is now 11lb lower than when a 13-length fourth, when a 15/2 poke, in this race last term - and 5lb less than when beating this season's Becher winner Snow Leopardess in the 2020 Rowland Meyrick -and two of his best chase efforts have been at this track, in addition to winning a novice hurdle on his only other venture here.
He is ground-versatile, with good no issue, and I anticipate that they will revert to cheekpieces (in which all his best performances have come) here after trying him in a visor at Kempton.
The form of the Alan King yard troubles me though - his only winner of late came in a four-runner Flat race at odds of 1/3 and it is now four weeks since he had a jumps scorer, though he has had a couple run okay of late - and, as with most of these, I just wonder whether we will get the same price about him on the day, with extra places to boot, if we wait.
So each way, four places, doesn't interest me at the moment and it was just a matter of whether 20/1 win-only, on the Sportsbook or Exchange, was big enough to lure me in here and now.
But the decision is easy if you bet as you tip, and vice-versa.
I will be backing him myself, small stakes, at that price - 16/1 would genuinely be the absolute minimum - so that's the suggestion. Hopefully, he at least turns up and gives us a run for our money.
And let's hope King, who took this race with Ziga Boy in 2016 and 2017, and the owners, have had this pot in mind for a while, and have been working backwards.