Tony Calvin isn't enamoured with Saturday's racing, and is already looking forward to Royal Ascot, but he still manages to find four promising bets at Sandown and York.
"You would have thought that Ryan Moore would have had the pick of a few in the 7f handicap at 14:25, so it could be interesting that he stays loyal to Aces."
It's a really tricky day's racing, so stakes to a minimum for me - especially as I think we have a decent meeting to go at next week, don't we? - and I am content to take a swing at four big-priced horses.
Alternative Facts has stamina to succeed
First up is Alternative Fact at 26.025/1 or bigger in the 15:15 at Sandown. I imagine most will dismiss his claims on account of the trip - all his recent efforts have come between 1m2f and 1m4f - and the fact that he has only beaten three of his 28 rivals in two starts this season.
In the circumstances, you can't really blame the layers for pricing him up at a 25/1+ chance (the Sportsbook were 33/1 when they first went up) but they may have been a touch generous here, all the same.
There isn't a great deal of pace in here either, which also doesn't bode well for the selection, as he will clearly want a strongly-run race over a mile.
But Masham Star and Azzeccagarbugli will look to get across from their wide draws and force it, and hopefully Rab Havlin (who is a fair 12 from 76 for the yard) will look to do the same with Alternative Fact. I wouldn't be averse to Havlin trying to get on the front end, myself.
There is little doubt that Alternative Fact (optimistically left in Wednesday's Hunt Cup at the five-day stage on Thursday) is a seriously well-handicapped horse if he can bounce back to his near his best, as he has been dropped 6lb for those two lack-lustre runs in 2019.
So he is now 8lb lower when second to Danceteria (a Group 3 winner in France earlier in the week) over 1m2f on good to soft at Newmarket last season, and he was ridden close to the pace that day.
The recent rain will put the emphasis on stamina here, and it is also worth noting that he made all when winning over 1m in the soft at Salisbury as a juvenile. So aggressive tactics could be the way to go over this trip once again.
And I went back and had another look at his Doncaster run over 1m2f last time, and he actually travelled well for a long way there. Certainly well enough to suggest he is worth a tickle off his falling mark here on ground that will suit.
Trainer Ed Dunlop is having a very quiet campaign (just 14 winners going into Friday) but his horses are just beginning to hit a bit of form. Going into Friday's racing his form figures since June 8th read: 7100001231. Which is encouraging given his seasonal tally.
Tapis Libre can overcome younger rivals
Nothing interests me in the opener at Sandown or the sole ITV race at Chester, so off to York, where it is also soft.
It is no surprise that Joanna Mason has got off the old boy Tapis Libre to ride the favourite Makawee in the Queen's Mother Cup at 13:50, as David O'Meara's improver has an obvious chance at around 4/1.
But I am going in two-handed against him, and Tapis Libre is the main bet at 21.020/1 win and 4.57/2 four places, despite his advancing years at the age of 11.
The 2017 winner of this race (under Mason), and also third in this contest in 2016 and fourth in 2018, you would have thought this would have been the plan for a good while and he certainly shaped well enough, albeit in a 0-75, at Thirsk last time, his third outing of the campaign.
His MO is to come to the boil after a few prep runs. He won on his fourth seasonal start in 2015 and 2018, and his third in 2016 and 2017, so I like his profile off a mark we know that he can win off. And he won on fast and heavy ground last season, so the weather can do what it likes.
Billy No Mates makes a smart saver
Billy No Mates is a touch more sprightly as a 3yo, but he is also interesting as a smaller-stakes saver at 15.014/1 or bigger (the Betfair Sportsbook originally opened up at 20/1 about him).
He won on soft ground over 1m last season, and he shaped as if a step up in trip was called for over 1m2f on his reappearance at Doncaster in April, when he stuck on well from off the pace on the far rail.
His sire wouldn't scream 1m4f at you, but his dam won over 2m1f in Ireland, so that's a fair positive as regards this trip.
The absence since April is a bit of a worry, as is his inexperienced jockey, though I can live with those at the price.
Mekong is the right favourite in the 1m5f188yd Listed race but he is too short at his current odds, and I would prefer the claims of Gold Mount at 8/1+, but it's a tricky little race that I can leave alone.
Moore shows faith in Aces
You would have thought that Ryan Moore would have had the pick of a few in the 7f handicap at 14:25, so it could be interesting that he stays loyal to Aces, who didn't exactly rock the house when he rode him to finish ninth of 14 at Newmarket last Saturday.
But that was on fast ground over 6f, and today's extra furlong on softer ground - allied to a 2lb drop in the weights - could see him to far better effect. And he wasn't given too hard a time of it at HQ.
Moore won on the horse over 7f at Newmarket last season, off a 3lb higher mark than this, and Aces also ran really well when fourth in these conditions at Chester in May.
Ian Williams has also ditched his first-time cheek pieces experiment from last week, so perhaps the horse didn't like those there, as well. The tempo of this 7f race could suit him far better, and he can finish off his race strongly from his midfield draw.
Back him at 16/1 each way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
I liked the two DDs most in the 6f handicap - Dazzling Dan and Dave Dexter - but the race really does look an absolute minefield (the Betfair Sportsbook are offering six places, by the way) so I will stick with just the four bets.
I must admit that the 14/1 about Dave Dexter, who ran well in Listed company last weekend and won twice in six days last season, very nearly lured me in, each way with those extra two places, though. That's the bet in the race if you want one.
I'll be back on Monday with Royal Ascot Day One thoughts.
Good luck until then.
PROFIT AND LOSS TOTAL +229.5
April 14 2017 to June 14 2019 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)
Tapis Libre at 21.020/1 win and 4.57/2 place or bigger in 13:50 at York
Billy No Mates at 15.014/1 or bigger in 13:50 at York
Aces at 16/1 each way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook in 14:25 at York
Alternative Fact at 26.025/1 or bigger in 15:15 at Sandown