Tony Calvin explains why he's sticking with his ante-post bet in the big race at Newcastle and makes the case for three more punts on Saturday afternoon...
"I think Staxton is simply asking to be backed at 11.010/1 or bigger in the opening Betfair Exchange Handicap over 6f at 13:50 at Newcastle."
It was good to see our Tuesday ante-post selection for the Betfair Exchange Northumberland Plate, Time To Study, squeeze into the race at the bottom of the weights on Thursday morning.
You always "squeeze into the race" when you are the last one in the handicap, as no other description simply will do in racing.
We would have got our money back if he had been balloted out, but I am pretty keen on Time To Study's chances, and he is still my number one in the race at 14/1+ for the reasons outlined earlier in the week.
Ante-post pick is my number one (but I'll have a saver)
He is 12lb lower than when sixth to Withhold in this race last season and signalled he was on his way back on just his third start for the excellent Ian Williams when placed off this mark in the Ascot Stakes last week.
His petrol ran out over 2m4f there - he traded at 1.434/9 in the run when taking it up in the straight, only to weaken into third - and the step down to 2m is very much in his favour.
His trainer has mentioned the quick turnaround as a potential negative, which is understandable - though he won twice after less-than-a-week-breaks when with Mark Johnston - and initially I wasn't overly-keen on his wide draw in 15.
But being on the outside literally doesn't look to be any barrier to success since the race switched to the all-weather - for example, the first five home last year were drawn 11-17-15-13-16, and the previous season it was 13-10-8-17-18 - so maybe the nature of the contest has changed on the sand, though it is obviously very early days to be drawing firm conclusions.
If you haven't played in the race, Time To Study remains my number one preferred choice, but the contest could all revolve around how good the favourite Gibbs Hill is after his near-two year lay-off with a tendon injury.
And, having asked around, the answer is that the Roger Varian camp appear to think he is very good indeed and capable of defying his absence and an 11lb rise for his Kempton win over 1m4f in July 2017 (when wearing first-time blinkers, which aren't on here).
But surely there is no juice left in his price of around 4/1 now and I would be concerned about his stamina, as he is unproven beyond 1m4f and his pedigree doesn't scream stamina. I can see him travelling powerfully and not getting home, especially with the track riding on the slow side.
No such problem for well-fancied Stratum, fresh from a winning spin over hurdles last month, and he is a very feasible winner at around the 7/1 mark. His owner has just him in the race now last year's winner Withhold was withdrawn on Friday morning.
Proschema looks a major player
Indeed, there are no shortage of credible candidates in here - not least Dubawi Fifty - which is why enhanced place terms are so attractive, so, after much deliberation, Proschema looks worth a saver at 10/1 each way with the Betfair Sportsbook, five places.
Or the same play on the relevant exchange markets.
I actually backed him at massive odds for the St Leger last season, as I was very taken by his third from off the pace in the Melrose over 1m6f at York last August, and he ran his best race of the campaign when third to Red Galileo at Newmarket last time.
He is actually 1lb well-in in that effort, and he looks a major player here on his all-weather debut, stepping up to 2m for the first time.
Both surface and trip are unknowns, but the York run last year certainly suggested this greater test of stamina would suit him, and we know he comes here in good form and that his wide draw in 17 could be workable, too.
Yes to Staxton
Earlier on the card, I think Staxton is simply asking to be backed at 11.010/1 or bigger in the opening Betfair Exchange Handicap over 6f at 13:50.
I am saying yes.
He was beaten under tw0 lengths when fourth in this race last year off a 5lb higher mark , his only start at the track to date, and he signalled he was ready to strike again at York last time.
He may have been beaten over 5 lengths into eighth there but he showed up well for a long way over 7f before dropping away in the closing stages, and all his best form is over this furlong-shorter trip.
He was actually eased another 1lb for his recent outing too, so everything looks in place for a big show here.
The cheek pieces are back on for the first time this season as well, and he wore them for his best recent effort, when just touched off from a 5lb higher mark than this over 6f at Ripon last September.
I'm not usually big into sprint handicaps, but I really like the cut of his jib. He looks the bet of the day to me.
I have no betting opinion in the Chipchase Stakes at 14:25 and I am going to let the Plate consolation race at 15:00, pass by without a bet too, though I nearly risked ridicule again and chanced that old rogue Suegioo at a price.
Golden opportunity at York
There was nothing doing in the two ITV races at Newmarket either, but I hope Tim Easterby has a good day in sprint handicaps on Saturday as my only other bet this weekend is on his Golden Apollo at York.
The 14/1 in the marketplace soon disappeared on Thursday afternoon, but he still looks a bet at double-figure odds and should be supported at 10/1 each way, five places, with the Sportsbook - or similar win and place terms on the exchange - in York's 6f handicap at 14:45.
I am a little worried about his extreme draw in one in this 20-runner handicap and perhaps the drying ground is not ideal - though he won over course-and-distance on good to firm in 2017 - but he has plenty of positives going for him.
Like his stablemate Staxton, he ran in the 7f handicap won by Firmament here last time and that is plainly not his optimum trip.
But go back and watch the video, and it is not hard to see him bustling up the first two with a clear run, instead of coming home strongly and being beaten four lengths into fifth.
In the circumstances, the handicapper has been very kind in easing him 1lb, and he is now 3lb lower than when beaten just a neck by Flying Pursuit here last season.
He is handicapped to win again after that eye-catching effort last time, make no mistake.
Oh, and my love affair with Don Armado in sprint handicaps on ITV stops here. So go and watch him now...
Bizarre claim from O'Brien
There was a truly bizarre claim from Aidan O'Brien on Thursday that Ballydoyle only entered Il Paradiso in the Irish Derby at 17:20 because owner John Magnier wanted to ensure eight runners and each-way betting on the race.
So woe betides anybody who withdraws their horse now...
In truth, it probably doesn't have any great betting appeal from that point of view anyway, as the three market principals are so dominant on form then something is going to have to step up 10lb on their previous form to mix it with the Epsom winner, runner-up and fourth. Or one of that trio to blow out.
Broome is the obvious candidate for each-players at around the 3/1 mark as it is hard to see him being kicked out of the frame - so only a small loss if he is placed and doesn't win - but it doesn't really get the punting fires burning.
That said, I took a three-figure flier with Sovereign in the Derby in the full knowledge that he could be sacrificed on the front end, and so it proved.
In the circumstances, he did well to be beaten under 10 lengths and maybe he makes some place appeal - he is generally around 50/1 in the marketplace - but we can let this Classic pass us by.
Staxton at 11.010/1 or bigger in 13:50 at Newcastle
Golden Apollo at 10/1 each way, five places, in 14:45 at York
Proschema at 10/1 each way, six places, in 15:35 at Newcastle
Already advised ante-post
Time To Study in 15:35 at Newcastle