Tony Calvin explains why he's picking another selection for Saturday's November Handicap at Doncaster and discusses his best bets for the meetings at Aintree and Wincanton...
"I can fully see the case for Reshoun, especially if that rain arrives on Friday night, but similar comments apply to Baydar and he is my second bet in the November Handicap at [21.0] or bigger."
Antepost call has worked out well
Having nailed my November Handicap colours to the mast in the shape of an ante-post bet on Birds For Prey at 20/1 on Tuesday, I am very happy to see that he has made the final cut, and basically halved in price, too.
There is little point in going over the in-depth argument for tipping him again (read the above link), so I'll summarise.
He is unexposed at the 1m4f trip, he is well handicapped on his Haydock run on fast ground last time, he should be suited by a big field and a strongly-run race given the way he travels in his races, and the easier ground at the weekend (around 10mm of rain is forecast on Friday night into Saturday morning) is in his favour, too.
He has been trained for this race since Haydock in mid-August, and Paul Nicholls has re-cauterised his palate (not personally, I hope) in the interim, and the trainer is the main man when it comes to wind ops, as this season's stats underline. He has even produced Divin Bere to win on the Flat, at Bath, to add to his impressive tally in this department.
Initially, I was worried by the horse's wide draw in 22, as there is a shedload of pace drawn low to middle.
But if his 5lb claimer Megan Nicholls can edge him across in the run to the bend, and get a midfield pitch or better, the actual draw stats in this race suggest a high draw is no barrier to success.
Indeed, the winning stalls in this race in the last 10 years read: 14,12,12,18,21,9, 20,14 and 22. So high is preferable, especially when you delve down into the placed horses in recent years, too.
For those new to the party, the juice in his price has probably just about been squeezed out now - though I clearly hope and expect a bold showing, and he is edging out back to 13/1+ on the exchange - and the two that interest me most at the current odds are Baydar and Eddystone Rock, two mainstays of this column in recent years.
Costly mainstays too, if truth be told, but that may just change on Saturday.
Why I'm backing Baydar again
Again, I articulated the case for Eddystone Rock on Tuesday, too, and he has drawn well in 11.
He returned to something like his old form when fifth in the Naas November Handicap over 1m6f on Sunday, and he clearly has a massive chance on his soft-ground third in this race off a 9lb lower mark last season.
But, if I am being picky, I would have liked to have seen him travel better in his race over a longer trip in Ireland last time and the stable form - no winner since June, and just three successes all year - has to be a concern.
Ian Williams may have missed out with Magic Circle in the Melbourne Cup but he has had a 2018 to celebrate, and he has three live chances with Baydar, Reshoun and Restorer here, in a bid to follow up his victory in this race last year with Saunter.
I can fully see the case for Reshoun, especially if that rain arrives on Friday night, but similar comments apply to Baydar and he is my second bet in the race at [21.0] or bigger.
He has taken a while to get competitive off a falling handicap mark this season - he won off a mark of 99 for Hugo Palmer in 2016 - but he ran his best race of the campaign when second to the progressive Arrowtown, completing a hat-trick, over 2m at York last time (they pulled clear of a last-time-out winner in third)..
He has gone up 2lb for that run, but only to a mark of 91, and the step down to 1m4f doesn't concern me at all, especially if the rain arrives. The above win for Palmer came over 1m2f.
Andrea Atzeni is a good booking (he has an excellent record at the course) and the first-time blinkers could be the final piece in the jigsaw for Baydar, having been tried in cheekpieces and a visor this year.
He traded at [1.32] in the run at York last time, and maybe the blinkers will finally see him knuckle down and get the job done here.
Eirene can get the better of higher-rated rivals
I don't fancy anything in a very tricky 1m2f fillies race at 13:30, but I certainly do in the 6f Listed race at 14:05.
Back Eirene at [12.0] or bigger. I know she has a fair bit to find with a few of these if they run to their best but I have been waiting for this filly to drop back to 6f, in a strongly-run race, with ease in the ground for a while now.
And she gets those conditions now, with a midfield draw in amongst maybe five or six possible contenders for the lead.
She was actually a non-runner just before a Group 3 over 6f in the soft in France at the end of last month - I don't know what the reason was, but presumably all is well now - and this strong-traveller has been crying out for a return to 6f.
She tanked through the race and traded 1.18 in running over 7f here in September - her only other visit to this track saw her come home in front - and she again traded at odds-on ([1.23]) when gliding through the contest at Ascot last time, again over 7f, only to falter in the closing stages.
If Jim Crowley get some cover and plays her very late, then I give her an excellent chance of beating some higher-rated rivals, now she is down in trip.
King's Odyssey will relish rain at Aintree
I don't really fancy that much in the five jumps races on ITV, especially as the two I was thinking of ditching in the 14:40 at Aintree - Shanahan's Turn and On Tour - weren't even confirmed for the race on Friday morning.
However, in their absence, I have warmed to the claims of King's Odyssey at [8.0] or bigger.
Given that his stablemate On Tour won this race last season and was also runner-up in 2016, it is interesting that Evan Williams relies solely on him.
The forecast rain at Aintree on Friday night (around 7mm, apparently) will be very much in his favour, he ran well first time out last season and he races off the same mark as when third in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival. The stable are having a quiet spell of late but the horses have generally been running well in defeat.
Back Grageelagh girl at small stakes to make a big impression
There is some good Graded action at Wincanton, and they have finally had some rain. So much in fact, that it could well ride on the easy side of good (or maybe just good), having been firm at the start of the week, if a further 18mm arrives from Friday afternoon, as some forecasts are suggesting.
If it doesn't get too testing then I would expect Verdana Blue to win the Elite, but the only bet I am having on the card is Grageelagh Girl in the mares' handicap hurdle at 13:50.
Back her to small stakes at [11.0] or bigger, as it is hardly ideal that she broke blood vessels at Cheltenham last time. But at least that will explain why she folded so quickly after travelling well to two out there.
I expect the talented 7lb claimer Connor Brace to creep into the race late - there are two in there that can go forward - and the mare was a smart bumper horse who doesn't look badly handicapped off a mark of 123, especially with the claim coming off. The trip remains a question mark but she is a winning pointer who has plenty of stamina in her pedigree.
That will be a relief for all concerned, and Paul Nicholls predictably has a strong hand of three in the Badger Ales at 15:35, including last year's winner Present Man, although many may prefer his less exposed El Bandit off a mark of just 139, even off the back of a long absence.
I can fully see the case for both - and this is a prize the trainer loves to target at his local track - but there is little mileage in their current prices, and on balance I can leave the race alone.
Preference would be for Present Man, who won first time out last season and who is only 2lb higher than when winning last year.
Grageelagh Girl at [11.0] or bigger in 13:50 at Wincanton
Eirene at [12.0] or bigger in 14:05 at Doncaster
King's Odyssey at [8.0] or bigger in 14:40 at Aintree
Baydar at [21.0] or bigger in 15:15 at Doncaster
ALREADY ADVISED (ante-post)
Birds Of Prey 20/1 each way, four places, with Betfair Sportsbook ante-post