The ground at Doncaster has been the focus of much attention this week - the clerk of the course, much to his credit, has admitted the racing surface isn't where he would like it to be - and it is fair to say that we could see a few withdrawals on Saturday morning if the course doesn't get a meaningful amount of rain from Friday afternoon onwards.
It is currently good ground (good to firm in places) after another drying day on Thursday, so if you fancy a horse that likes a considerable bit of dig, then you may be better off waiting and re-assessing nearer the off.
However, the fact that the course got 3mm of rain on Friday morning, with apparently more in the offing throughout the day, is very welcome news.
All aboard the Ferry
On Tuesday, I put up Grove Ferry at 20/1 each way, five places, ante-post on the Lincoln, and I am obviously happy with the position given he has now shortened a touch.
I will re-state the case for him, especially as I think he remains the premier bet in the race at 16s each way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook, for those fresh to the cause.
The obvious negative is that he is 3lb badly-in under his 5lb penalty for his recent Lingfield win but 5lb claimer William Carver has been booked to lighten the load, and I just wonder whether Grove Ferry is a horse who has grown up since last season.
He looked far from the finished article on a few occasions last season, and a little awkward, but he didn't shirk the issue at all when knuckling down well under a strong Ryan Moore drive to beat the progressive Intuitive at Lingfield last month (the fairly handicapped Crownthorpe was 4 ¼ lengths away in third), and he has guaranteed form and fitness on his side, as well as experience of the track and winning form on both soft and quick ground.
If he has indeed come forward mentally and physically from last year, when he ran a couple of blinders in defeat anyway at Ascot and over 7f here in heavy ground (his ½-length second to Tomfre at this track was franked when the winner won off a 4lb higher mark next time) - he traded at odds-on in running on both occasions, given some credence perhaps to the fact that he still have been maturing - then he holds solid win and place claims here.
He has a great pedigree too, being by Excelebration out of Rebelline, who won the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at four - in fact his 110-rated, half-brother Recharge also finished second in that contest in 2010 - so that gives you further encouragement that the mark of 100 he runs off here isn't the ceiling of his ability.
And I love his midfield draw in 12 too, as all the pace in the race looks middle to high.
That must be a slight worry for supporters of market leaders River Nymph, Brentford Hope and King Ottokar (I like the first-time cheekpieces for this flatterer) in two, three and four respectively. They will be hoping their collective class brings them to the fore where it matters, but it is a concern all the same.
All of that trio are potentially very well handicapped horses, as are the top two in the betting Eastern World and Haqeeqy, but I still can't get excited by the odds of reward with those.
Take a chance on the outsider
I was going to stick with just the ante-post tip (like I said, Grove Ferry remains the best value in the market for me) and no fresh recommendation, but I can't let Librisa Breeze go unbacked at 100.099/1 or bigger, win-only, on the exchange, from his berth in 13.
He is 66s on the Sportsbook, and that is more than acceptable, too.
The negatives are plentiful, hence the price.
Trainer Dean Ivory hasn't had a winner since November, and he could well be one of the trainers walking the course on Saturday morning before letting the horse run, as he clearly believes he is better in the soft.
I appreciate he will want to be cautious with the horse after a lengthy absence but the fact of the matter is one of his best handicap performances came when winning on good to firm at Ascot, and he also finished fourth in a Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes on quick ground.
And it won't be anything like that rapid here, rain or no rain (he says, hopefully....).
The handicapper has given this horse a real chance by dropping him 5lb for his absence since last February - he is rated 102 now, and was 119 in his pomp - and often the time to catch this horse is when fresh. In fact, he has a superb back catalogue of runs after a break.
Most recently, he ran Glorious Journey to a 1/2-length in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in August 2019 after 280 days off the track and, although he is the old man of the party at 9yo now, maybe a recent wind op will have livened him up, too.
And although the Ivory stable form is isn't great, his three recent runners have all run respectably at odds of 11/1, 14/1 and 22/1.
And, although he is better known as a 6f/7f performer, he has won over 1m2f and finished second in a Hunt Cup, so maybe a mile is what he wants at his age.
I'll take my chance at the price, with anything bigger than 80.079/1 on the exchange acceptable, as is the Sportsbook's 66/1.
I wouldn't rule out the other rank outsider Graphite at 80/1+ on the exchange after a long absence either, as I have a lot of time for his new yard.
He has obviously had his problems (didn't race for the Crisfords last year) but a mark of 100 underestimates him on his dual Group 3-winning form in France for Andre Fabre and he had form on good ground there. I'll be having a few quid on him, too.
Dawaaleeb caught the eye
I thought the two non-handicaps - the Doncaster Mile at 14:00, and the Cammidge at 15:45, were too tightly-knit and closely-woven ratings-wise for my liking, so the Spring Mile at 14:45 is next up for a bet.
The pace set-up is similar to the Lincoln in that most of the early speed appears middle to high - Into Faith is in five, and he did go forward on his penultimate start -and there are admittedly loads you can make a cogent case for here.
It is a 22-runner handicap, after all.
But I kept on coming back to Dawaaleeb who, like Grove Ferry, is drawn in midfield in the 12 box. Back him at 21.020/1 or bigger.
He was touched off by only a nose by Artistic Rifles (second on my shortlist here, alongside the gelded Acquitted, though that one is too short now at around 6s) on good ground at Redcar last September and he must be considered fairly handicapped off a mark of 88 if returning to turf after a superb series of runs at Newcastle, bagging a brave of victories in the process.
Regular pilot Lewis Edmunds may be well advised to take a lead on this forward goer, as I counted eight other front-runners in here, and he may well be on the winner if he does.
Dawaleeb finished a four-length fourth in this race off a 6lb higher mark in 2019, and is best on good/good to soft ground, so that ticks those two boxes as well.
I will gloss over the two ITV races at Kempton - Lawn Ranger made most betting appeal at 25/1 each way in the Rosebery at 14:15, but I suspect the two less exposed market leaders, Al Zaraqaan and Almighwar, could prove very troublesome to the rest - and go straight to Newbury.
Six of the eight in the 2m2f183yd handicap hurdle at 14:50, have gone forward in recent starts, so maybe a patient ride could see Good Ball and Hooper shine.
But they weren't missed in the market and, if anything, I thought One True King at 6/1+ (he opened up at 15/2 in a place on Thursday) was just about the best bet on better ground and returning to a left-handed track. His brace of Cheltenham autumn runs read very well in the context of this race, I thought.
However, he was just about resistible in what could be a messy race tactically.
Two pronged attack in the Mares
The mares' handicap hurdle final at 15:25, is an even greater puzzle but I like two against the field in Lilly Pedlar and Hunny Moon.
I am dutching the pair, win-only, even though I do fear Rose Of Arcadia, whose Wincanton defeat of Fable has been franked twice since by the runner-up.
Both of mine have gone forward of late but, with four other possible pace angles in the race, their jockeys may have to cool it a touch here.
Lilly Pedlar looks a decent price at 10.09/1 and bigger, as I think she will improve for the better ground, even if Newbury got a few showers early on Friday (4mm overnight in fact, to take it to good to soft).
She arguably ran her best race yet when second over 2m3f on heavy ground at Taunton last time but I'd be inclined to think her second to Boothill at that track on good to soft in December, a race which has worked out pretty well, was marginally better.
It certainly was on the clock but, regardless, I think those two runs make her well handicapped off a mark of 118 here. After just the three hurdle starts, this well-related mare from the family of Long Run surely has more left in the tank.
Hunny Moon may not have to, as the handicapper has given her every chance off 115.
She was given that mark after finishing second at Warwick on New Year's Eve but, rather generously I feel, he left her unchanged after her recent 17-length win at Wetherby.
The runner-up advertised the form with an improved second at Plumpton on Monday, and I'd say the assessor would give her an extra 3lb or so if he could, given that knowledge.
Granted, her hurdling could be slicker but maybe the even better ground here - her best bumper form, a third to Elle Est Belle at Aintree, also came on going Timeform called good to soft - will see her improve in that area, too.
That would not be a great surprise as she is a half-sister to a couple of smart sorts in Brassick and Skint, and both of those were best on top of the ground.
Back her at 15.014/1 or bigger.
We also have the Dubai World Cup meeting and, being honest, it must be a leading candidate for the most underwhelming renewal in terms of class, perhaps understandably so.
I don't have a betting opinion in any of the contests but I suggest you check out Betfair Ambassador Ryan Moore's column here.
He has some interesting thoughts about all of the races and he has a strong book of rides himself - though he lost Regal Reality with a temperature on Thursday - some of whom he gives a fair chance to at big odds, and he'd know more than most about the global form book.