Tony Calvin weighs up this Saturday's Betfair-sponsored card at Haydock Park, crosses his fingers for no more rain and recommends one to back at small stakes in the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup...
"She has no other entries, and you have to assume this is the short-term target for her, and hopefully not the likes of Doncaster next week (she ran at the meeting last season). Back her at 11/1 win-only to small stakes with the Sportsbook."
We all know how testing it can get at Haydock, but hopefully the course can get lucky for a change when they stage the Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup on Saturday.
I have lost count of the number of times I have been at the course for this particular meeting only to be soaked right through, with the ground deteriorating into a near-bog.
It was soft last year and in 2016, and heavy in 2017 and 2018, but the signs are that you may not actually need a mudlark come the weekend.
Famous last words and all that.
Fingers crossed for the weather forecast
It is currently good to soft, soft in places with a fair bit of rain on Thursday on one site - the going stick reading does seem to suggest it is deeper ground, though the forecast is generally good - but let us hope that the course gets some good fortune for a change and misses anything substantial for the rest of the week.
It is a three-day meeting from Thursday onwards, so the last thing they need is more rain once the ground opens up, though they do have an inner (or is outer?) course they can use for the big race on Saturday.
Anyway, it is quite refreshing to look at the race and see only one of the 15 entries hold an alternative weekend entry (Summerghand), although it has to be said that some could hold back for the St Leger meeting next week, or the Irish Champions Weekend on September 12/13.
However, I'd be inclined to believe that most horses who like some ease in the ground will turn up, especially as the prize money had held up well, being a 225k contest and over 133k to the winner.
Pricing up the race could not have been easy though, but the Betfair Sportsbook's opening favourite on Monday was Oxted at 7/2 - however, we do also have an Exchange market available - just ahead of Hello Youmzain and Dream Of Dreams at 4/1.
The latter edged into favouritism at 10/3 on Tuesday morning and hardened even further with the breaking news just before 13:00 that Oxted is out of the race, according to the trainer, after working unsatisfactorily.
The July Cup winner's absence is a blow to the race but a lot of the usual suspects look set to rock up again.
Last year's winner Hello Youmzain is in here (he beat The Tin Man that day, with Brando in fourth, Dream Of Dreams a very disappointing eighth when 9/2 co-favourite, Forever In Dreams 10th and Khaadem last in 11th), and James Fanshawe's course stalwart The Tin Man also won it in 2018 after being placed for the previous two years.
For all he is an eight-year-old, you can fully see the each-way case for The Tin Man given he showed a lot more when just worried out of it at Newbury last time, and that superb race record on the ground.
But could he cope with Dream Of Dreams if that one comes here in the same form as he was at Newbury last time when blitzing the subsequent winner Breathtaking Look, let alone some of the others, such as the July Cup winner Oxted?
I would guess not, especially as it is conceivable to argue that he may have to post, in his advancing years, a career-best to win this. Big ask that.
Hold fire on Betfair Sprint Cup standout
The one that stands out to me has to be Lope Y Fernandez at 7/1 or bigger on the Exchange - he is [8.6] at the time of writing - if I knew he was coming to Haydock.
Unfortunately, I don't.
Quite simply, I think a reproduction of any three of his four efforts this season - you can forgive him his Ascot defeat as it came just a week after his non-staying, Irish 2,000 Guineas third - would surely see him mighty hard to beat.
But the potential problem is the ground, and the prospect of him going elsewhere in the next fortnight or so.
They could well leave him at home if it goes soft again, as he has never raced on testing ground, and presumably for a reason, although apparently some in the Ballydoyle camp reckon he may improve for it, curiously enough.
However, this horse is a Group 1 sprint winner waiting to happen on that Irish Classic run (came there cruising, traded at odds-on, but failed to see out the trip), or his placed efforts in the Prix Jean Prat and Maurice de Gheest on his last two starts, and on neither occasion was he ideally positioned on the outside.
And I think they were better class races than this.
So as much as the 7/1 in the marketplace says come and get me - I think he will go off favourite if turning up - I have to hold fire with him, and I suggest you do too.
The Group 3 Betfair Superior Mile (13:45) is a tricky race to approach with doubts about the ground.
The big (ish) prices about the 125-rated Benbatl (pictured above) - he is 9/2 in the wider marketplace - would be a distant memory if he took his chance on something like good to soft, for all he carries a 5lb penalty.
Conversely, if it got even more testing then Stormy Antarctic comes firmly into the equation, so this is another race to sit on for me at the moment.
One to back at small stakes in the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup
Ten of the 16 in the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange 1m6f handicap (14:15) are doubly-declared, so there is an obvious angle into this race from that perspective, especially with the ante-post favourite Without A Fight confirmed for Haydock on Thursday.
Unfortunately, it is one of those devilishly-difficult three-year-old handicaps where I went round in circles and came up with nothing.
Ian Williams has won the last two runnings of the Betfair Exchange Old Borough Cup (14:50) and it could well be that the stable are finally beginning to run into form after a modest last three months, with two wins, a second and a third from four runners on Monday.
He has the 2018 winner Reshoun in here and he could be a big player again, as his Chester run last time is easily forgiven and his earlier Newbury defeat of Rajinsky off a 4lb lower mark reads very well.
Saglawy is very interesting on his debut for Paul Nicholls - he was one of many horses Jared Sulivan has moved from Willie Mullins to Ditcheat recently - but there is a fair bit of guesswork about him and that is not the case with Makawee.
The promise of her third over 2m at York last time was there for all to see, as she was drawn widest of 17 there and she had to come from a long way back in the straight in a race where it was crucial to be up with the pace.
Her staying-on third clearly has to be marked up then, and she appeals a good deal at a double-figure price.
She races off the same mark of 97 here as the handicapper could not really raise her - though I am sure he would have liked to - and this is a mare who goes on good and soft ground alike, and whose career-best run probably came at Haydock. The handicapper says it was, anyway.
She was raised to a mark of 100 after chasing home Manuela de Vega here in the 1m4f Lancashire Oaks just four starts ago, and everything points to a prominent showing. She has no other entries, and you have to assume this is the short-term target for her, and hopefully not the likes of Doncaster next week (she ran at the meeting last season).
Enable is the big headline act on Saturday in the September Stakes at Kempton (14:35) even if the race is not a betting heat as such, as she will not be facing her biggest form rival, Classic-winning stablemate Logician.
St Leger winner Logician also happens to be owned by Khalid Abdullah as well, so he was never likely to be asked to take on the star filly, so definitely hold fire with your bets on him.
He will only run if something happens to Enable in the next five days, so even the biggest ante-post quotes of 4/1 make zero appeal. Enable is a 1/4 poke.
Saturday's most interesting ITV race?
Kipps will no doubt be a popular order stepping down in trip for Ascot's 1m4f handicap (15:05) but arguably the most interesting race of Saturday's ITV contests on the doubly-declared front is the 6f handicap at Ascot (15:40), as 18 of the 26 five-day entries have alternative engagements this week.
The ground at Ascot is currently good to soft and the forecast doesn't look to be too bad - at the moment, anyway - and, in the likely absence of Chil Chil (she is entered for the Lochsong at Salisbury on Thursday) the one that appealed most is any one of the eight not doubly-declared!
So just a small-stakes win bet on Makawee at 11s for me at Haydock. She is not going to be a massive shortener - Lope Y Fernandez is more obvious in that respect if he gets the green light - but she looks a very solid play.
Doubly-entered horses on this Saturday's ITV race
14:00 Kempton: Alicestar (confirmed at Salisbury on Thursday), Eye Of Heaven, Time Scale (confirmed at Salisbury on Thursday),
15:05 Ascot: A Star Above, Cepheus, Coconut (due to run at Haydock on Thursday), Favorite Moon, Labeebb, Mafia Power (due to run at Kempton on Tuesday), Midnight's Legacy, Prince Alex, Star Of Wins, Without A Fight (due to run at Haydock on Thursday)
15:40 Ascot: Bielsa, Brad The Brief, Chil Chil (due to run at Salisbury on Thursday), Danzeno, Dream Today, Equitation, Fortamour, Golden Apollo, Indian Creek, Lexington Dash, May Sonic. Meraas, Mountain Peak, Mubaalegh, Open Wide, Rathbone, Starman, Typhoon Ten
13:45 Haydock: Symbolize (due to run at Haydock on Thursday)
14:15 Haydock: A Star Above, Cepheus, Favorite Moon, King's Charisma, Labeebb, Midnights Legacy, Prince Alex, Without A Fight (due to run at Haydock on Thursday), Stage Horn, Zeeband
14:50 Haydock: Apparate, Australis, Brandon Castle, Hochfeld (due to run at Haydock on Thursday), Mordred, On To Victory
15:25 Haydock: Summerghand