Tony Calvin looks ahead to Saturday's racing at Warwick and Market Rasen, as Dan Skelton's Captain Chaos looks to add to his impressive Doncaster victory.
"Dan Skelton is a great long-range plotter and uses and re-introduces headgear effectively - as we saw with Romain de Senam and his reappearing tongue-tie recently - and Captain Chaos has been dropped another generous 4lb after his Newbury run on unfavoured good ground last time."
I had an early dart at the ante-post column this week - read my thoughts on Barbados Buck's chances in the Albert Bartlett here - and maybe just as well, as this is the lowest-profile weekend I can remember this season.
Or any other season, if truth be told.
Sure, ITV are set to cover seven races but, with all due respect, the contests at Warwick and Market Rasen would not even get the friendliest of cats, being tickled under the chin, purring.
And I had to do a double-take when seeing one of the seven was a National Hunt Flat race at Market Rasen.
Well, at least it is guaranteed to attract more runners than the Grade 2 novices' chase at Warwick, which has attracted a bumper - you see what I did there? - field of nine at the five-day stage (though, to be fair it does promise to be a very good race if most stand their ground, even if each-way punters should not get their hopes up).
Anyway, racing needs its class downtime as much as the next sport, too - football have their tedious FA Cup weekends - and at least there are some meaty handicaps to investigate.
We also pretty much know we will be dealing with heavy ground at both ITV tracks if the weather forecast is only half right, as the courses are currently soft with an absolute shedload of rain forecast on Wednesday and Thursday.
And it won't be drying up on Friday and Saturday, either.
Captain Chaos' price continues to tumble
Mudlarks and marathon runners to the fore it is then. In the 3m5f54yd Classic Chase at Warwick (3.00pm), and Captain Chaos and Le Breuil appealed most to me at the opening prices, in what is admittedly a very tricky 22-runner handicap to call at this stage.
However, one of my golden ante-post rules now is to never tip a horse that is doubly-entered and those who backed Le Breuil into as low as 6/1 on Monday may be converts to this approach now, as he is set to run at Catterick in the North Yorkshire Grand National on Thursday instead (a race in which he has a big chance, and I note he has had a wind op, too).
You have to be very careful before pulling the ante-post trigger these days, and take out as many variables as you can.
At least we can be pretty sure Captain Chaos is going to Warwick on Saturday.
He finished a 10-length second to Kimberlite Candy (he traded 1.62 in running, in fact) in this race last season, and then he went on to do this column a favour when making most to win by a street (just the 54 lengths) in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.
Both of those runs came in blinkers - indeed all of his best runs have come in that headgear - and they have been conspicuously missing in his three runs this season, two of which were on ground too quick for him.
I expect them to be back on here come declaration time on Thursday morning, and for him to be bounced out in front.
Dan Skelton is a great long-range plotter and uses and re-introduces headgear effectively - as we saw with Romain de Senam and his reappearing tongue-tie recently - and Captain Chaos has been dropped another generous 4lb after his Newbury run on unfavoured good ground last time.
He is now only 2lb higher for that runaway Doncaster win and this could prove another decent pot (nearly 29k to the winner) for Skelton to plunder.
The question is are they worth backing now with the Betfair Sportsbook, or do we wait until the day?
The first firm up on Monday afternoon went 16/1 Captain Chaos and I thought the 16s was massive.
I admit to getting involved at 16s and 12s - those prices were never, ever, going to last - and it comes as little surprise now that all the double-figures in the marketplace have disappeared, including with the Sportsbook, who are 6/1 from an opening 10s (the 15/2 on Tuesday went when Le Breuil was declared for Catterick).
I am happy to take a watching brief with him at his current odds, especially as each-way punters are likely to get a fifth place on Saturday if the field holds up (which is not a given, admittedly, as three are entered in that Catterick race for starters).
Come On Teddy worthy favourite in the Pertemps qualifier
There are 27 in the Pertemps qualifier (3.35pm) and these are hard to decipher at the best of times - you only have to finish in the top six to be eligible for Cheltenham, which is not always the best advert for the sport - but I doubt many would quibble with Come On Teddy being the early favourite at 6/1 (the Betfair Sportsbook is paying five places here).
He was very impressive at Cheltenham last time and could well still be a fair way ahead of the handicapper despite being raised 7lb, as the runner-up, On The Blind Side, ran a great race in defeat behind McFabulous at Kempton on Saturday.
Tobefair is also priced in single figures and the 2017 winner (and runner-up in 2018) is another obvious player returning to hurdles here off a falling mark.
However, even with the extra place, I couldn't see much of an angle into the race at this stage. It is simply too tight a market at the moment.
Aside from the 17-runner bumper, numbers are worryingly thin on the ground in the other two ITV races at Market Rasen.
Patience is key this weekend
Just 10 in the 2m125yd handicap hurdle (at 2.05pm) - and one of those, Oscars Leader, is set to run at Leicester on Wednesday - and 11 are in the 2m7f conditions hurdle (2:40pm).
The latter race looks a total minefield for backers and layers alike as six of the 11 are also entered at Warwick on Saturday - they are Champagne Platinum, Fagan, IK Brunel, Lil Rockerfeller, Mohaayed and Vision Des Flos -so you can't really touch them at this stage, as stated earlier.
Captain Chaos was the closest I came to putting up a weekend ante-post bet, but his ante-post price has surely hit rock bottom at 6/1, and I am very much inclined to sit tight on Saturday's action for now.
Oh, and before I go, I have to mention that the Betfair Sportsbook are now Non Runner No Bet on all races at the Cheltenham Festival. So get digging.
Have a good week. Back on Friday.