Tony Calvin runs his eye over the Saturday racing action and has two selections in the competitive Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket...
"He has also won on heavy ground – he has form figures of 3381 on it - and he could be ploughing on best of all in the closing stages. He rates a fair bet at 15.014/1 or bigger"
Tony Calvin on Withernsea - 15:15 Haydock
Dods can provide a Kings Gift in Cambridgeshire
Thundering Blue is the deserved favourite after that stunning Sandown win, which had substance as well as style. Connections' confidence in his main market rival Big Country is infectious, though I was actually half-tempted by his stablemate Thai'r at basically five times the price. And honourable mentions to a similarly big-priced horse in Battle Of Marathon, and impressive Goodwood scorer Novoman, too.
So many horses, so many options, in the 35-runner Cambridgeshire but my pin finally landed on Kings Gift at 46.045/1 or bigger in the 1m1f handicap at 15:35.
Callum Rodriguez did us a big favour when booting home Nakeeta in the Ebor and the 5lb claimer is an eye-catching booking for the 3yo.
Well, not exactly eye-catching given that he is attached to the Michael Dods yard and has had 15 winners for him this year at an 18 per cent strike-rate (and a staggering 51 of his 84 rides for Dods have finished in the first four in 2017).
But he replaces Paul Mulrennan for the first time after the horse ran close to a career-best when third to Mojito over 1m at York last time.
He was a smart 2yo and was making his seasonal debut when fourth in the Greenham, and he took in the French 2,000 Guineas on his next start.
But he is now back in a more realistic grade and, although both of his starts over further than a mile have resulted in sound defeats, there was promise in each of those runs over 1m2f.
He didn't shape badly at all when getting no run up the straight in the Hampton Court at Royal Ascot (the gaps closed continually closed for him), while he was literally all at sea - and all over the track - in very bad ground in a 1m2f Goodwood handicap in August. Good to soft ground will be fine for him, and I think he will massively outrun his price.
You're Fired is also worth a bet at 40.039/1 or bigger.
He is 1lb badly-in here but I am not particularly bothered by that as I thought he ran a race full of promise when third at Doncaster last time, his first start since the Lincoln in April, and that is what the handicapper dropped him that amount for.
In any case, he is well-weighted on his best form, and there are no ground issues for him whatever the weather does now - his best efforts have come on both good and soft, or somewhere in between - and I think the 1m1f trip could suit on run-style, too.
I am a bit concerned about his inexperienced 7lb claimer Patrick O'Hanlon (he has ridden a winner in Ireland but none in limited opportunities here) but he keeps the mount having ridden him from off the pace at Doncaster - hopefully that tender-ish style is not his norm! - and keeping it simple from stall 34 of 35 and letting his experienced 6yo mount take the strain is the way to go.
There are obvious doubts, but the price compensates.
Sands Of Mali can claim Middle Park glory
I was pretty gutted when I looked at the final field for the Royal Lodge at 13:50, on Thursday morning.
The reason is that Mildenberger was available at 20/1 when I had a good study of the race on Tuesday night, and I thought that was far too big for a horse of his quality.
Unfortunately, I had no access to the price, but it is also true to say that I had no idea if he would even run in the race, or what the opposition would be.
As it happens, he has stood his ground while this Group 2 has a cut up a lot - Masar has been re-routed to the Lagardere, for one - and recent Leopardstown winner Nelson now dominates the market.
The Ballydoyle colt is the form choice on his emphatic Group 3 win from a couple of smart stablemates but he did have his own way out in front there - that may not be the case again here - and Mildenberger doesn't have that much to find on the book.
Granted, he wasn't overly-impressive when winning over this trip at Salisbury last time, but it was still a decent effort and his earlier third in the Vintage Stakes to Expert Eye couldn't have worked out much better.
The first two home at Goodwood haven't raced since but the fourth (James Garfield) and fifth (Seahenge) have both won Group 2s, so Mildenberger was going to be the bet. Then Herculean came out with a bad scope on Friday morning, and my interest waned.
Threading would be my token choice in the Cheveley Park Stakes at 14:20, but her price is no more than fair for a race in which, unlike the Royal Lodge, all the big guns have stayed in. It's a very deep race.
I will also stop myself just short of tipping Sands Of Mali at around 4/1 in what is a fabulous Middle Park at 14:55, but I am not in a rush to back anything to beat him.
I was very taken by the manner of his Gimcrack dismissal of a solid Group 2 horse in Invincible Army at York, and it will take a top-notcher to lower his colours here if he is the same mood.
However, I am willing to accept that there could well be - I am never that dogmatic when it comes to juveniles - hence the "no bet" scenario. But he would be my idea of the right favourite and if he drifts from his current price, then I won't be able to resist. Along with Expert Eye, I haven't seen a better 2yo this season.
Withernsea will have no issues in heavy conditions
I am going up to Haydock on Saturday, where fingers crossed the meeting is on. If it is, I suspect that it will be only borderline raceable, as it was already heavy by Thursday morning with a pretty dismal 48 hours to come.
So I am not going mad betting-wise on the card, though I think Just Hiss could be a bet at 21.020/1 or bigger in the 14:05.
He likes to go forward, but there could be plenty of pace on here, so hopefully David Allan will be happy to sit prominent off the leaders in the conditions. If he gets an easy lead, so much the better.
I thought he shaped quite well at Doncaster last time after an unfortunate incident at Ripon - he was brought down - and he has now dropped to a winnable mark, just 3lb higher than when winning at York in first-time cheekpieces back in July. That form worked out very well, with subsequent wins for the runner-up and the fourth.
The headgear was left off at Doncaster last time but the cheekpieces are back on here - hopefully a sign of intent - and he had two decent soft/heavy ground performances over 1m2f here last season. Proven stamina over further could be a valuable asset here.
The 5f handicap is a bit too tough for me. Poyle Vinnie is interesting in this ground with the cheekpieces back on, but I could make an equally cogent case for at least another half a dozen of these.
In the 32Red Gold Cup at 15:15, Johnny Barnes is my idea of the right favourite - 9/1 I a fair price - but Withernsea is nearly double the price and his proven stamina over 7f and 1m could come in very handy in these conditions.
He also arrives here in peak form after a series of placed efforts in big-field, valuable handicaps, two of which came in soft ground. He remains on a very fair mark, too.
He has also won on heavy ground - he has form figures of 3381 on it - and he could be ploughing on best of all in the closing stages. He rates a fair bet at 15.014/1 or bigger, and hopefully 3lb claimer Sammy Jo Bell can roll back the years and net a deserved big-race win. She has ridden the horse once before, when second here in a good 7f handicap last season.
Back Just Hiss at 21.020/1 or bigger in 14:05 at Haydock
Back Withernsea at 15.014/1 or bigger in 15:15 at Haydock
Back You're Fired at 40.039/1 or bigger in 15:35 at Newmarket
Back Kings Gift at 46.045/1 or bigger in the 15:35 at Newmarket