Tony Calvin weighs up the weekend racing and recommends backing an Alan King horse that tends to perform well when returning from a break...
"We know catching Senior Citizen off a break is generally very good news and what we have seen from him since suggests he could be well handicapped too off a mark of 134."
I was a relieved man when I saw that my old friend and foe Singlefarmpayment was doubly-declared this weekend - much more of the foe if truth be told, given he hasn't won since December 2016 - as it stops me tipping him yet again.
He is on a mark of just 134 these days and is back on his favoured good ground, so he will surely make a bold bid at either Newbury or Doncaster - you can insert your own joke here - but my embarrassment has at least been delayed until Friday given I don't know where he will be rocking up.
One of his two possible targets is the Newbury's Veterans' Handicap Chase (15:15), and six of the 13 entries could go elsewhere this week, so the race has the potential to cut up.
That's a common theme this weekend, once again.
I had a good look at the race and was drawn most to Shantou Village off his falling handicap mark on decent ground - and he wouldn't mind a small field either - but unfortunately he was one of the sextet who could be heading away from Newbury (he is in at Sedgefield on Sunday), so my normal ante-post betting rule should have ruled him out there and then.
The 14/1 with the Sportsbook pricked up the old ears though, especially as I gather Newbury is the intended the plan. Well, it did until someone took advantage of that price on Tuesday morning, and the 14s became 8s, before I filed and published.
The detailed case for him was quickly deleted, and a sulk ensued!
Nicholls boasts Greatwood record
I am surprised there is only one other ITV race at Newbury - there are some juicy hurdles on the card - but that is the Greatwood Gold Cup (1.50pm) and it will be one of the best punted handicaps of the weekend, a race in which Paul Nicholls has a great record.
Housekeeping out of the way again (i.e. looking for those double entries) and I was gutted to see The Russian Doyen also in at Doncaster because he has a very interesting profile.
Given the way Colin Tizzard's horses have been running this season, the recent switch to Jeremy Scott's cannot be considered a negative, even if Dashel Drasher's Grade 1 success was his only visit to the winner's enclosure for a while!
Scott has clearly inherited a well handicapped horse, even if you have to go back a couple of seasons to really make the case for him.
He is a course winner who is well suited by good ground, and he is now 9lb lower than when fourth to A Plus Tard in the 2019 Close Brothers at the Festival.
On decent ground, I suspect 2m4f is his optimum trip but his Newbury success came over 2m and that is the distance over which he is entered up over at Donny on Saturday.
Again, it is a simple case of two entries meaning no ante-post bet.
Senior Citizen excels when fresh
Luckily, I then landed on Senior Citizen in the same race. My initial reaction was that the Betfair Sportsbook's 8/1 was no more than fair, but I changed my mind after a good look at his profile.
Back him at 8s each way, four places.
The horse hasn't been seen since finishing a 28-length seventh in the Grand Sefton in early December, but I am taking that absence as a positive.
Now, it is clearly no plus if he has been out with an injury but this is a horse who excels when fresh.
He won first time up at Chepstow in 2019, split The Big Bite and Caribean Boy on his reappearance last season and he beat a next-time-out winner at Newton Abbot in September.
So we know catching him off a break is generally very good news and what we have seen from him since suggests he could be well handicapped too off a mark of 134.
He was vying for the lead between the last two at Aintree last time, when perhaps his stamina faltered over that 2m5f in soft ground in a deep handicap, so I think you can mark up that run a touch. It was certainly a far better performance than the beaten distance would suggest.
However, it is his second to Espoir De Romay in a novices' chase at Huntingdon before that which strongly hints that his mark could be generous.
He was only beaten two-and-half lengths trying to give the winner 10lb that day, and Espoir De Romay then only failed by seven lengths to give a certain Royal Pagaille (now rated 166) 5lb at Haydock next time.
Senior Citizen's form does tend to tail off as the season progresses so I like the fact he comes here after nearly three months off, and the Alan King stable is ticking along nicely enough.
The horse is actually entered in the Plate at the Festival in just over a fortnight's time, so he will need to be winning here to give himself a chance of a spot in that race, but there is also talk of him going to Aintree instead.
Although he handles soft, I think he is best served by this sort of trip on decent ground. I wouldn't read too much into the fact that Adrian Heskin is already jocked up but the horse has no other entries - seven of his opponents do, and Gaelik Coast is set to run at Ludlow on Thursday - so I am happy to play to small stakes here win and place.
King may have left something to work on but his record suggests he should be straight enough.
Proschema a worthy favourite but watch out for double entries
The main ITV action at Kelso, which houses four of the nine races on the box this weekend, and it is a good move from the course to have turned the Morebattle Hurdle (15:15) into a handicap this year - the small-field conditions races just weren't cutting it - and they have been rewarded with 23 entries (and some decent ground too, with good to soft looking likely).
Proschema is the early 9/2 favourite with the Sportsbook, and you can see why.
He never went a yard and was pulled up when sent off 5/1 for the Greatwood in November but he has advertised his well-being when winning a couple of jumpers' bumpers at Newcastle recently, and there is no doubt that this 102-rated Flat performer is potentially well-in off 131, for all he was beaten off 128 at Wetherby in October (albeit by a next-time-out chase winner).
However, once again, he is also in at Newbury and you can't be backing him at the moment. He will be well-backed wherever he goes you suspect - and I gather Kelso is the favoured option at moment - and maybe even for the County Hurdle before that, too.
The Kelso handicap hurdle looks a very strong heat though, as you would hope and expect for a race that is nearly 47k to the winner. That is big money in the current climate, and Hunters Call is another one that stood out a very fair 16/1.
In fact, it is brilliant prize money all around at Kelso, and the trainers have responded.
The five-day entries are not so plentiful at Doncaster, and it was disappointing to see just 11 in the 37.5k Grimthorpe Handicap Chase (15:30).
It should be good ground there, though they also race on the Friday so it may get churned up a touch.
A lot will revolve around how fit Cloth Cap is here, having his Grand National prep and his first start since winning the Ladbrokes Trophy in November.
He went up 12lb for that Newbury success but that was justifiable given the manner of victory, and he heads the betting at 2/1, despite having an alternative engagement at Kelso.
The other interesting one is 5/1 poke Ok Corral, having his first start in over a year after winning the Skybet at the course last season.
He is also in at Aintree (and the Ultima at Cheltenham), but again there has to be a doubt about hos straight he is here.
If you are playing in this race please be aware that second favourite Canelo is also in at Newbury, while other doubly-declared horses among the 11 are Chef D'Oeuvre, Red Infantry, Singlefarmpayment and Special Prep.
In the circumstances, I am very surprised three places are being offered on the race at this stage.
If you know a horse is an intender runner - 12/1 chance and 2019 winner Chidswell is already jocked up and is the obvious one - then you will be sitting pretty.
It was very tempting to out up Chidswell in fact, on this better ground and off a mark of 130, but he will have his work cut out if the field holds up.
I will just have the one bet at Newbury.
Profit and Loss
2020 FLAT SEASON (June 1-November): +20.8
PREVIOUS P AND L (April 14 2017 to Apr 1 2020): +303.4
NB: All recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP, not at prices available at time of publishing.