Tony Calvin turns his attention to both Haydock and Goodwood this weekend, which are expected to receive plenty of rain over the course of the week...
"He has dropped to a mark of 91, 3lb lower than when winning the Mallard in 2018 and this course and distance winner (he is two from two from here) must be of interest."
I am going to leave the two Irish Classics alone until I know the final make-up of the fields later in the week but, with nine UK races on the box on Saturday, there is no shortage of ante-post alternatives.
Fingers crossed for Haydock
Haydock is responsible for five of the terrestrial contests, or it will be if the weather gods relent.
I have never known a track to be such a rain magnet and the going there is already soft, with one site predicting they will get a downpour every day this week, and plenty of it through their Friday fixture, which really could open the ground up.
Basically, it has all the hallmarks of heavy going once again, though some sites are not expecting it to be that bad. As ever with these forecasts, it is pretty much a guess-up but I am proceeding on the basis of soft/heavy.
Given it was the first race of the nine I looked at, I make no apologies for starting with Tom Collins once again in the 7f handicap at Haydock (1.55pm), not least because I can steal a lot of the copy I wrote about him last week when he was withdrawn at York.
He was officially taken out there because he hadn't eaten up in the morning but some nasty cynics were suggesting it was because he just didn't fancy it from a nasty-looking draw in 20 of 20.
Such scurrilous talk aside, I do think he remains of considerable interest here in what is his only weekend engagement.
I tipped him on his debut for William Haggas at Thirsk at the start of the month and I was not particularly enamoured by the ride he was given in that version of the Hunt Cup (albeit from another testing outside draw), as I wanted to see him ridden more aggressively.
So in the circumstances I thought he ran okay there, well down the field but beaten just over 5 lengths, and this horse is certainly well handicapped on his Pontefract 1m soft ground-win for David Elsworth last season.
And, to add some balance, perhaps the good to firm ground at Thirsk was not to his liking - his trainer was worried about the going beforehand - though he did run perfectly well on fast at Doncaster last summer.
I am a touch surprised Haggas hasn't given him any other weekend entries given this handicap is worth just over 6k to the winner, but that is obviously a good thing from an ante-post betting point of view, and I don't see the drop down to 7f with cut in the ground presenting a problem.
He is a well-bred horse too, being by Dubawi out of the Group 2-winning stayer Cocktail Queen, and that mare absolutely loved the mud.
And, coming back to that Pontefract win, he must be considered a well handicapped horse here on just a 5lb higher mark, with the next three home all winning subsequently, notably the runner-up on his following start by 4 ¾ lengths off a 4lb higher mark. That victory came in a smart time, too.
The second firm up on Monday afternoon made him a 14/1 chance - and that is obviously highly attractive - but the general 10s looks very fair to me. However, it is just about resistible at this stage, as I don't see him shortening massively through the week.
The 2m handicap (2.25pm) sees the return of Green Book, upped 10lb for a ridiculously easy win from Postileo (also in here) in the Chester Plate, and he could easily remain well ahead of the assessor.
Saxophone can be out on his own
The one I was keen to consider here was Ascot winner Hiroshima but he is also in at Goodwood at the weekend, so that stopped that angle right from the off, but then I clocked Solo Saxophone, who was put in at the near-outsider of the field at 25/1 by the first book up.
He was ridden with an eye to the future when ninth on his return at Newbury - he was last 3f out until making late, albeit modest, headway on the inner - but, to be fair, this is a horse that does nothing quickly, as he is more than a grinder than a quickener.
But he enjoyed an excellent 2020, going up 25lb after netting four successes, and there could well be more in the tank with this dual heavy ground winner, who is one from one at the track after a course and distance win last June.
Trainer Ben Haslam had a very welcome winner after a quiet spell at Carlisle on Monday and he has already booked Paul Mulrennan for the horse's only entry of the week (ten of his 22 rivals have alternative engagements).
The 25s in the marketplace went so, at 20/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, he is a decent win-only shot.
UPDATE: Well, he was anyway as, after the column went live, I was told Solo Saxophone could go straight to Ascot and not run on Saturday, so make of that what you will. You may want to hold fire now, but he will go down as -1 in the p and l column obviously, if indeed he is a no-show.
The 25-runner 3yo 1m handicap (3pm) looks a minefield with weekend double-entries - good luck with that project, everybody - but at least the Group 3 6f Sandy Lane Stakes (3.35) is more manageable from a form and numbers perspective with 13 entries.
It will be interesting to see which of the future stars will be allowed to take their chance if it is very testing - Dragon Symbol and Diligent Harry, 5/2 and 11/2 respectively, aren't even proven on soft - so I imagine the early money may gravitate towards those with deep ground form in the book, possibly Isabella Giles, who ran much better at Lingfield last time.
It is a long old show on ITV this Saturday as they are even squeezing in the Temple Stakes at 4.10pm.
Lazuli was the early 2/1 favourite on Monday which was surprising given he has no form on ground worse than good. The Sportsbook are going a more realistic 11/4.
Surely, the horses from the heavy ground-Abbaye - Liberty Beach, Lady In France and Keep Busy (third, fourth and fifth respectively) - are safer betting conveyances at this stage.
Whether or not John Quinn will run both Liberty Beach and Keep Busy is to be seen and Karl Burke also has Ainsdale in here as well as Lady In France, but the latter does interest me.
On the face of it, she ran like a drain in the Duke Of York last week but she was too free early doors over a 6f trip that stretches her, and she wasn't given a hard time when beaten, and I suspect she will be allowed to stride on, back to 5f here.
That was the case when she beat Look Busy at York last summer, she had good course on heavy back in 2019, and her fourth in the Abbaye on the same ground was clearly an excellent effort, too.
The quick turnaround from York is an obvious ante-post worry (not least because her well-being later in the week will dictate whether she even turns up here) but I think she will post a much-improved effort if she is allowed to take her chance.
The opening 14/1 with the Sportsbook was a excellent risk to reward price, win-only, but that was clipped into 10s on Monday evening, which was enough to keep my tipping powder dry. If she is entered on Thursday, she will be on my weekend tipping radar.
The going at Goodwood is currently soft (good to soft in places) with a wet week in store for them too - and they also race on Friday - and they host a couple of decent ITV races, a Listed contest over 1m1f197yd (2.10pm) and a 21-runner 1m6f handicap (1.40pm).
Obviously, the latter interests me more, even if there are a few in here that are also entered in that 2m handicap at Haydock.
The top of this market pretty much sorts itself out with the unexposed and progressive sorts from top stables to the fore, but Hochfield, with far more miles on the clock and ground-versatile, interests me far more after his troubled run in the Chester Cup.
Unfortunately, he hasn't been missed in the early betting either and he is also in at Newmarket on Saturday, so we can hardly back him now.
Hyanna will relish conditions
You'd be struggling to say Hyanna is well handicapped but she is back on the same mark as when a head second at Ascot last summer and the Eve Johnson Houghton stable (who I have a lot of time for) is going great guns. And a lot of her runners have improved a good deal for their reappearances, so it wouldn't be the greatest surprise is she left the form of her modest Newmarket return well behind.
Hyanna also has form figures of 322 here (albeit in small fields), including in heavy ground, and I can see her running well.
In fact, she is a big price - this is her sole weekend entry, unlike an amazing 17 of the other 20 entries - and I think she is worth at bet at 20/1.
Just In Time's mark catches the eye
The only other horses without an option elsewhere are Just In Time, Nuit St Georges and Prince Alex. You can make an argument for backing all four sole entries, in fact.
That would be pushing it but I have to back Just In Time as well given the potential of this race to cut up.
Just In Time ran his best race over hurdles on soft and he returned to the Flat to finish a fair fourth of five over 1m4f at Kempton last month.
He has dropped to a mark of 91, 3lb lower than when winning the Mallard in 2018 and this course and distance winner (he is two from two from here) must be of interest.
His best form on the Flat has come on a sound surface but he has won soft and he is worth a bet at 16/1. I am not sure it means that much - his agent is not shy of jocking him up - but Jim Crowley is already booked, it seems.
We also have York on the box, and it is currently good to soft here, though the nasty forecast suggests we are looking at soft at best here, too.
To be honest, the 5f sprint handicap (3.50pm) and the 1m5f188yd Group 3 Fillies' race (2.40pm) - Copper Knight and Believe In Love are the early favourites in those races - did little for me at this stage, anyway.
Good luck. Let's hope the three ante-post selections (it could easily have been five) make it to the start on Saturday, so we at least get a run for our money.
Tony's Flat Season P/L