Very little appeals to Tony Calvin at the prices on Friday's Sandown card but our man still provides the information you need to decide if you fancy a bet...
"I did seriously toy with putting Trawlerman up at 7.06/1 or bigger, but in the final analysis there were simply too many unknowns and regally-bred lurkers in here - Aidan O’Brien’s Sir Lucan is a full brother to Sir Dragonet, for example."
It's a well-worn observation, but it remains true.
One of the few advantages punters have over bookmakers is they don't have to have a betting opinion and can walk away any time they like - an option we should probably all utilise more, not least myself in my current run of "form" - and I suspected I would struggle to find a bet on Friday's ITV races from Sandown as soon as I clocked the five-day entries last weekend.
An Esher Cup and a Classic Trial full of unexposed three-year-olds, and a couple of other sub-eight runner Group races for the older brigade, were never likely to chime with my punting MO.
So I make no apologies whatsoever by starting this column by saying that I don't think there are any solid bets to be had in the four terrestrial offerings at good ole Esher.
But bear with me. I will make a detailed case for some and you can decide for yourselves. You may read the arguments and be happy with the odds on offer.
Palace Pier looks hard to beat in tactical battle
There certainly isn't anything doing in the four-runner bet365 Mile at 15:00, a race where four of the eight five-day entries have neglected to take up the offer, and left it as a straight match between Palace Pier and Khuzaam.
Actually, that is nonsense, as it was always a straight shoot-off between the pair.
Because penalties for this race only kick in for performances after August 31, the dual Group 1 winner Palace Pier can run here unburdened for his St James's Palace Stakes and Jacques Le Marois victories, and a reproduction of that French win would make this course winner very hard to beat here.
Then again, plenty have said that about July Cup winner Oxted in the Abernant last week.
Buying money at odds-on can be very expensive sometimes.
And in Khuzaam he possibly meets a real contender for top miling honors this year after a scintillating win at Lingfield on Good Friday, but of course he steps up a couple of notches here and has to transfer his all-weather progression to grass.
Not a given.
With 1/2 Palace Pier playing 9/4 Khuzaam, and 10/1 and bigger the other pair, the layers have this race covered, even though it will be interesting to see who makes the running in what could be a tactical affair.
Gordon Richards Stakes looks trappy
We are one shy of 1,2,3 place terms in the seven-runner Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at 14:25 but in truth an eighth runner wouldn't have made an each-way play that much more attractive.
With all bar Waldkonig and Extra Elusive (and his run this year came on dirt in Saudi in February, as did Oxted's) having had an outing in 2021, and just 5lb separating six of the seven on official ratings, this does have the look of an exceptionally trappy race.
The lowest-rated of the party (by some way) Winter Reprise looks the most likely pace option, so there doesn't look to be much of angle there, and I simply don't have a betting opinion at the prices on offer.
The obvious temptation is to side with the in-form Sir Michael Stoute's 4yo Highest Ground, as everyone knows how well he develops these lightly-raced older types and he looked the best horse in the Dante when just chinned by Thunderous - Oisin Murphy just went a touch soon there - and that includes the layers.
And similar comments apply to his main market rival Waldkonig, who did look pretty tasty when winning a Pontefract handicap off 101 on his return.
Not for me thanks.
Trawlerman almost reeled me in
The state of readiness of the seasonal debutants will be key there, and that will be doubly true of the returning 3yos in the Classic Trial at 15:35.
All 10 are lightly-raced, unexposed and well-bred winners, so it is a bit of guess-up, especially with all bar Trawlerman having their first starts of the campaign.
It is for that reason that I was actually tempted to tip Trawlerman. The first firm up on Wednesday morning made him an 8/1 chance, and I have to admit that surprised me a touch.
He showed little in two placed efforts on the all-weather as a juvenile, beaten at odds-on on his second start, but he looked a different proposition altogether when making all to win a 1m4f maiden at Pontefract earlier in the month, from an 80-rated rival, in what appears a pretty good time.
He was given a rating of 93 after that, and John and the real, slim Thady, could have run him off that mark in the 1m2f handicap that closes the card.
So running him in the Classic Trial instead could easily be construed as a significant statement of intent, and he does have a similar profile to Western Hymn and Sevenna Star, who won this race for the stable in recent years (in fact they have taken this contest three times since 2014).
The downsides are that he may not be so effective stepping back to 1m2f against what is clearly much stronger and pacier opposition, and the other negative is that his ownermates, Yibir and Adayar, also running in the Godolphin colours, could well spike his guns on the front end (though of course they may come to a pre-race agreement on that).
I did seriously toy with putting Trawlerman up at 7s or bigger, but in the final analysis there were simply too many unknowns and regally-bred lurkers in here (Aidan O'Brien's Sir Lucan is a full brother to Sir Dragonet, for example) for me.
Dingle makes most appeal in the Esher Cup
I normally love a handicap but not so the three-year-old variety at this time of the year. So the Esher Cup at 13:50 is a bit of headscratcher to me.
Punters at least have a fair bit of recent form to go on, and very recent in the case of last week's Newbury third Dingle, who is 2lb well-in after that run.
That fact alone makes him the most interesting in here (alongside top weight Naamoos perhaps), and stepping up another furlong is probably a plus for him too, as he won over a mile at Kempton last season.
But I just worry about the quick turnaround for a three-year-old who did look a little ungainly on occasions at Newbury, and the thought they are running so soon here because he is well-in for a decent pot is a concern.
I admit he did still appeal most at the prices, though, with the first firm up on Wednesday making him a 13/2 poke. That went and the Sportsbook currently offer 5s.
I actually half considered an each-way double on Trawlerman and Dingle, but if you are not willing to back them in singles then that is a bit nonsensical (in fact, it always winds me when people say a horse is too short, so I will stick it in a double).
There are only 16 runners in the three non-ITV races at Sandown, and nothing was doing there, either.
Boyhood goes to Perth in great nick
ITV are also showing the Highland National Handicap Chase at 14:40 at Perth on Friday, and the only one that really interested me - I deliberately looked at the race on Wednesday morning before hunting for the prices (many didn't appear until Thursday, in fact) - was Boyhood.
Except for the ground, perhaps.
The current good to soft would probably be fine for him but the forecast is set to remain dry and sunny and that has to be a slight concern for a horse is thought with plenty of dig by connections (the track put on a lot of water earlier in the week, but were going to let nature takes its course after Wednesday).
He comes here in great nick after a narrow third at Haydock on good to soft, is a guaranteed stayer and a trawl through his form shows he can go right-handed (he has run just twice this way around, including when winning a Musselburgh bumper back in 2016).
He has a lot going for him, then.
So I went back and looked at this supposed ground issue, and I didn't see it as much of a problem myself, albeit in runs from his younger years.
Timeform actually have him winning on good ground at Doncaster in 2016 and one of his best hurdling performances came on that official going when second off a mark of 143 over hurdles at Cheltenham in 2018.
With the bit between my teeth, I asked one of his former jockeys if he would be fine on good ground on Friday - and a second got back to me after a delay and said he would be okay on it over the trip, too - and he said he would (he added that it was unlikely to be too quick at Perth anyway, though that remains to be seen).
Boyhood went up 2lb for that Haydock third, when beaten a short head and a neck, but that only raised him up to a mark of 127 and he was rated in the low 140s over fences in 2019, so he is still very feasibly weighted.
So I went looking for the prices when they started to appear on Wednesday afternoon. The opening show with one mob was a distinctly unappealing 9/2 - I was looking for nearly double that in truth, given his overall profile - so I sat and waited for others to go up.
That opening show was defensive, but unfortunately my hope was for around 8s and 9s proved very optimistic, though we did have a non-runner on Thursday morning.
As you can see, I did try hard to find a bet, but I just couldn't get one over the line, sorry. It happens sometimes. If the prices move sufficiently, I will post an update on my Twitter handle: @tony_calvin.
I will find something for Saturday, so will be back on Friday afternoon.