6/17.00 Edwardstone tempting in Betfair Tingle Creek
33/134.00 bet in Serial Winners Fund race at Sandown
16/117.00 trio get TC's money at Aintree
It is time to be thankful for small mercies in National Hunt racing and the good news is that Constitution Hill remained in the rescheduled Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle on Thursday morning.
It could be that the amount of rainfall we get from now until race-time will decide whether he actually runs, as we could possibly get another 11mm from here on in.
That improved forecast gives us plenty of optimism that he will run - he surely will - even with the ground currently soft, heavy in places, on the notoriously deep Sandown hurdles track.
Before we get on to that race, we may as well get the usual housekeeping out of the way.
The chase track at Sandown is soft (good to soft in places), while up at Aintree we are soft on the National course, and soft, good to soft in places, on the chase and hurdles courses.
It could get very deep at Aintree though, as we may get another 18mm up until race time. Maybe more, maybe less but it is currently raining heavily there now, as of Thursday afternoon (in fact, already 10mm since midnight as this column goes live).
And keep an eye out for the new Beacons feature on the Betfair Exchange, with fire and ice icons used for horses that are shortening and drifting respectively.
Now, regular readers of this column will know that the Exchange markets, especially near the off, are rather volatile these days - and very hard to predict - so keep 'em peeled! Hopefully, they are a welcome addition for Exchange punters.
Anyway, back to the Fighting Fifth at Sandown at 13:15.
Common sense tells you that the dual course winner Constitution Hill should run and win - he is 1/51.20 with the Sportsbook - but his opponents may have seen a ray of hope in his Aintree Hurdle win in April, which was relatively underwhelming when pitted against his earlier, stellar successes.
But that was probably just a combination of the 2m4f trip and an end-of-season feel, and jaws will be on the floor if he loses here.
I personally wouldn't be as shocked as some if he was beaten, but there should be a good pace on here with You Wear It Well, Goshen and Not So Sleepy in the line-up - and of course Nico de Boinville could decide to stay out of trouble and make his own running again - and Constitution Hill really ought to win.
If you want to play in the "Lengthen Your Odds' market and the "Without Favourite" lines then be my guest, but I am happy to sit this one out.
If Shishkin jumps off, he is by far the most talented of his stablemate's rivals on all known evidence and a big each-way (1/2) price at the Sportsbook's 16/117.00.
The "if" is a rather large problem there, though.
Let's be honest, much of the gloss was taken off the main Grade 1 on the card, the Betfair Tingle Creek at 15:00, when Captain Guinness was a surprise no-show for the race on Thursday morning. He was as short as 7/24.50 in places, and Jonbon's task is much easier for his absence.
I would probably have put up Henry De Bromhead's horse, so impressive on his return, but this now really does look Jonbon's to lose.
Or maybe not.
You can argue that Edwardstone is considerably overpriced at 6/17.00 on his wide-margin win in his last year, and that he will get closer to Jonbon than he did on his return (he finished a 9 ½ length second), but it sounded like they want to step him up in trip for the 2m4f Peterborough Chase on Sunday, possibly with a tilt at the King George in mind.
However, that Huntingdon meeting is subject to another inspection on Friday morning, so Edwardstone may race here. If he does, I wouldn't put anyone off him at 6s.
Jonbon is currently rated 170, and Edwardstone was on that very level after destroying Greaneteen in this race last year.
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The Henry VII novices' chase at 13:50 is also a Grade 1 and it is certainly more competitive, for all it is a six-runner race.
The first thing that strikes you about this race is that all bar Petit Tonnerre have made the running in recent starts, so maybe the hold-up horse is the way to go here.
He was trading at double-figures for this race in the ante-post market, which I thought was maybe down to the fact that he was also in a 2m4f Beginners' Chase at Aintree on Saturday, but he is still on offer at 12/113.00 with the Sportsbook.
In terms of raw talent, he is probably pretty much on a par with these, and he shaped okay from off the pace when looking booked for third place behind JPR One and L'Homme Public on his chasing debut at Cheltenham before the first-named fell at the last.
His stable is also in uncommonly good form too, with seven recent winners at a strike rate of 30 per cent.
That 12s with the Sportsbook on Thursday looks pretty generous and he could also be one of those "Fire Beacons" on the Exchange nearer the off - i.e. well backed - but will I be punting him myself at the current odds?
I was tempted, but no. The race has plenty of depth, after all.
I make no apologies for saying that I struggled to find a bet in any of the five ITV races at Sandown, but I did find one to small stakes.
The handicapper simply could not have put up Impose Toi more than he did for his success at Cheltenham, raising him 10lb for a 2 ¼-length win, but you get the distinct impression the 5yo remains on a winnable mark in the 2m Rachael Blackmore Serial Winners Fund Handicap Hurdle at 14:25.
He won that race in commanding fashion in a fair time, from two last-time-out winners, but the problem is that he was never going to be missed in the market.
The Sportsbook's 3/14.00 in the ante-post market was taken earlier in the week and he now trades at 2/13.00, with the 5/23.50 taken on Thursday morning.
The two that are out of the handicap, Sandown specialist Arqoob and Bucksy Des Epeires, will no doubt have their fans regardless but they are no more than fairly priced at 7/18.00 and 15/28.50 respectively. Likewise second favourite Spirit D'Aunou at 9/25.50, who is much bigger elsewhere.
The complete outsider, Thereisnodoubt, tempted me most at 33/134.00 each-way, four places, for all he is the clear old man of the party as a 10yo.
And that is the bet I am having. He will be much bigger on the Exchange I imagine, but I want the four places on my side.
He was very weak in the market at Ascot last time and his supporters knew their fate early, as he made a mistake at the first and he could never get near the lead thereafter. Most of his best efforts are when he is on the front end.
I am inclined to forgive him that run, especially as there isn't a great deal of pace in here - maybe Too Friendly or Jupiter Du Gite are possibles - and I like the fact that he stays further than 2m and is proven in very deep ground.
Indeed, if he returns to the form of his defeat of subsequent winners Cuban Cigar and Park Annonciade at Perth in September then he remains fairly handicapped off a 4lb higher mark here. The attritional qualities he showed in heavy ground that day will serve him well here.
Fortescue and Cyclop's first preferences are for Chepstow on Saturday, so we are looking at an eight-runner race for the 3m4f+ Betfair Exchange London National at 15:35.
The 11/43.75 poke Beauport is unexposed at the trip and the 25/126.00 outsider Coeur Serin is handicapped to win off his current mark if he can put some woeful current form behind him, but the obvious one here is Fontaine Collonges.
The problem is that he is just 5/23.50 with the Sportsbook, surely a defensive enough price - he is generally 3s elsewhere - for all he goes well when fresh, is on a good mark and a wind op was ordered as he wasn't finishing off his races.
Up at Aintree, fair play to ITV if they were the main driver in making sure the 10-runner 2m4f handicap is on the box at 13:30 rather than the five-runner Listed mares' chase, especially I am going to throw two win-only darts on the exchange.
Given their unsexy profiles, I wouldn't be surprised if they were Ice Icons on the Exchange near the off but that doesn't deter me.
The first is Daly Tiger at 17.016/1 or bigger. He is also 16s with the Sportsbook, and currently 21.020/1 on the exchange. He should love the deteriorating ground.
He ran his best race yet for Laura Morgan over 2m at Haydock last time, albeit beaten 20 lengths, and he got dropped a further 3lb for it.
That meant he has cascaded 28lb down the handicap since making his debut for Morgan in October 2022 and the step back up in trip will surely suit.
I know he is some way detached from the horse who chased home Energumene in the Hilly Way when trained by Noel Meade but I'll take my chances.
I was going to tip A Wave Of The Sea at Newcastle's abandoned meeting last week, so I'll have another go here. He is also 16s with the Sportsbook, but I am going with 17.016/1 or bigger on the Exchange as the recommendation.
He is not especially well handicapped but 2m4f could be a sweet spot for a horse who won a valuable 2m1f handicap chase at the DRF in 2022 and who finished fourth in a Munster National last time.
He makes his debut for Ben Haslam and interestingly he had three in here at the five-day stage, including the hat-trick seeking Arthur's Quay. Hopefully, it is significant that he relies on just A Wave Of The Sea.
I don't have a betting opinion in the Becher Chase at 14:05 but I wouldn't lay double figures on the exchange about Coko Beach myself, even if he is racing off a mark of 162. He is in the form of his life.
That is only 1lb higher than his Irish mark for winning the Troytown so well last time and, while he pulled up in the Grand National earlier in the year, he went well for a long way when what suspiciously looked like a non-staying eighth in the big one in 2022.
But, like I said, I am not going to force a bet.
On Tuesday, when I wrote about the juvenile hurdle at 14:40, I said a highly speculative, left-field selection worth a tenner could be Knight Of Allen at 20/121.00 with the Sportsbook.
And that was purely on the basis of the price he went off on his debut in a much stronger Grade 2 at Cheltenham.
Now, that was a complete write-off as he got carried out at the first but he went off at 22/123.00 there - and at 27.48 at Betfair SP - against much classier horses than he probably meets here, most obviously the winner Burdett Road, the current Triumph Hurdle favourite.
In fact, he meets the Cheltenham fourth Eagle Prince again here. That one went off at a Betfair SP of 75.074/1 that day, against Knight Of Allen's 27.48.
So on that basis alone I thought the 20s was tempting, for all the case for him is largely non-existent, as he is effectively unraced.
However, he is also a half-brother to the stable's fair 2m4f handicap chaser Galahad Quest and the yard has won with two of its last four runners, including a juvenile hurdler at Kempton.
As on Tuesday, I can't really tip him at the current 16/117.00 - the argument for him is just too weak - but I have a gut feeling he could go well for a stable that I have a lot of time for.
I would have probably tipped Bashers Reflection in Tuesday's ante-post column on the 2m4f handicap hurdle at 15:15 had he not been trimmed from 8s to 6s just before I published.
He is now just 10/34.33 with the Sportsbook now - though 5/16.00 elsewhere - and at similar prices I would marginally favour fellow market leader Sonigino now, as he goes in deep group, has course and distance form. He looked ready for a step up to this when fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle last time.
But I'd be lying if I said if there was any significant juice in their prices, and I can also make a fair case for the Stuart Crawford pair of Holmes St Georges and Largy Shark.
In fact, I went and had a good look at Largy Shark and I cannot resist tipping and backing him at 16/117.00 eachway, four places.
He is 5lb higher than his hurdles mark but Ben Bromley looks fair value for his 5lb claim and I thought he shaped far better than his beaten distance of 21 lengths over 2m at Navan last time.
He was weak in the market there on the back of a long break, and up to 2m4f, basically the trip over which he had won at Ayr and Carlisle previously, I like the cut of his jib here, having just his fourth start over hurdles as an unexposed 6yo.
He has been trimmed from 20s on Thursday but 16s looks a fair each way play to me, for all the likely heavy ground on Saturday will be an unknown for him.
Read more about Betfair Tingle Creek day at Sandown on Saturday
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