TC on Sandown, Musselburgh, Wetherby this Saturday
Eight races from three tracks on ITV on Saturday, but none are early-closers and the high-class weekend action is quite obviously at the two-day Dublin Racing Festival.
I will deal with the Leopardstown action later in the week at the overnight stage - that makes sense to me as who knows how the big trainers in Ireland will shuffle their considerable packs? - so I will kick on with the domestic fare here.
It is a touch underwhelming, so I am just going to focus on the races in which I think there is a betting angle or two. And prices, more on which I will outline later.
With that in mind, please find the list of double-entered horses for each race at the end of this article. Tipping horses ante-post that have more than one entry, or indeed an immediate option down the line, that week is not advisable.
Dry week should leave Sandown good to soft
Just a bit of ground housekeeping before we start.
Sandown is currently a mixture of good to soft and soft, with a fine, dry week in store; Musselburgh is good to soft (good in places) with a modicum of rain due this week; and Wetherby is soft (good to soft in places) and set fair for a largely dry week, too.
I have said it before but I really don't know why novice chases are scheduled for ITV coverage as they invariably don't even get each way 1,2,3 betting at the five-day stage, let alone on the day, and Sandown's Scilly Isles and Wetherby's Towton Chase both attracted just seven entries on Monday.
And five in the Wetherby race could go elsewhere this week, and three could be re-routed from the Sandown contest, too (see below).
That potentially throws up ante-post betting opportunities, clearly, but I can happily ignore them myself.
McNeills set example with clear messaging
However, well done to the McNeill Family Twitter account who announced: "The Scilly Isles is our preferred race for Thunder Rock. The Towton is only a backup should anything happen."
I appreciate plans change as numbers dwindle and ground changes, but if everyone took their lead, as regards double-entries, then bookmakers and punters would be in a better place.
As for Thunder Rock, he is a horse who will, I think, end up being best at 3m, so they should be going to Wetherby, unless they are saving going up in trip for Cheltenham in March.
Irish unknowns add to unclear picture
On the multiple entries front, Gordon Elliott has Gerri Colombe in the Scilly Isles (the first firm up Monday made him a very defensive evens chance but the Sportsbook are 5/2) and he has also stuck five in Sandown's Pertemps qualifier at 14:55.
I don't think you can back any of that quintet as Elliott normally comes for fishing for UK handicap marks as much as he does plotting for genuine running opportunities.
Perhaps he intends to run them all, and get them qualified (some already are). But I have said before that the UK handicapper should put an end to this nonsense and just tell Irish trainers their marks in this country without the need to waste everyone's time, effort and money to enter to find out.
His hugely progressive Maxxum is actually current favourite for the Pertemps Final in March, but is he coming over? No idea, but at least Elliott knows the UK handicap score now.
If he came here, he'd be favourite but the Sportsbook clearly don't think he will travel and make him a 10/1 chance. Likewise will Charles Byrne send over Grozni, the 5/1 second favourite with the Sportsbook behind the 9/2 market leader Flight Deck? I very much doubt it, but that's just a guess.
Given the Irish unknowns, and indeed running plans in general, I have to pass.
Fourth win may be beyond Dolos
There is a cracking 1m7f99yd handicap chase at Sandown at 13:45, which in the future may possibly be named after Dolos.
He won it in 2019, 2020 and 2022, and finished a length second in 2021, and he comes here for another bite of the prize.
He has run perfectly well in his two starts after a summer break, and he arrives here on just a 3lb higher mark than when beating Frero Banbou by four lengths here last year, with his trainer and Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls seemingly unable to do little wrong.
However, the 10yo version of Dolos could be biting off more than he can chew in the shape of the 6yo Haddex Des Obeaux.
The latter trounced Galop De Chasse, a winner at Hereford on Monday, by 19 lengths at Warwick - with Third Time Lucki a head away in third - and a 10lb rise may not stop this Arkle entry completing his hat-trick.
If he is as effective going right-handed, and he ran okay at Kempton three starts ago - so I should say if he can continue the progression going this way - then he could take all the beating, but it looks a decent handicap and the assessor is certainly giving the Warwick third Third Time Lucki a chance, dropped him to 143, his lowest ever chase mark.
However, all the above chat is redundant as no-one has priced up the race, at the time of filing, for some reason - which is slightly bizarre given only one of the 11 has an alternative option in this ITV race - and no-one can, or should, tip without odds.
On that point, some firms have curiously priced up just two weekend UK races, but the Sportsbook have weighed in with six.
Nayati tempting at Musselburgh
We do have prices for the 3m Masters Handicap Chase at 15:30, even though two of the market leaders (5/1 Rapper and 7/1 Slipway) are also in at Musselburgh.
It is a very tight betting heat though, with seven of the 20 chalked up between 4/1 and 8/1, and only three places on offer for punters, so I am going to head up to Musselburgh to try to find an ante-post bet.
Ten of the 17 are priced up in single figures in the 1m7f124yd Scottish County handicap hurdle at 14:03, and of those 13-2 Nayati makes the most appeal.
He has been raised only 3lb for a pretty commanding win here last time - a race in which Voix De Reve massively disappointed me in eighth when folding up the straight after going well - and that looks a touch lenient.
However, it may be so lenient that connections may consider waiting a week and going to the 87k-to-the-winner Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on February 11.
It is something to consider if you are tempted to back him, anyway.
Conditions may suit Enrilo in Edinburgh National
The Edinburgh National at 15:16 has a slightly better betting shape to it, as I don't think you can back the aforementioned pair of Rapper and Slipway, the 9/2 joint-favourites in here, given their Sandown option.
I was initially very keen on the chances of Truckers Lodge in here, as the guaranteed stayer has dropped to a mark of 137 - he has come down a very generous 8lb for two starts this season, including a fourth in the Welsh National last time - but it sounds like Paul Nicholls wants a touch more rain than is due this week if he is to run him.
With that in mind, I can hardly stick him up here ante-post.
If borderline good ground does rule out Truckers Lodge, then Nicholls has a ready-made replacement with Enrilo, who loves a decent surface.
But, unlike his treatment of Truckers Lodge, the handicapper has been a bit of a tight-arse with him, dropping him just 5lb after a series of efforts that yielded form figures of FP4PFP (the fourth saw him beaten 11 1/2 lengths).
That said, his current mark of 142 is exploitable if he does get his conditions over a trip that could well suit this disqualified 3m5f 2021 bet365 Gold Cup winner.
Keep an eye on Flower Of Scotland
The 6/1 chance Flower Of Scotland looks the most solid option (along with Captain Cattistock) after her impressive win over 4m at Kelso last time, after which she was raised an acceptable 8lb. That was her first start beyond 3m2f and she appeared to relish it.
Once again, that victory came in soft ground, so a dry week may be a concern of sorts, though I suppose she has won on good to soft and run perfectly well on good.
It would be very easy for me to stick her up at 6s here - the Kelso form may be mixed but the 18 ½-length fourth won by 5 ½ lengths at Haydock last time, and she is clearly unexposed over the trip - but it is probably no more than fair from an ante-post perspective. She may be an intended runner, but she still has to get there, and she may well be 6s on the Betfair Exchange on the day if the field holds up.
So, in summary, I am not having a bet myself, so I cannot tip.
I am going to have a look at the Dublin Racing Festival weekend entries when they appear on Tuesday afternoon - I am planning to go over myself, some test results permitting on Thursday and Friday (it'll be a late call) - so I may well be back with another column if I see a bet.
Unlikely, I imagine, for the reason outlined in the intro, but you never know.
Double-entered horses in weekend ITV Races
(List made before Irish entries are confirmed for the weekend at midday on Tuesday)
13:45 Sandown: Hasankey,
14:20 Sandown: Gerri Colombe, Notlongtillmay, Thunder Rock
14:55 Sandown: Bells Of Peterboro, Call Me Lord, Eric Bloodaxe, Favori De Champdou, Grozni, Jet Of Magic, Maxxum, Party Business, Sam's Choice, Santonito, Schalke
15:30 Sandown: Moroder (entered at overnight stage at Wincanton on Thursday), Rapper, Slipway, Tallow For Coal (entered at overnight stage at Wincanton on Thursday)
13:28 Musselburgh: Ballinsea Bridge, Ballyhome (entered at overnight stage at Leicester on Wednesday), Baron De Midleton, Mr Muldoon (entered at overnight stage at Ffos Las on Tuesday), Nick Lost
14:03 Musselburgh: Cuban Cigar, Holmes St Georges, Voix De Reve; ALSO; Glorious Zoff and Nayati are in Betfair Hurdle on Feb 11
15:13 Musselburgh: Magna Sam, Nick Lost, Rapper, Slipway, The Jam Man
14:45 Wetherby: Bellatrixsa, Gold Cup Bailly (entered at overnight stage at Ayr on Wednesday), Thunder Rock, O Toole, Thunder Rock