Tony likes the look of York's opening handicaps
He believes Forza Orta is slightly overpriced in opener
25/1 shout could be weighted to go well in sprint
The big televised Festivals come at you thick and fast at this stage of the season and York's Dante meeting looks taking place on good ground.
The track have been giving daily updates on Twitter for a while now, minimal rain is due (maybe an occasional shower, along with average temperatures of around 17c) and how refreshing was it to read this on the BHA site.
"No watering has been required in the preparation of the racing surface thus far ahead of the Dante Festival."
It would have been full marks had they left out "thus far", but we can't have it all.
A nine-runner Newton Abbot handicap hurdle seems to have crept into ITV's coverage on Wednesday - we will give them a pass though as it flags up Racing Welfare Mental Health Awareness week - but I am ignoring it and I will take York in chronological order.
Course winner Forza looks overpriced
York, 13:50 - Tony's Tip - Forza Orta WIN @ 17.016/1+
When first looking at the card, I instinctively felt the opening 1m3f188yd handicap at 13:50 would offer the best chance of a bet/tip on the day, and so it proved.
The first thing that leaps out at you is that trainer upgrades don't get much bigger than Sir Mark "Big Branch Brandisher" Todd to William Haggas, and Tasman Bay is well handicapped off a mark of 102 if his new handler can coax him back to form after a 2022 to forget.
In 2021, this horse chased home Group 1-winning Haggas horses (Alenquer, Dubai Honour and Baaeed no less) in three Group races and he could dance in if reproducing those efforts.
I am a bit concerned about the overall form of the Haggas yard, despite their winners last week, though York could easily be the place where they catch fire. He has won this race for the last two years too, and Tasman Bay, or Tom Marquand's mount La Yakel, could easily make it three in a row.
However, I am content to look elsewhere at the prices, as it was no surprise to see the first firm up on Monday morning make the Haggas pair 11/2 joint favourites.
I always give Godolphin a second look in first-time headgear, so White Wolf was interesting solely on that score for the 1,000 Guineas-winning trainer, but I landed on the Kevin Ryan duo of Thundering and Forza Orta.
Both have excellent course form and have had the benefit of a seasonal pipe-opener, and come here after being given some slack by the handicapper. Not much, but it all helps.
I couldn't even tell you who is deemed the stable first string by looking at the jockeys, not that matters to me, but I am siding with Forza Orta, marginally the bigger price of the pair.
Back him at 17.016/1 or bigger. He is also 16/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, which is the general price in the marketplace.
There was no obvious promise in his comeback run at Thirsk - though Timeform called it heavy, which maybe wasn't ideal - but at least he got dropped 2lb for it, and hopefully it was just a tee-up job for this.
He won second time out last season, and then came here for this race, finishing a length second to the hugely progressive Gaassee, who went off at 6/4 and ended the season 9lb higher, and 2 lengths clear of the third.
Forza Orta is himself 4lb higher here but it is justified as he went on to win over 1m4f at this track on fast ground in July (off just a 2lb lower mark than this from Sunday's winner Geremia) and he looks slightly overpriced to me, though he could drift out on the exchange given his unsexy profile. 16/1+ is fine, though.
25/1 shot weighted to go very well if A1
York, 14:25 - Tony's Tip - Gisburn @ 26.025/1+
What's not to like about the 22-runner 6f handicap at 14:25?
Well, plenty, but I did have a very good look at it before I was set to resign myself to defeat, which I suspect I will be doing a lot of in big--field sprint handicaps this season.
Maybe even small ones, too.
Anyway, I did my manual pace map - it is laborious but it is always worthwhile - and went from there.
I had confirmed pace-setters/prominent racers in 16, 20, 21 and 22, so I think I would want to be drawn middle to high - the bulk of the pace seems there - though I accept there are some forward-goers drawn low too, such as Lethal Levi in two.
So maybe you are looking for a closer like Gisburn in stall 15, and the more I looked at him, the more tempted I was by his price.
He has certainly come down to an attractive mark of 88, from a peak of 99 last June, and he shaped very well on his comeback when fourth at Doncaster considering he was probably disadvantaged by racing alone on the far side that day.
And he has a decent run at York to his name as well, when an eye-catching sixth from well off the pace (and off a 4lb higher mark than this) here in October.
He is obviously a big price (one firm made him their complete outsider on Monday) because of his dismal run at Newbury last time, and therein lies the dilemma.
He finished stone last of 15 that day, and he was never really travelling, and it is hardly a positive that he was also taken out of Ascot last week with a vet's certificate.
I was very tempted to stick him up here - maybe the better ground will see him to better effect, and Hollie Doyle is one from one on him - but it is hard to escape the possibility that he could have a physical issue at the moment. That Newbury run was pretty appalling.
However, I have to believe that connections are running him here because he is in A1 condition - he is a long losing run and is clearly a quirky sort - and, if so, then he is weighted to go very close off a mark of 88.
Go and have a look at that run here last October.
He was beaten only 3 lengths after getting no run for ages and weaving all across the track looking for one from his high draw in 17 (the first five home came from 4-13-7-2-6 stalls). He would surely have won, or gone very close, if getting the breaks, but that is a frequent observation in sprint handicaps, I grant you.
I am backing Gisburn to small stakes at 26.025/1 or bigger. He is also 25/1 with the Sportsbook. There is 28s in one place, for the sake of openness.
No bets to be had in two Group races
York, 15:00 & 15:35 - No Bets
There is also no shortage of pace in the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes at 15:00 but there is a distinct lack of a betting angle for me, especially as the race could well revolve around how straight last year's winner Highfield Princess is on her comeback, under her Group 1 5lb penalty. I probably liked Creative Force best at 4/1.
I also didn't have a punting view in the Musidora at 15:35 either, though I suspect Oaks second favourite Infinite Cosmos could justify favouritism.
But, at 6/4 (and only a touch bigger on the exchange), she is no bargain of a price.
She could need all 1m4f of the Oaks trip to fulfil her potential and Sea Of Roses, second to Arrest and Infinite Cosmos at two (and just by a short-head to the latter), could prove troublesome after a good return in France. She is a fair enough price at around 7s on the exchange.
Furthermore, Novakai is the form horse and Gather Ye Rosebuds looked a bit special on her debut in bad ground at Newbury, too.
No, give me a handicap any day of the week, though perhaps not a 3yo handicap in May.
Jack could be the lad for 7f handicap
York, 16:10 - No Bet
The 3yo 0-95 7f handicap at 16:10 looks a very difficult one to call, especially with half of the 14-strong field making their first outing of the season and thus we don't know how much they have progressed from two to three at home.
I do envy the certainty of paddock watchers on TV telling me how much horses have grown and strengthened up "X" amount from the last time they saw them months ago, because I presume they have seen hundreds since and all horses pretty much look the same, don't they?
I can't even remember what I ate for dinner last night.
A cynic may suggest they are telling porkies to appear informed, but I suppose they may make copious notes and even use a picture portfolio on their I-phones.
Joking aside - and, to be fair, on the few occasions I have seen ITV's Adele Mulrennan of late, she is coming across increasingly well - I thought Coco Jack was a fair price at double-figure odds (the Sportsbook are 10/1) without forcing a bet.
He was pulled out of Chester last week because of the worsening ground, he had had shaped okay this season while steadily coming down the weights, and he has course form, too. And the step back to 7f for the first time in 2023 could well suit.
However, I am happy to sit this one out, and go well just the two small-stakes win-only bets.