This coming Saturday and Sunday really is one of the very best weekends of racing of the entire Flat season. The St Leger meeting at Doncaster and Irish Champions Weekend combine to make it a proper blockbuster and it promises to very much inform the pecking orders in the world of Flat racing.
Take a chance on Johnston's Chester runner
Of course, the very best races don't always offer the very best betting opportunities, which I will seek to illustrate by siding with a selection in what is the lowest-profile race of any of the contests that will be showcased on terrestrial television this weekend, the Homeserve Handicap at Chester (14:35).
It is no secret that the unique layout and characteristics of Chester make it a track that suits some better than others. Course form tends to stand up well and while this is far from a state secret, the market doesn't always give this as much respect as it should.
This seems to be the case with the Mark Johnston-trained Hochfeld in this contest. The seven-year-old has only run at Chester five times, winning twice and being placed in all three of the other occasions. These runs have almost all come in notably stronger company than this, with him most recently finishing third in the Chester Cup off a 2lb higher mark last May.
As is often the case with Mark Johnston-trained handicappers, he has been aggressively campaigned this season, but his recent runs have been solid. Returning to Chester promises to suit and while his draw in the widest stall is an obvious concern, this seems to be built into his price and he appeals as one worth taking a chance on.
Haggas runner capable of winning in ultra-competitive company
Over at Doncaster, one of the most competitive races of the entire weekend is the Portland Handicap (13:45) and while he may not be a huge price given the shape of the race, I'm siding with the William Haggas-trained Hurricane Ivor.
The four-year-old was formerly trained in France and got off the mark for Haggas in an ordinary handicap at Sandown in July, but it has been his three runs since then that have pinpointed him as one that is capable of winning an ultra-competitive handicap such as this.
He has shaped better than the result on each of those occasions, most recently when getting bumped at the start and finishing off well in a strong handicap at York last month.
He was only beaten a length and with that form having already started to work out well, he looks attractively handicapped off the same mark in this contest.
This five-and-a-half furlong trip promises to be ideal for Hurricane Ivor and with a bit of luck, he will gain a much-deserved success in a valuable handicap.