And it was all going so swimmingly first thing on Thursday morning.
Just before 9am, I got early word that my 14/1 each-way, ante-post selection Dino’s Velvet was confirmed for Haydock on Saturday, with first-time cheekpieces declared, and the going was good to soft.
With the weather set fair, he looked sure to get his favoured good ground.
And then I clocked that the course was putting 5mm on the hurdles track. Watering on good to soft is not on. I know they were forecast three drying days from Thursday morning onwards, but the temperatures I saw were for 12 degrees, not 22, for god’s sake.
Give the good ground horses their day in the sun, for crying out loud (as I am doing here).
Lot’s going for antepost pick but price is correct now
Hopefully, the track leave it there with the watering and they don’t get any unexpected rain, and the ground rides good anyway, which is exactly what Dino’s Velvet wants in the two-miler at 14:05.
He has come down to what is surely a winnable mark of 125, he didn’t run at all badly at Newbury last time, he has good course form, he has his ideal conditions (all his best efforts have come over this trip on good ground) and let us hope the aforementioned first-time cheek pieces cut out those flat spots in his races (though Alan King, surprisingly, is only 5 from 44 with this angle in recent years).
And, purely from a selfish punting point of view, of course it was very heartening to see the 16 five-day entries whittled down to just the seven runners at the overnight stage. Shantou Express and Chti Balko look primed to set the strong gallop he likes, too.
In summary, he has a lot in his favour here but he is undeniably a frustrating sort and Tuesday’s 14s is long gone, so I see no need to go in again at all.
His shortened, current odds of around 11/2 now accurately reflect his chance, and no more, especially as the two ante-post favourites Vision Du Puy and Shantou Express were among the seven to stand their ground and are big threats. If you are on at 14s, you may even want to consider laying off for a free bet. But that’s always a personal decision.
Tempted by Debece but I can just about pass
In the 3m1f125yd handicap chase at 14:40 Debece may have three or four pace rivals to contend with if he attempts to go forward and dominate in the manner he did at Sandown on his stable debut last time.
I imagine Harry Skelton will try to dial it back a bit this time, as he looked to go too hard too early after taking it up at the sixth there – he can be a bit too gung-ho on the front end – and he was a sitting duck close home.
The handicapper actually upped him 2lb for that 4 1/2-length defeat but he remains a well-treated horse on the form he showed for Tim Vaughan, who loved him to bits, and he is the one to beat here. The early 5/1 in the marketplace late on Thursday morning was very fair.
Of the others, I quite liked Strictlyadancer after a wind op and in a first-time tongue-tie and blinkers. The trainer’s last two runners when running in initial blinkers have won at 25/1 (Newlands Cross at Chepstow in February) and finished second at 12/1.
The problem is he is up to a career-high mark of 112 now, having been raised for his last two defeats, and his recent MOT will need to have brought about improvement against some better handicapped and in-form horses, with possibly stablemate Defuture Is Bright (a winner in first-time pieces last time) towards the top of that list. And I was hoping for bigger than 10/1, too.
It is rare for me to be drawn to a favourite but I was very tempted by Debece at around 4/1 on the exchange, especially as I think this better ground and sharper track will suit him, too. Oh, and the stable are apparently in fair nick as well.
But I resisted. Just. My main concern was that Sandown run was just too much of a lung-burster, and this is a horse who has needed time and patience in the past.
We can Dream about Paris in the 3m Handicap Hurdle
If Republican stays every inch of the 3m58yd of the 15:15 then I think he could make a mockery of his 16/1+ price tag on the exchange as he is surely better than his mark of 120. The only problem is that I struggle to see his stamina not emptying out, even on decent ground around here.
I will be gutted if he proves me wrong – and I may chuck a score on him just in case he does, especially now his stable is in better form – but he is not among the two I am dutching here, both from the same recent Newbury race.
Colonial Dreams looked set to go on to decent things when beating the smashed-up Wait For Me (also a previous winner of that race) at Sandown on the final day of the season in 2019, showing a really good attitude to battle home that day.
He has clearly had his problems since, doing nothing in his next two starts after a lengthy absence, and trailing home last of the finishers as a 50/1 chance at Newbury in November after another long break.
However, the seeds of recovery were there for all to see in the Newbury race which Regarding Ruth ran away with last month (the winner is in here off an 8lb higher mark, and the runner-up Iwilldoit re-opposes as well) and hopefully he is ready to belatedly fulfil the promise of that Sandown victory.
He went off at 33/1 at Newbury and the most pleasing aspect of the performance was the manner in which he finished off his race, having trailed most of the field turning in. If he comes forward again then he is a big player here, off a mark just 2lb higher than Sandown.
Back him at 10/1 each-way, five places, with the Betfair Sportsbook. The opening 12s went on Thursday but I am happy with 10/1 with the extra place.
I certainly hope that Newbury race is the key to this puzzle – though not via the first two home, who were favoured by racing with up the pace that day – as I am also backing the horse that finished sixth there, Neverbeen To Paris, each-way at 25/1, too.
All the indications are that it is a strong piece of form, as the time was very good and the fifth gave the form a boost when second to a progressive sort at Southwell on Wednesday.
Now, Neverbeen To Paris’ trainer Harry Whittington has pretty much had a season to forget but he had a double at Sedgefield last week and this horse probably needed his first start since November when sixth at Newbury.
I know nothing of the 7lb claimer Alan Doyle, other than his bare stats – though I had a look at a couple of his recent rides and he looked okay – but I think he is on a fairly handicapped horse and one who is 100% at home on good ground.
Loving the rank outsider in Musselburgh’s 7f contest
I better keep it a bit snappier here or else I will get told off by the sub, so tout suite over to Musselburgh‘s four races on ITV.
I will get the two contests that I am not having a bet in out of the way first.
In the 14:25 I would have Forest Falcon and Heights Of Abraham against the field, but that isn’t a betting opinion at the current prices, and I will file the Scottish Sprint Cup at 15:00 under far, far too tough.
I absolutely love the rank outsider Muntadab in the 7f handicap at 13:50, though and I was incredibly surprised when most bookmakers stuck him in as the 33/1 rag of the party on Thursday.
Group thinking gone wrong that, and little wonder has corrected itself to an extent.
I wouldn’t have made him any bigger than 12s myself, so I am not being put off by those disappearing fancy prices and definitely backing him at 20/1 each-way with the Betfair Sportsbook even if his trainer Roger Fell could be in better form.
He has run three crackers in five starts here, with a win and two seconds, and he was clearly being prepped for a turf campaign, on his first start since October, when an 80/1 chance at Southwell last month when giving up the unfavoured inner to no-one.
He returns to grass here on a very good mark. He is 7lb lower than when winning at Epsom last July under today’s jockey, and he looks like getting the decent ground that he favours.
A lot of his best performances down the years have come when he is forcing the pace and ridden prominently, and there are about seven or eight other possible forward-goers in here, which is not ideal – this could be a very messy race tactically – but hopefully Ben Curtis will jump him out smartly from stall four and at least get a decent position.
I genuinely can’t see why he was, and is, such a big price. If Curtis can get him on the lead, then a repeat of his 2017 win here, when he made all from this stall, could well be on the cards.
Switch of stable may give Indianapolis more speed
I stuck up Alright Sunshine at 20/1 each-way, four places, in the Queens Cup on Tuesday, so we have the price there, as he is trading around half those odds now.
Hopefully, he does the business but I cannot resist a saver on Indianapolis. It is a 1.01 poke that Ian Williams (though he isn’t in great form, it has to be said) will improve this horse having got him from James Given for £52,000 in December.
To be fair to his former handler, this horse did win three races for him and he also ran really well in defeat on four occasions last year, most notably when fourth at York in August.
He makes his debut for Williams (who also has Cardano and The Grand Visir in this race) on a 3lb lower mark here, the ground is fine whichever way the weather goes, and he should be going fairly close if straight enough given (pardon the pun) what I feel is a significant stable switch.
At 13.012/1 or bigger, I am paying to find out in the 15:35.