Saturday's Bets of the Day include horses at Cheltenham, Lingfield and Wetherby, a dual forecast in the golf and an EFL tip from Tom Carnduff.
Bad ground won’t hold any fears for COUNT MERIBEL in the BetVictor Gold Cup and he’s taken to give trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies another victory in the prestigious handicap chase.
Always at his peak around this time of the year, the seven-year-old showed heart and guts to win last year’s Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase despite stumbling and almost coming down two fences from home.
He made a pleasing start to the current campaign when chasing home potential superstar Lostintranslation at Carlisle and that race has been a nice pointer for this over the year.
From a rating of 146 he looks ahead of his mark back in the handicap ranks at a course he seems to love.
Hugo Palmer’s GIFTED MASTER has plenty going for him in Saturday’s Betway Golden Rose Stakes.
He won this Listed sprint in 2017 and was an unfortunate fifth last year (trouble in running) so we know he’s suited to the track, while stall five this time looks to give him the perfect opportunity to attack from the front.
The six-year-old – a Group Three winner at his peak and Stewards’ Cup hero in 2018 – was out of form on turf during this year but he returned from a break with a fine second behind War Glory over seven furlongs here last month.
That should put him right for another crack at this race, in which he comes out best at the adjusted weights.
The handicapper was kind on FINGERONTHESWITCH by dropping him a pound for finishing third at Cheltenham last time and he can take advantage by landing the William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase at Wetherby.
The nine-year-old only cried enough after the last behind Petite Power and his revised mark is just a pound above the one from which he won at Worcester in June.
He’s a course-and-distance winner here who handles soft ground and is fancied to get the better of his three rivals, the most dangerous of which is the reappearing Bigirononhiship for the resurgent Rose Dobbin team.
You won’t get rich backing Philip Hobbs’ THYME HILL but he’s a very exciting prospect who should take the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle en route to even better things.
He was one of last season’s leading bumper performers, finishing third behind Envoi Allen here at the Festival, and there was an awful lot to like about his hurdling debut at Chepstow.
Jumping fluently in midfield he showed bravery to make his challenge between horses and then powered clear in the closing stages to beat Fiddlerontheroof by two lengths.
He’s the sort to continue progressing and two miles five furlongs on soft ground at this track should prove ideal. A five-pound penalty doesn’t make life easy but he’s fancied to defy it with L’Air Du Vent, third here at the Showcase Meeting, the main threat.
John Gosden could have a tremendous day at Lingfield on Saturday and the rapidly-improving ALRAJAA forms part of the strong team for the Clarehaven handler.
Three from four since being gelded, including his last two in handicaps off marks of 82 and 93, the son of Dubawi is on a steep upward curve and those last two wins were on the all-weather as well.
He did them for speed last time at Kempton off a slow early gallop, but that bodes well for a Lingfield handicap and a 7lb rise may well not be enough to stop him rattling in the four-timer.
If Cheltenham gets the green light conditions are going to be tough and they could be a great leveller in the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase at 1.15.
Wholestone sets the standard but jockey Daryl Jacob has concerns about the combination of the trip and the ground and it could well bring the others into it.
Step forward POKER PLAY for David Pipe, a horse that loves heavy ground (won on such conditions twice) and who looked in great nick when winning on his seasonal reappearance, on just his second start over fences, in the Ffos Las mud last time out.
Pipe and the owners had options for this race and the fact they go with Poker Play could be a tip in itself.
SAM SMITH will see this as a real opportunity to add to the seven goals he has already scored this season. The 21-year-old is on-loan from Championship side Reading and has established himself as a key part of this Cambridge side.
He's also seeing plenty of opportunities on goal and should perhaps have a higher tally than he does at this point. Regardless, the current amount of goals will still be pleasing to all parties concerned.
His 22% goal conversion rate is a big positive when compared to other strikers in the league. A general price of above 2/1 is available on Smith striking in 90 minutes.
CHARLES LECLERC will be taking a 10-place grid drop in Brazil as a result of an engine change, so his hopes of a podium finish have diminished. But the gap between the top three teams and their midfield counterparts is such that a top six finish is a formality as long as Leclerc stays out of trouble.
If all went to plan he'd be adrift of the Mercedes, Red Bulls and the other Ferrari but so far clear of seventh place that a late pit-stop for fresh tyres wouldn't lose him a place as the laps ticked down.
Leclerc has taken fastest lap honours four times this season, including at the last two events; 3/1 for the hat-trick can't be argued with.
Zander Lombard is a big talent with a bright future, but converting a halfway lead in the Nedbank Challenge is probably beyond him at this early stage in his career.
The 24-year-old is yet to win on the European Tour, so to break through in a big-money, Rolex Series event, one known as 'Africa's major', will require both skill and heart and he might just be found wanting for now.
That ought to leave the way clear for pre-tournament tip Louis Oosthuizen, but he's short enough now at 13/8 and the best value going is the 7/1 quoted about him and Tommy Fleetwood filling the first two places.
This is a leaderboard lacking in experience at a course which tends to require it, so after a solid first 36 holes we should expect Fleetwood to hang around for the final 36, advancing his score towards 10-under.
That may yet be a competitive total, even if Lombard enters the weekend on 11-under, and it could well secure second place for the Englishman, who remains the chief threat to Oosthuizen.
There are slight concerns over fatigue - it's been a long year for the world number 18 - but being just off the pace will help on Saturday and he's a lively contender to make a significant move.
Hopefully, Oosthuizen does the same and goes on to dominate, which he threatened to do with an opening 63. Certainly, I'd expect him to bounce back from a low-key Friday and if anyone does beat him, they'll likely win the thing.