Jumps season to get off to rocking start at Wetherby
Although I have a case of beer and a big bowl of chicken wings at the ready in the fridge for tonight's Breeders' Cup, I must admit that my bets will be kept at a fun-sized level as it's not something I've ever really managed to make money from.
Naturally enough, we are drawn to the European-trained horses each year but unless you know North American racing quite well, it can be difficult to get a handle on the form of the other runners. As such, I leave the serious betting on the Breeders' Cup to better brains than mine.
You have stick to what you know best in this game and these days I prefer to watch the Championship series on the box without the pressure that having a decent-sized bet brings.
In Britain and Ireland, October and November are, of course, the season changeover months and the National Hunt steps up a gear this afternoon with a number of Graded races - although the fact that most of the horses haven't been seen in quite some time presents a number of difficulties and it's rare that I'll have a large bet on a horse which is having its first run of the season.
All that said, Rock On Ruby, which was last seen when second to Jezki in April's Aintree Hurdle, looks a class apart in the Bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle (2.0 Wetherby) and if he's going off anywhere near his forecast price of 11/4, I'll be first in the queue with the readies.
Now aged ten, the 2012 Champion Hurdle winner has yet to race at this longer trip but he was campaigned with the World Hurdle in mind last term, eventually being ruled out because of a dirty scope.
Trainer Harry Fry reckons his work at home suggests he wants a bit further as he gets a little older, and this race has now been the target since Aintree. Alan King's Grumeti won the Cesarewitch on the Flat at a big price three weeks ago and looks the obvious danger but this is a whole different ball game and I doubt he'll have the stamina to see this one out today.
Just over an hour later on the same card, a chance is taken on Dynaste at 7/2 or thereabouts in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase (3.05). When it comes to chases, I always give serious consideration to anything rated 165 or higher and such horses are actually profitable if blindly backed.
Menorah, Many Clouds and Dynaste (below) are all above that level butthe latter has the benefit of a recent run having tackled a hurdle race at Auteuil earlier this month.
The trip there was too short and it was the talented grey's first run since picking up an injury in January so I'm not too concerned that he only finished ninth.
He'll be a lot sharper today and looks a cracking bet considering he's getting weight from most of the field as he escapes a penalty.
At the time of writing, Cue Card is the market leader and is respected but his price is a little short around 3/1 as he's got a bit to prove after some below-par races last season.
Unfortunately, he's just not been the same horse since suffering a pelvic fracture in February 2014 so it would be nice to see him run a big race today.
At Down Royal, Don Cossack has over a stone in hand in the Grade One JNwine.com Champion Chase (2.40) and should win without so much as breaking a sweat - but he's priced accordingly around 2/7 so it's a race best watched without a bet.
Getting back to Wetherby, Ma Filleule is an interesting entry in the Olbg.com Mares' Hurdle (2.30) and I'm happy to back Nicky Henderson's charge at 13/8 in the early markets.
It's been a long time since we've seen the mare over hurdles but she did win a Grade Two in the past and should have no problem reverting to the smaller obstacles.
She's a very smart chaser, finishing second in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and her latest race when sixth to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfred Bowl Chase is not as bad as it looks on paper with the 3m1f trip a stretch too far.
This is a significant drop in distance but she's a versatile sort and I don't think it will be much of a problem.
Blue Buttons also has strong claims around 9/2. Harry Fry's mare is rarely out of the frame and ran very well in some handicaps last season.
Trained in the Cotswolds by David Bridgewater, No Buts slips in nicely at the bottom of the weights off a mark of 137 in the Grade Three Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.25).
Second off the same rating in a somewhat weak handicap chase at Warwick in March, the seven-year-old has good form on soft ground so today's conditions won't be a problem.
Bookmakers have chalked the gelding up at a nice each-way price of 14/1 in the early markets.
Judging by the betting, Paul Nicholls' Virak looks the one to beat here priced in the region of 11/2 but he's up 10lbs for a win at Haydock and I've a feeling he may struggle when the going gets tough.
3.25 Ascot: No Buts (e/w)
2.0 Wetherby: Rock On Ruby
2.10 Down Royal: Ptit Zig
2.30 Wetherby: Ma Filleule
3.05 Wetherby: Dynaste