Washington to ensure capital gains at Naas
Naas racecourse is often referred to as the punters' graveyard and there's a perception out there that lots of favourites get turned over at the course, making it a very difficult place to beat the bookmakers.
I'm not quite sure when it got this reputation but if you look through the stats, it appears to be unjustified, certainly in recent years.
With a strike-rate of 34pc for favourites since 2008, Naas sits mid-table in the list of courses where favourites do well in Ireland - with Punchestown one of the best at 41pc, and Roscommon one of the worst at 27pc.
In fact, backing the favourite in Group or Listed races at Naas has actually proved lucrative in that period with 34 winners from 70 bets (49pc) and a profit of 20 points to level stakes.
Perhaps then, it's time to revise the course's nickname and I reckon Washington DC can add to the winning favourite tally in tomorrow's Group Three Bar One Racing Lacken Stakes (4.15), priced around 11/8.
A Listed winner at Ascot last summer, Aidan O'Brien's colt was a class apart when easily disposing of his rivals in a Listed race at Navan last month and he has a number of Group One entries over the summer including the King's Stand Stakes.
Jim Bolger's Smash Williams is another one to watch having won a Group Three at the Curragh but he was a little one-paced when stepped up to Group Two level in France back in October, and he might be in need of the run.
Across the water at Haydock today, Gifted Master has very strong claims in the Group Two Sandy Lane Stakes (3.45) although bookmakers are taking no chances and have chalked him up at 13/8 in the early markets.
As short as it is, I'm quite happy to take him at that price and Hugo Palmer's gelding is building a picket fence beside his name, having won his last five races.
A couple of those wins were at Group Three level and while this is a significant step up in class, he was very convincing at Ascot last time and looks like a proper sprinter in the making.
The Commonwealth Cup is his most likely target and he should have enough to see off Buratino, which finished ninth in the 2,000 Guineas.
A little earlier at the same venue, So Beloved is my idea of a great value bet in the Group Three John of Gaunt Stakes (3.10) and I'll be first in line with the cash if he opens up near his forecast price of 5/1.
He put in a career best last time at the course when beating You're Fired to win a Listed race over seven furlongs and, now aged six, he seems to be getting more powerful as he matures.
While this is a better quality race, he does have Group Three winning form under the belt at Goodwood (back in August) and trainer David O'Meara should be given a lot of credit for finding the right races for the son of Dansili.
The Hugo Palmer-trained Home Of The Brave will probably go off as favourite and is the one I'm most worried about but he's a little too short for me in the betting around 4/1. A winner of a Listed event at Leicester last time, he's a little inconsistent and finished tamely in eleventh place in a Group Two at Doncaster near the end of last season.
Adaay is also worth a mention having won the Sandy Lane on this card last year but he was well beaten in a Group Two at Sandown last time and has something to prove at this stage.
Back home at Navan this afternoon, Aspar should prove hard to beat at a price of 2/1 or thereabouts in the REA Gunne Property Carrickmacross Maiden (2.30).
A son of Holy Roman Emperor, he's been a little frustrating to follow and finished second in four of his five races to date but it's surely only a matter of time before he comes good and this looks to be a straightforward opportunity to finally repay his backers.
In a maiden at Dundalk last time, he was going really well and hit 1/3 in-running on Betfair but Arcara stayed on a little better to nip it on the line. Sometimes you worry about those that always seem unlucky but I'm willing to give him another chance today.
Of the rest, Dermot Weld's A Likely Story catches the eye. He finished a half-length behind the selection at Dundalk and although he seems a little one-paced, he's likely to go close again.
I've mentioned the well-known draw bias at Britain's tightest track Chester numerous times here and how horses drawn in stall one have an obvious advantage on the inside rail.
But stall two is almost as good, especially in handicaps where the weight distribution means that each horse theoretically has just as good a chance as the next, thereby allowing factors like the draw to come into play.
Since 2008, there's been 82 winners from 479 bets (17pc) out of stall two in Chester handicaps and had you stuck a tenner on each, you'd be €230 better off.
Priced in the region of 7/1, Four Mile Beach looks a cracking each-way opportunity in the eight-runner RHS Flower Show Tatton Park Handicap (4.35) running out of stall two.
Mark Johnston's gelding ran well in a few maidens this term and his third place on his handicap debut at Pontefract last time suggested there's improvement to come.
The handicapper has been lenient, dropping him 2lbs in the weights to 72 and if he breaks quickly and Franny Norton gets a good position close to the rails, he's bound to go close.
* Last week's each-way selection, Oh This Is Us, won at 9/2.
2.30 Navan: Aspar
2.35 Haydock: Journey
3.10 Haydock: So Beloved
3.45 Haydock: Gifted Master
4.35 Chester: Four Mile Beach (e/w)
4.15 Naas: Washington DC (Sunday)