Ignore Limato's disappointing Dubai outing
In the 1930s, The Radio Times came up with a grid system for football commentary to help listeners picture in their minds where the ball was on the pitch.
The playing area was divided into imaginary squares, and square one was around the goalkeeper's box which was the furthest point away from the opposition goal.
So if the ball was passed back to the 'keeper, the team were 'back to square one'. Of course, there are also lots of snakes-and-ladders type games in which the beginning spot is the first square and, betting-wise, Portugal sent me back to square one last week with their 2-2 draw to Mexico in the Confederations Cup.
I was actually in Lisbon watching the match so I didn't want to curse them too loudly although understandably, the mood in Portugal was quite subdued with over 60 people killed in those horrendous forest fires - which puts things like sport into perspective.
It wasn't a bad weekend of betting otherwise with a couple of winners including Golden Apollo at 5/1, although as a punter, it's hard not to lament the ones that got away and an each-way bet on Glory Awaits at 33/1 left me feeling frustrated when the gelding finished third.
The place money was decent but it could have been a great boost to the coffers ahead of Royal Ascot, a meeting I enjoy immensely. So far, 2017 has gone reasonably well and I'm looking forward to having a decent-sized bet on Limato, which was trading at 5/2 yesterday evening for this afternoon's Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes (4.20).
Just like people, horses can have strong personalities and it was interesting to hear trainer Henry Candy say he'd never seen Limato "more depressed" than when he got home from Dubai following an unsuccessful attempt at the Al Quoz Sprint, in which he reportedly pulled a lot of muscles in the soft ground in March.
It's an experience connections will want to put behind them and Candy has said that the five-year-old is back to his old self, working well and having fun in the yard.
For form study purposes, I'm willing to overlook that Dubai outing and he sets the standard here based on his Group One Prix de la Foret win at Chantilly back in October.
The subsequent step up in trip for the Breeders' Cup Mile (finished mid-division) didn't really suit but the drop down to 6f here on what I hope will be his preferred fast ground means conditions may be perfect.
Ryan Moore gets the ride and you'd have to fancy his chances although Magical Memory is also highly respected under James Doyle, with Frankie Dettori out with injury. Charlie Hills' gelding hit 1/2 in-running on Betfair in the Duke of York Stakes last time before being beaten by Tasleet which re-opposes today.
But Magical Memory was having his first race of the season and I'd expect him to come on for the run and reverse the placings - although hopefully both horses will be behind Limato!
A little earlier, September looks the one to beat in the opening Chesham Stakes (2.30). Some of Aidan O'Brien's juveniles have been disappointing this season but not September which bolted up in her maiden at Leopardstown.
It was a visually impressive performance in which she kicked on easily and while you can't get carried away after one race, I suspect this Deep Impact filly has a bright future. O'Brien won this last year with Churchill and odds of 6/5 look about right.
For something at a bigger price, consider backing Ayrad each-way around 16/1 for the Listed Wolferton Handicap (3.05). Roger Charlton's six-year-old had been racing quite well in Listed and Group contests so a mark of 109 seems reasonably fair, although it's his first race of the season so I'm going to proceed with a bit of caution.
He was disappointing in a Listed race at Newmarket at the end of last season but generally speaking, he's a straightforward type. If Ryan Moore can get him out early into his preferred front-running position, it can help him place at the least.
Sir Michael Stoute's Khairaat is also worth a mention and may go off as favourite. He's now won three in a row including a handicap at Chester in May and is progressive - but he's up the best part of a stone for that success which seems a little harsh as it wasn't a hugely competitive race.
In the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes (3.40), Aidan O'Brien's Idaho is tipped at 6/1 or thereabouts under jockey Seamie Heffernan.
He made the frame in both the English and Irish Derby last year and followed up with a win in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, so it was disappointing to see him unseat his rider in the St Leger. Sixth in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time, he looked in need of the run and I think he's got more to come.
Sir Michael Stoute's Dartmouth will prove very popular in the betting considering he beat Highland Reel to win this race last year, although the ground was softer then so this could be a different type of contest altogether.
He was last seen when winning a Group Two at York on good-to-soft ground back in May, and his followers can be sure they'll get a good run for their money. Wings Of Desire also has claims having finished second in last year's King George.
Jockey Kieran Shoemark claims 3lbs in the Wokingham Stakes Handicap (5.0 Ascot) which can only help his mount Projection, expected to go off in the region of 8/1. A tough-as-teak gelding, Harry Herbert has said he loves the hustle and bustle of racing so it wasn't ideal when he found himself away from the pack last time in a handicap at Newmarket in which he finished sixth of the 14 runners. He shaped well though after nine months off, and he remains unexposed.
2.30 Ascot: September
3.05 Ascot: Ayrad (e/w)
3.40 Ascot: Idaho
4.10 Ayr: Queen Kindly
4.20 Ascot: Limato
5.0 Ascot: Projection (e/w)