Doncaster hosts the first flat turf meeting of the year this weekend and, ahead of the Brocklesby and the Lincoln and the rest, I've picked out what I think are five good bets for the season.
Time inevitably will be the final arbiter of how good they actually are, but hopefully all have some sort of robustness to the rationale.
Good Bet #1: Just That Lord to win the Brocklesby
The opening race of the turf flat season, and the first for two year olds, is the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes. It's a race in which one generally low profile trainer has a preposterously good record.
Bill Turner is his name and, though he may be more famous for riding a zebra to his local boozer, he always has his babies very well forward for the start of the flat.
Incredibly, he's saddled no less than six Brocklesby winners, and four of the last nine. Since 2006, from a single runner each year, Turner's Brocklesby form string reads 101621412, a remarkable feat for any trainer let alone one with just a handful of horses.
I don't know anything about Just That Lord's breeding, except that he's a home bred by owner Mrs M S Teversham, who also bred and owned the 2002 winner, The Lord. But I do know that if he's lining up in this for Mr T, he must be nippy.
Good Bet #2: Richard Pankhurst to win 2000 Guineas
Who knows how last year's juvies have wintered and progressed as we head towards the first Classics of 2015? Those closest to them, of course. So unless you have a mole in Newmarket - most are dealt with as vermin (the underground burrowing types, I mean) - the best barometer may be the market, in conjunction with the form book.
Richard Pankhurst scores well on both fronts. Trained by Johnny G and bred by his wife, Rachel Hood, Mr P has changed hands since his taking win in the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot to run in the Godolphin blue this season. That was the last we saw of the son of Raven's Pass on the track, but a similar layoff hasn't prevented stable mate Faydhan from standing second in the betting for the first Classic.
Raven's Pass himself was fourth in the Guineas in 2008, and Gosden had to settle for second last year with horse of the year, Kingman.
Despite his ostensibly more illustrious barn buddy, Richard Pankhurst has achieved more on the track and, in recent days, attracted more support in the betting. He's still available at 16/1, and that might be worth a small interest.
Good Bet #3: Tiggy Wiggy to win 1000 Guineas
She may not stay the mile trip. And she may not improve enough from two to three. But she looks the wrong price to me at 25/1 to win the 1000 Guineas.
In the not so distant past - 2004 to be precise - Attraction won four races at five furlongs and the Cherry Hinton Stakes (Group 2) over six as a juvenile before claiming the Guineas. She was only slightly more stoutly bred than Tiggy Wiggy, who ought not to get beyond seven furlongs on pedigree.
In 2008, Natagora won the Cheveley Park Stakes, a Group 1 over six furlongs, before winning the Guineas. At this point in her career, she had yet to race beyond six pegs, and she had a five from seven career record (second the other twice).
Tiggy Wiggy won six of eight starts as a juvenile last season, second on the other two outings. And she was good enough to win the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in comfortable fashion.
In 2010, Special Duty won a contentious renewal of the 1000 Guineas having raced exclusively at six furlongs or less as a two year old. She too won the Cheveley Park Stakes en route to Classic success.
Tiggy Wiggy will probably get jiggy in a seven furlong trial as an attempt to prove her stamina before the big day, and if she fails that rehearsal she may not run in the Guineas.
But 25/1? About the best juvenile filly of 2014? History says she's over-priced, even if we have to tear up the ticket before May 3rd.
Good Bet #4: Elm Park to win the Derby
Elm Park, former home to Reading Football Club, and the name of the current Racing Post Trophy holder. Bred by the Kingsclere Stud, he was owned by their racing club prior to the acceptance of a doubtless un-refusable offer from Qatar Racing.
Having been bested into third on his debut, Elm Park went through the rest of the season unbeaten in four. That quartet of wins included the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes and, as mentioned, a ready success in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
Elm Park has reportedly wintered very well and filled out considerably. Team Balding is obviously excited about his prospects and I'm looking forward to seeing him at a stable visit on 14th April (I will of course share all the gen shortly thereafter).
He needs to be supplemented for the Epsom showpiece which, all other things being equal, will happen; and while it's not a triumph for the little guy any more, it'd still be a fantastic achievement for Andrew Balding and team.
Elm Park has already shown he acts on good to firm and soft ground, so it'll be of little concern to him how the turf rides in early June, though stamina has to be taken on trust as with all Derby aspirants at this stage.
A staying on run behind Richard Pankhurst in the 2000 Guineas is something of a dream result, but more sensibly a closing-on-the-leaders top four finish there on his seasonal bow would be pitch perfect preparation. 14/1 looks generous.
Good Bet #5: Found to win the Oaks
Winner of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, a fillies' mile race, last backend, Found is favourite for both the Guineas and the Oaks. She's by Galileo - who else? - out of an Intikhab mare and, though she was speedy enough to win that G1, she did get done for toe in the Moyglare Stud Stakes over a furlong shorter.
Whatever she does in the 1000 Guineas she'll surely improve on in the Oaks. Her trainer, Aidan O'Brien, says she is a big filly with a rounded action, which on the face of it raises questions about fast ground. But she won her maiden on good to firm, and was a close third in that Moyglare; she might prefer a bit of cut without it being a prerequisite.
4/1 is pretty unsexy in the context of a bet in a race two months down the line (yes, that's all it is!), but any sort of staying on close to the places performance in the Guineas and she'll be 2/1 or less I would think.
So, what's your best bet for the flat season? Leave a comment and let us know. 😀
p.s. the REAL best bet for the flat season is a subscription to Geegeez Gold. Right now, you can get two weeks for £5, and a seriously low £24 a month if you decide to stay with us. The bit of Gold that I rarely promote - tipping - has enjoyed winners at 12/1 and 10/1 from just four picks this week on Stat of the Day. It's obviously not always like that... but it often is 😉