The $5.20 the TAB has offered around Scapolo (No 1, R7) at Rotorua today looks the best value we are going to get this weekend.
The winner of $583,000 is extremely well off under this weight-for-age scale. He has been lumping huge weights in handicaps and drops back to what is essentially level weights.
It would pay to take little notice of Scapolo being beaten at Wanganui last start. It was not the worst run under 59.5kg in a handicap and he is much better placed this time.
Nomisma (No 8) came back to winning form in great style last start and is confidently expected to continue with top class form. Salamanca (No 2) wasn't far away last start at Ellerslie and is better here on a left-handed track.
Jacqui Ickx (No 3, R2) drops back to R65 from the open class greys' race at New Plymouth in which she finished 7.4 lengths from St Emillon. On a wet track the No 1 draw might not be the advantage it first looks, but this is early in the day. The big advantage will be the 3kg apprentice allowance.
Jet Charged (No 1) has Rotorua form, wet track form and has previously won when fresh from a spell. The 3kg apprentice allowance is an added bonus. Sleeping Beauty (No 6) was stylish in winning on debut.
Seventh Up (No 5, R3) and Battle Time (No 6) should provide a good clash early on the programme. Seventh Up has an excellent record, having won four from nine. He is unbeaten in three on wet tracks and managed difficult conditions at Pukekohe well last start. Secret Spirit (No 8) should be included in all multis.
Preetha Varma (No 6, R4) has no wet track form, but to be fair to her she has had only the one run in the heavy stuff. She is by Keeper and most of them can handle "off" tracks. Pacquiao (No 3) is a course winner with wet track form.
Promises (No 11, R5) has plenty of ability, but she seems to strike the odd issue, which have proved costly. She steps up from 1600m to 1950m and with a reasonable draw should take some beating with an economical passage. What manages the conditions will be difficult to hold out in this race. Arzak (No 12) is guaranteed to cope and is in winning form.
Chachar (No 5, R6) had huge barrier issues before she resumed with a winning run at Ellerslie. That was a good effort and there is no reason she cannot repeat it here, even from her outside barrier. If today's track races like recent Rotorua meetings it should suit horses coming out wide in the closing stages in the later races.
Go Nicholas (No 2) is in the right form and meets Chachar 2.5kg better off in the handicap from last start.
The last is even. Single Shot (No 3, R8) was close up sixth last start and is in the right sort of form for this race.
Daniece (No 11) is a promising mare worth following.
The Caulfield Cup at 6.30pm is a puzzle as always, greatly complicated by the four European stayers making their Downunder debut against our stayers. For "our" read Australian-trained because a suspected nasty spider bit a leg of our sole rep Fanatic and blew it up. It can happen here, don't worry - white tail spiders are often found in horse rugs and they can be just as nasty.
German stayer Articus (No 9, R8) with just 53kg on his back can prove difficult.
Chances are these European stayers could be lengths better than the Australian horses. Scottish (No 4), Sir Isaac Newton (No 5) and Exospheric (No 3) all have fine form in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Murray Baker/Andrew Forsman-trained Elenora (No 5, R4) is going to take beating in the Ethereal Stakes. She was never in the clear in the Edward Manifold Stakes last start and will appreciate the step up to 2000m.
Her stablemate Highlad (No 7, R5) will find it tough from gate No 14 in the 3YO Classic. He is significantly fitter for his Australian debut run.