Now, no matter how disastrous their losses over the first four afternoons, punters know that the Stewards' Cup is waiting at the weekend, offering a chance to get it all back with one big hit, and rare indeed is the backer who will be able to resist an interest in the finest sprint handicap of the season.
Some, of course, already have ante-post slips, but fortune was very much on the side of the bookies yesterday when the draw was made for today's race. Danetime, unlucky to finish second when backed down to favouritism for the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, and Coastal Bluff, the three-length winner 12 months ago, have headed the market for several weeks but both will start from a low-numbered stall, which might just as well mean giving the rest of the field a 20-second start.
Horses have no greater awareness of statistics than they do of their starting price, but the evidence of the past 10 runnings of the race is impossible to ignore. Eight of the past 10 winners have come from a high draw while one of the two who did not was Lochsong in 1992, who went on to be the champion sprinter and so was, in hindsight, rather well treated off a handicap mark of 82. Add to this the fact that the obvious pacemaker in the race, Selhurstpark Flyer, will be leaving stall 20 and the magnitude of the task facing the two ante-post favourites becomes clear.
Certainly, Coastal Bluff makes little appeal under top-weight - consider, for instance, that Double Bounce, second 12 months ago, is 18lb better off today - although any runner from David Barron's yard demands respect since victory today would give the trainer his third Stewards' Cup in the past four years. Danetime, meanwhile, is a swiftly improving three- year-old who, like Lochsong, might be able to overcome his low berth, but at odds of around 7-1 in a field of 30 it is a possibility easily ignored.
Punters should look instead to the far side, where there are plenty of reliable, exposed handicappers but only two runners who appear to be generously handicapped on their recent form. My Best Valentine, available this morning at around 8-1, was an easy winner at Sandown on Eclipse day when having his first run for Vic Soane and is certainly worth an interest, but more appealing still is WAYPOINT (nap 3.50).
Roger Charlton's filly has done most of her racing over seven furlongs, including when a good third in the Victoria Cup at Ascot, yet she has so much going for her today that at early odds of 16-1 (Coral & Ladbrokes) she deserves a chance to produce her best over six. Waypoint won a fiercely run handicap at Newbury a fortnight ago in a time which left stopwatch experts gasping, and with Royston Ffrench value for his 3lb claim, she has outstanding prospects this afternoon.
Worthwhile bets elsewhere on the card are much harder to find, not least in the Nassau Stakes, where few runners have recent form to recommend. Last Second, the winner last year, has proved difficult to train since, and it would not be a surprise to see Entice (3.20) leave her disappointing run in the Musidora Stakes behind now that Godolphin's runners are finding their best form.
Shawdon (next best 2.45) was below form in Italy last time but had previously won three on the trot and is well-handicapped in the nursery on that form.