Think Big and Brig on day one

  • By: Ben Linfoot
  • Last Updated: March 11 2013, 20:23 GMT

Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and he's on 8/1, 11/1 and 33/1 chances.

Carlito Brigante: Looks thrown in

The first favourite of the week has no chance.

The official going description for the first day of the Cheltenham Festival looks highly likely to be 'Soft' and that means long-time market leader 'Good-to-Soft' has let the punters down for the first time in a while.

And the going is absolutely vital when assessing bets for the first day of the Festival.

In the Arkle, ground conditions look to have turned against Overturn who has avoided soft turf all season. Simonsig's chance looks to be a formidable one now and I see no point in taking him on.

Having advised Dodging Bullets at 14/1 for the Supreme Novices' and Rock On Ruby at 10/1 for the Champion Hurdle I also see no point in adding bets in those races now they are 9/1 and 9/2 respectively.

In truth, it's hard to see My Tent Or Yours being beaten in the Supreme but Dodging Bullets has experience and course form to his name and I expect him to run a big race.

Confidence is much higher regarding Rock On Ruby, last year's Champion who sports first-time blinkers.

The ground is only a slight concern with him and more of a worry is the potential lack of pace. But Noel Fehily will be well aware of that and if he has to make it I think he will.

The blinkers look a positive move to me and if they can eek out even a little improvement he's the one to beat. Last year's Champion Hurdle is the standout piece of form in the field for me and I think he has very good claims of doubling up.

But enough of the 'already advised'.

The JLT Specialty Chase is a blank canvas and Our Mick has an obvious chance after his eye-catching run when unluckily unseating Jason Maguire when going well here on Trials Day.

At 7/1 he could still be a bet, but the big prices have gone and I'm reluctant to back him at those odds in such a competitive race when he was twice the price when the weights came out.

With the ground the way it is I think there's going to be some big-priced winners in these big-field handicaps and it wouldn't surprise me to see HEY BIG SPENDER run a huge race at 33/1.

My theory with him is he's a big, strong horse who goes really well through sticky, tacky ground. His wins in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and the Classic Chase at Warwick last season came on such conditions and he could plough his way through Tuesday's ground while others struggle.

And the good thing is, he looks a really well-handicapped horse.

Rated as high as 157 over fences, he's now on a mark of 145 and travelled like he was very well-in off that mark last time at Newbury when he looked all over the winner in the straight.

A mistake at the second last cost him and in the end he had to settle for second behind Michel Le Bon. I realise it was only a veterans chase but his effort proved he's well in himself and off this mark on this ground I think he's been overlooked.

He's run well at Cheltenham several times in his career and though he's not a sexy, unexposed type that only serves to inflate his price and he looks worthy of each-way support.

In the OLBG Mares' Hurdle I'm reluctant to take on Quevega who comes here fresh every year and wins, but she can't do it forever and SWING BOWLER looks a worthy adversary.

The daughter of that fantastic race mare Lady Cricket, she looks to have inherited a fare dose of her dam's ability and ran a cracker behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle last time.

Given Lady Cricket won over trips in excess of 2m4f you would think the step up in trip is a positive and it's surely significant David Pipe has opted for this race when she could've raced off an attractive mark in the County Hurdle.

If Quevega turns up in top form she probably won't get near her, but I think she's the one most likely to give the favourite a race if she isn't on her A-game and by that logic she should be second favourite.

She's not, and the 11/1 looks worth taking.

Finally, I really like the look of CARLITO BRIGANTE in the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase.

It's his form behind Dynaste here at Cheltenham in November that makes me think he could be thrown in off a mark of 137. He gave the Jewson favourite 8lb that day and was beaten 17 lengths and he would've been a lot closer but for a mistake at the second last.

Gordon Elliott is superb at getting his best horses ready for a competitive handicap and he did it with this horse in the 2011 Coral Cup when he absolutely hosed up off a mark of 140.

He rocketed to 157 over timber so he looks thrown in 20lb lower over fences and the ground wouldn't bother him too much, though his best form is on a faster surface.

I think he's the most likely winner and 8/1 is more than fair.


1pt e.w Hey Big Spender at 33/1

1pt win Swing Bowler at 11/1

1pt win Carlito Brigante at 8/1


1pt win Dodging Bullets at 14/1

1pt win Rock On Ruby at 10/1

Ben Linfoot's Value Bet Aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK. Running total: +142.56pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).

  • Preview posted at 1815 GMT on 11/03/2013.