Spring the Blues with 20/1 Norse
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value in the Spring Cup at Newbury and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
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It's that time of year when National Hunt racing and the Flat compete for our attention and both codes of the game provide really tricky handicaps on Saturday.
On the level at Newbury, the Berry Bros & Rudd Magnum Spring Cup Handicap sees horses from the Lincoln and graduates from the Spring Mile compete against each other over the straight mile down in Berkshire.
- 1pt e.w Norse Blues in 2.20 Newbury at 20/1 (General 1/4 odds 1,2,3,4) - goes well fresh, not badly treated, joined shrewd new yard, goes well here and in this type of race
- 1pt win Border Legend in 2.20 Newbury at 10/1 (General) - lightly-raced four-year-old who could be very well handicapped if kicking on from last season
- 1pt win Always Right in 3.50 Ayr at 12/1 (General) - close third in this off similar mark in 2011, goes in ground and won last time;chance
We've plenty of form to go on, then, with Lincoln winner Levitate and Spring Mile winner Educate leading the hopes from those competitive Doncaster handicaps.
Levitate only goes up 3lbs for his narrow success but the key thing with him is soft ground. It's Good to Soft, Good in places at Newbury and with few showers forecast it doesn't look like it will be quite soft enough for him to follow up.
Educate is more versatile regarding underhoof conditions but he only got up in the final strides on Town Moor and his extra 5lb could well be a stopper.
Global Village has an obvious chance and I expect him to be in the mix, but the fact is he keeps finding at least one too good in these kind of races since his last win and he's up another 2lb for defeat last time.
My gut feeling is the prize will go to something that didn't compete at Doncaster's Lincoln meeting (this year) and the one that really stands out at the prices is NORSE BLUES at 20/1.
This horse won the Spring Mile at 50/1 in 2012 off just a 3lb lower mark and he finished last campaign in really good nick for Sylvester Kirk.
His fifth in the Silver Cambridgeshire at Newmarket in September was a particularly good effort and he was sold the following month and transferred to David Barron's yard.
He won the Spring Mile on his first appearance of the season and given he goes so well fresh it could be significant that Barron's targeting a race like this for his seasonal/stable debut.
It's also significant that 5lb claimer Ryan Tate has been booked to further relieve the already light burden he has towards the foot of the weights.
With good course form to his name including a win early in his career, there's lots to like about his chances and 20/1 looks very fair each-way.
He's the main bet but I'll also add BORDER LEGEND to the staking plan at 10/1 as he's the one that could be some way ahead of the assessor and I'm surprised he's not outright favourite.
Perhaps it's because Roger Charlton hasn't started the season all-guns blazing but this horse could kick-start it in some style if he's improved like he promised to from three to four.
Lightly raced with just five career runs under his belt, the Queen's horse ran twice in handicaps off marks in the low 80s last backend and on both occasions he travelled strongly in the manner of a useful tool.
His last performance at Nottingham was a particularly good effort, as he got to the lead sooner than was ideal but was just beaten in the run to the line by John Gosden's Lahaag.
He flopped when well-backed for the Lincoln but had previously franked the form, as did the third home Odyssey only days ago.
That's encouraging as far as Border Legend's chances go and off a mark of 86 he could be very well handicapped.
I won't dwell too long on the Coral Scottish Grand National as it's a very tough race to assess with many coming into the race out of form.
That's not the case for Auroras Encore following his stunning John Smith's Grand National win at Aintree but he faces an enormous task up 11lb off top weight here.
I can see why Rival D'Estruval is favourite as he was going well when falling in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham but at relatively short prices he's not for me after a tumble.
Instead, the 12/1 about ALWAYS RIGHT makes some appeal.
He was a close third in this race off a similar mark two years ago and while that was on good ground he's just as much at home on soft.
In fact, he won in such ground at Kelso last time and saved for this since, with that confidence-booster under his belt, he should go well.
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: +221.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).