Jumps King to plunder Flat prize
Ben Linfoot previews Saturday's John Smith's Northumberland Plate and is taking two against the field including Alan King's Ardlui.
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National Hunt trainers unsurprisingly have a good record in the John Smith's Northumberland Plate, with Martin Pipe, Philip Hobbs, Len Lungo, Tony Martin and Donald McCain (twice) all winning the prize since the late 1990s.
This year the jumps boys have a strong hand once again, with Jonjo O'Neill's Tominator well fancied to repeat his success in the race from two years ago when he was trained by Reg Hollinshead.
On his Chester Cup third he has an excellent chance, but he is 10lb higher than when he won this race and at prices around the 7/1 mark he doesn't appeal as there look to be horses with just as good a chance at larger odds.
The one that I want to be with the most is Alan King's ARDLUI at 12/1.
King had an excellent end to the National Hunt season after some trying months in the heart of the winter and his handicappers on the Flat are always worth a second look.
Ardlui's win at Ripon caught my attention for several reasons. Firstly, he was very game when challenged by Lady Kashaan. Secondly, he was the only prominent racer who didn't fall away that day. And thirdly, the beaten horses tie in some key formlines which suggests he has a huge chance.
Take Good Morning Star for example. She was beaten eight lengths by Ardlui at Ripon, but subsequently ran to within three lengths of winner Address Unknown in the Chester Cup.
John Quinn's Moidore, too, was 14 lengths off Ardlui at Ripon, but then ran second to subsequent Royal Ascot winner Well Sharp at York.
Ardlui was raised just 3lb for his Ripon win and you wouldn't think the handicapper has definitely got him in his grip quite yet, something that would be hard to achieve given the narrow nature of his last two victories on the Flat.
His previous effort on the level, back in November of last year at Newmarket, is worth revisiting too. He won by three-quarters-of-a-length that day, with Nicky Henderson's Lieutenant Miller, who would've been well-fancied for this had he got in, beaten almost 10 lengths in third, receiving 11lb.
Ardlui's win at Ripon came after a break, and, kept fresh for this assignment since, he's the most rested horse in the field after 63 days off.
He goes well on soft ground too, so Friday's rain will not inconvenience him either. The only thing that isn't ideal is his draw out in 12, but, it could've been worse and 12/1 is a fair price.
The draw in the Plate is worth a quick mention. I'm of the opinion a wide draw can be overcome - Overturn proved that three years ago when winning from 21 - but I think it's easier to defy a wide draw when the ground rides fast.
It's much harder to either get to the front early from a wide draw, or come back at the leaders from off the pace, when the ground is soft.
I'll chance Ardlui from 12 given how strong his credentials are otherwise, but those drawn very wide really could struggle in Saturday's likely conditions.
With this in mind I want a horse with a single-figure berth on side too, and last year's winner ILE DE RE appeals at 14/1.
He's been cut from bigger prices since the weather turned wet but he still represents some decent value now conditions have turned in his favour.
He gets to race off the identical mark he raced off when winning the race last year and in-form claimer Jason Hart, with 11 wins to his name so far in June, takes a valuable 5lb off.
Beaten at Chester and York this season, the ground was too quick on both occassions and he didn't actually run too bad on the Knavesmire last time, behind Songcraft over a trip too short.
Those efforts have seen him drop in the handicap to his last winning mark and at 14s he's worth backing along with Ardlui.
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: +246.06pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current). The column is +113.75pts to recommended stakes in 2013.