Value Bet: Milan the Real deal
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value in the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
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Cheltenham fever has taken a grip.
It's all that's on the minds of virtually everyone connected with National Hunt racing, and, with just 11 days to go until the tapes go up for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, it's understandable that Saturday's action is second-rate fodder.
Still, there's still an opportunity to boost Cheltenham funds at Doncaster, where good ground and a £50,000 purse has attracted 12 runners to the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase.
Monbeg Dude and Godsmejudge are using this race as part of their schedule in the run-up to the Crabbies Grand National at Aintree, and both are talented stayers with winning form on good ground.
However, they both have tough tasks off big weights on Saturday, especially considering their Nationals won't be left behind with a vigorous workout on Town Moor.
This race has tended to go to go to horses at the other end of the handicap in recent years, indeed, horses that wouldn't be good enough to get in the National, and that could well be the case again this weekend.
Court By Surprise has good claims, being a course winner in good form for the Emma Lavelle stable that continues to go well. However, he keeps inching up the handicap despite defeat and at the prices I prefer the claims of REAL MILAN.
His handler Donald McCain last won this race in 2008 when Cloudy Lane took the contest on his way to going off favourite for the National in which he finished sixth, and while Real Milan won't be taking the same path, he could still land a second Grimthorpe for the Cholmondeley handler.
A promising youngster, Real Milan won five of his first seven starts but things haven't gone to plan since then. An unfortunate slip in the Reynoldstown halted his promising start in novice chases and he was subsequently well beaten in the RSA.
However, the signs are he'll be winning again soon and he's slipped to a career-low mark of 129 which should help him achieve such goals. McCain is adamant he'll be at home on better ground too, which is an unknown on form.
It's his last two pieces of form that make me think he's worth a bet at 11/1, though.
Two starts ago, at Doncaster, he was unlucky not to finish second when he weakened late on off a big weight. A 12lb pull can help him reverse the form with Mart Lane, while the extra two furlongs should play to his strengths. While untried beyond 25 furlongs, he looks all over a stayer.
Last time, at Wetherby, he bumped into a well-handicapped rival with a previous course win, but lost nothing in defeat and it proved he's in good form.
At these weights, over this trip, on nice ground, he's got a very good chance and in my opinion a slightly better one than 11/1 implies.
Harry The Viking has plenty to prove off this mark considering his last two runs at the track, but he is shorter in the betting, as is Golden Call, who has a tough task off a mark 8lb higher than when he won a weaker race last time.
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: +245.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).