Value Bet: About Time
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and his selections include 40/1 and 50/1 shots.
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The Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup takes centre stage on the final day of the Festival with Bobs Worth heading the market at around 2/1 as he bids to seal back-to-back successes.
He's a warrior, and, a perfect five from five at Cheltenham, he clearly loves the hill and the place in general. If he's in touch rounding the home turn, he can retain his crown.
- 1pt win Never Enough Time in 2.05 Cheltenham at 14/1 (General) - strong traveller on a rapid upward curve.
- 0.5pts e.w Anay Turge in 2.05 Cheltenham at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 general) - Thrived since switch back to hurdles and race should suit.
- 1pt win The Skyfarmer in 4.40 Cheltenham at 16/1 (General) - Decent ground the key and trip looks ideal.
- 0.5pts e.w Carlito Brigante in 4.40 Cheltenham at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Stan James and BetVictor) - Not without chance now back to a feasible handicap mark.
- 1pt win Tanks For That in 5.15 Cheltenham at 16/1 (General) - Solid option with plenty of previous experience in the race.
However, that 'if' is a big one. Last year they went one hell of a gallop up front on soft ground and he wasn't travelling well at all half a mile from home. He stayed on best of all to win, but it may not pan out like that this year.
I don't think there will be a lack of pace in the race - especially if Last Instalment is allowed to take his chance - but I do think they could get away from him and on this ground they may not come back to the reigning champ.
Nicky Henderson's horse did well to win off a slow pace last time at Leopardstown, but in winning that contest he ran to an official rating of 168 - 9lb below what Silviniaco Conti achieved in the King George.
That looks about right considering the quality of rival Conti had to overhaul at Kempton, and, purely on the form of the leading two in the market this season, I would have their prices the other way round.
Of course, the Cheltenham factor has been accounted for here. Bobs Worth has a perfect record at Prestbury Park, while Silviniaco Conti fell at the third last when travelling well on his only race at the track in last year's Gold Cup.
But, while Silviniaco Conti looks in his absolute prime as an eight-year-old, nine-year-old Bobs Worth carries the battle scars from last year's Gold Cup and history shows it's very difficult to win this race back-to-back. Some truly great winners have tried and failed.
It's Conti for me, and at anything bigger than 7/2 I'll be going in again, though those sort of prices aren't for this column which will continue to shoot for the moon after a frustrating week.
Luckily there are three more particularly devilish handicaps to get stuck into on the final day, beginning with the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at 2.05.
JP McManus has a strong hand here with four live chances, but the one I like the most is NEVER ENOUGH TIME at a general 14/1.
Thomas Foley's horse is improving rapidly, his victories at Gowran and Leopardstown this year seeing him rise from an Irish mark of 116 to a British mark of 141.
That may seem a lot, but he absolutely bolted up last time off just an 11lb lower mark from Blacklough, who was fifth in the Boylesports.com Hurdle won by Gilgamboa, and Art Of Payroll in fourth - a horse that cruised home himself in what should've been a competitive handicap last time.
Talented jockey Ger Fox has claimed off him the last two starts and does so again here to the tune of 7lb, as he aims to take his record on the horse to three from three.
The ground is an unknown as he's done all his racing on soft or heavy, but the way this son of Oscar has cruised through his last two races he's worth chancing at 14s, as he could still have plenty in hand.
At a much bigger price I also can't let ANAY TURGE go unbacked at a huge 66/1.
This horse has only recently gone back over hurdles after a couple of bad experiences over fences, and if it was a confidence-building exercise it's worked wonders as he's won twice at Southwell since.
That form wouldn't be good enough to win a County Hurdle, but his chase win here in November showed he relishes the stiff finish off a strongly-run two miles and given he's in good heart his price looks too big.
The man on board, Tom Scudamore, also has confidence running through his veins after a terrific week and with the pressure off he can just nurse his mount into this quietly.
It's a bit out of the ballpark, but I would rather back him at 66/1 than several of those shorter in the betting with plenty to prove.
Later on the card, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle is full of potential improvers and at 16/1 THE SKYFARMER looks a likely contender.
Philip Hobbs' horse is four from four on good ground and his win here at Cheltenham in December has been well advertised by plenty of those in behind that day.
Richard Johnson dropped his whip late on in that race too, and the subsequent 17lb rise was understandable.
Last time, off his new mark at Ascot, he raced keenly up front in really heavy ground and the run is best forgotten, even though he was a respectable fifth despite adversity.
Back on good ground at Cheltenham he can resume his upward curve, especially over a trip that should play to his strengths.
Again, there's one at a big price that I can't resist a small each-way nibble at and that horse is CARLITO BRIGANTE at 40s.
If he was still trained by Gordon Elliott this would look like a handicap plot, but after just one run for new handler Karen McLintock he's been seriously underestimated here.
He ran well on his first start for his new trainer over fences back in October, at least showing a bit more zest for the game following a trio of woeful efforts on his last three starts for Elliott.
But at least they ensured his hurdle mark dropped and off 140 he's back down to the mark he won the Coral Cup easily off two years ago.
Admittedly he might not be the force of old and he bears a few scars from his chasing efforts, but he's interesting enough at the prices for a small each-way bet.
Finally, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual closes the Festival and though the temptation is to look for an unexposed plot, experience counts for a lot in the blood and thunder of a race like this.
Hardy handicappers like Tiger Cry and Oiseau De Nuit have won this race in recent years, both of them winning having run in the race before, and at 16/1 TANKS FOR THAT strikes me as a solid wager.
Nicky Henderson has won his father's race twice before, and has had a go with this fellow on three occasions, his best result coming two years ago when he was second to stablemate Bellvano off a mark of 149.
He's 5lb lower than that now, the ground has come right for him, he goes well after a break, arrives in good form following a win in a jumpers' bumper and has the assistance of the in-form Barry Geraghty in the saddle.
It's a very difficult puzzle to end the Festival with, but Tanks For That can put his experience to good use and make it fourth time lucky in the closing handicap.
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: +225.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).