Value Bet: Koo the music
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value bets from Newbury and Lingfield on Saturday afternoon.
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After the extravaganza that was Cheltenham we've a fairly low-key Saturday this week with the jumps action at Newbury and the Winter Derby card at Lingfield the pick of the action.
Still, there is competitive racing at both venues with the EBF Stallions & TBA Mares' 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle Finale the feature race at the Berkshire track.
Nicky Henderson has a fine record in this contest and his Free Thinking is another with a chance as the step up in trip is likely to bring about improvement in her, while Paul Nicholls' Fairytale Theatre is another lightly-raced unexposed type that will be popular with punters.
- 1pt win Koolala in 2.55 Newbury at 18/1 (Stan James, Coral) - looks a likely improver stepped up in trip
- 1pt win What A Warrior in 3.30 Newbury at 18/1 (Coral) - dropped to a career-low mark and worth a go at longest trip he's faced
- 1pt win Vodkato in 3.50 Lingfield at 25/1 (bet365, Boylesports) - French raider that is interesting on several bits of form and could take advantage if draw foils favourite
However, neither really appeal at single-figure prices given the quality of opposition and my eye is drawn to the chances of KOOLALA at a general 18/1.
Paul Webber's mare is 3lb out of the handicap, but Jack Sherwood's 7lb claim helps on that score and she's another who looks set to benefit for the step up to 2m5f.
Last time she ran on well up the long Doncaster straight to take second over 2m 110y, giving the broadest hint she's ready for the step up in trip.
A closer look at her breeding suggests as much too. She's a half-sister to a couple of hurdlers who won in excess of 2m4f, while her sire Kayf Tara has produced many a fine stayer.
She's highly unexposed after just three runs over hurdles (212), should be fine if the forecast rain gets into the ground and her yard has just hit a bit of a revival recently with plenty of placed runners.
At 16/1, she's worth a small play.
Later on the card Highland Lodge has a mighty chance on his Hennessy fourth now he races off a 7lb lower mark and is dropped in class to a 0-140.
I was close to pulling the trigger at 10/1 but couldn't quite go through with it after watching the video of his lacklustre effort at Ascot last time, when his Welsh National exertions (pulled up) seemed to catch up with him.
Instead I'm going to give another chance to a horse that was last on his latest start, Nigel Twiston-Davies' WHAT A WARRIOR who looks well handicapped enough now to run a big race.
He was rated 134 when a close second over three miles at Chepstow earlier in the season, and is now 7lb lower after five defeats since.
However, three over those were around two and a half miles and his efforts over further have been much better - particularly his third at Ascot in December.
He's also a much better horse on better ground, which hopefully it will be (though I am concerned about the forecast rain for him) and the first time cheek-pieces should help as he's been racing lazily.
Earlier in the season he was seventh at Newbury, off a mark of 134, when outpaced over 2m6f in a race won by Tatenen. He stuck on well on the run-in that day and is further evidence that he needs further.
This is the longest trip he's ever tackled, and, along with the headgear and his lowest ever mark over fences, it can help him bounce back to form at an appealing 18/1.
I was thinking of going each-way at that price, but the rain concerns me and I'd rather have a small win bet.
Finally, the French raider VODKATO might be worth chancing in the coral.co.uk Winter Derby at 25/1.
The favourite Grandeur should win and perhaps he can overcome the widest draw of all, but his wide berth certainly gives the rest of the field a better chance than they had pre-draw.
And Vodkato seems to have been underestimated despite running an eye-catching fifth in the Prix Meydan Hotel on the Chantilly polytrack last time - a race I admittedly only watched as I was reporting on Cirrus Des Aigles' comeback.
He might be flattered by his proximity to good horses that day - the winner is a Group 2 winner on turf and Vodkato was only just over a length off him - but his overall record on the all-weather at both Chantilly and Deauville suggests he might not be.
Indeed, on his previous start he was beaten a short neck at Deauville by Smoking Sun - a horse that also has good form behind Cirrus Des Aigles.
If Grandeur is beaten it's likely to be by a closer that has a smoother passage - and that could be Stephane Wattel's underrated charge from stall six.
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: +217.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).