Value Bet: Russian Hero
In-form Value Bet tipster Ben Linfoot seeks out the best bets from Chester and Sandown on Saturday.
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It's a rare low-key Saturday as we make the transition from summer festivals to the autumn programme but there are still some tricky handicaps to get stuck into at Chester and Sandown this weekend.
Tricky is the right word and after a period of unsettled weather it looks like the soft-ground horses are going to come to the fore in the coming weeks following a sustained spell of good old reliable fast ground.
It's currently 'Soft' on the sprint course at Sandown with a bit of 'Good' thrown into the description on the round course and with a few more showers a possibility the chances are there's going to be plenty of cut in the ground come Saturday afternoon.
This was one of the main things on my mind when going through the runners for the St James Theatre Handicap, but there looks to be very little in the race that will suddenly bounce back to form in such conditions at a big price.
In fact, all the value looks to be at the top end of the market as there is very little to recommend a bunch of outsiders that either look out of their depth or badly handicapped.
The better horses have dominated this race over the last few years and that could well be the case again, with Clon Brulee, Spa's Dancer and Ajmany of obvious interest.
However, I'm not sure Ajmany will like the ground, Spa's Dancer has a wide draw and his stamina to prove and Clon Brulee went up 8lb for what looked an average race at Newmarket last time.
Mount Shamshan looks the wrong favourite in my eyes given he only won his maiden at the fourth attempt last time. Perhaps the bookies are rightly wary of anything that runs for William Haggas, but, even so, his runner here hasn't done enough on the track to be worthy of his place in the market for this race.
The one I expected to be favourite is FORGOTTEN HERO for the in-form Charlie Hills and he's worth backing at 9/1 with Coral.
Last time, at Ascot, he won a 10-furlong handicap in good style from a bunch of horses that have been running well this season, including John Smith's Cup runner-up Zain Eagle and five other horses that had all won at some point this calendar year.
He travelled through the race extremely well and stayed on strongly to the line in the manner of a horse that was enjoying his optimum conditions - namely a stiff 10 furlongs at a right-handed track on ground with a bit of dig in it.
It's of no surprise, then, that Hills has looked to Sandown for this horse's next port of call and he could do with a victory, too, in order to ensure himself a place in the Cambridgeshire, his main autumn target.
He has the stamina for further which could be useful in a big field handicap at Sandown, while his single-figure draw is kind as was the handicapper, who only put him up 3lb for that Ascot success.
Everything considered, he has a very solid chance of following up and relative to the chances of his rivals the 9/1 available is a very fair price indeed.
There's a bit of cut in the ground up at Chester as well and that, combined with what could well be a fierce pace in the Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer Handicap, will suit Sir Michael Stoute's RUSSIAN REALM.
This horse was sent off at 5/1 for the Buckingham Palace Stakes before finishing ninth, and since then he's been fourth at Sandown and seventh at York in really competitive handicaps.
However, the absolute key to him looks to be cut in the ground and the fact that he's run very well on faster conditions the last three times he's been out bodes well ahead of Saturday.
He hosed up on soft ground at Goodwood in May, but his hold-up style hasn't served him well since as hardened handicappers have just been too strong at the summer festivals.
Ocean Tempest, Heavy Metal, Alejandro and Apostle should help ensure this contest is run at a decent gallop, though, and that should allow David Probert to pick his way through as long as he doesn't meet trouble in running.
That's always a possibility at Chester, but off 95 in these conditions Russian Realm could be very well handicapped and the 8/1 with Hills is too big to resist.
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: +359.09pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current) 2014 running total +91.28pts.
- Preview posted at 1705 on 29/08/2014