Rooney to score on Trials Day
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value from Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day.
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Festival Trials Day looks like it's going to beat the weather and it's coming just in time for desperate National Hunt fans who've been deprived of their sport over the last few weeks.
Bobs Worth's absence is a minor blow to the card and it says a lot that the Gold Cup favourite not turning up is only that, with Sprinter Sacre, Grands Crus, Oscar Whisky, The New One and more set to light up this dismal January.
On to the races themselves and one of the key subjects for punters is whether Tidal Bay will run in the Argento Chase.
We'll find out on Saturday morning and if he is withdrawn we're looking at a hefty Rule 4 deduction which makes betting on the contest the night before difficult.
Looking at the market as it stands now I'd be quite tempted by the 11/2 about Imperial Commander who on his best form is a league above his rivals, gets weight from everything, goes well fresh and loves Cheltenham.
Now could well be the time to catch him but when you take a 35p Rule 4 out of an 11/2 chance you're not left with much and that's when you start questioning your sanity for backing a horse that hasn't run for two years.
Instead I'll concentrate on the Murphy Group Chase and the claims of FRUITY O'ROONEY who looks a solid each-way bet at 16/1 with Paddy Power.
Gary Moore's 10-year-old has slipped in the weights enough to make him of interest here with a mark of 139 his lowest for over a year given that he spent all of 2012 racing in the 140s.
He ran many good races off those kind of ratings including at the Cheltenham Festival when he was second in the JLT Specialty Chase, just unable to hold off the late charge of Alfie Sherrin.
That proved his liking for the track and this feisty front-runner looks worth trying back over 2m5f on a testing course especially with the ground riding soft.
He copes fine with such conditions and though there are many prominent racers in the line-up Fruity is the only obvious front-runner and judging by the form he showed last time at Sandown he'll take plenty of catching.
I'm not sure the Esher track plays to his strengths like Cheltenham does and he paid the price for forcing it that day, with Katenko emphatically taking over from him in the straight.
Venetia Williams' charge renews rivalries here but Fruity O'Rooney gets a huge stone pull at the weights and on this track over a shorter trip he's a good bet to reverse that form.
Katenko is a horse on the upgrade but while Fruity O'Rooney is vulnerable to an improver at this stage in his career I'm not sure the former (11/2 favourite) should be so much shorter in the betting.
Certainly, at 16/1, with plenty in his favour, Fruity O'Rooney warrants some each-way support.
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: +123.31pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).