Value Bet: On High
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of the Crabbie's Grand National meeting at Aintree.
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Aintree starts with a bang with three Grade One races opening the meeting, with First Lieutenant going for a second consecutive Betfred Bowl and The New One aiming to go one better than last year in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle.
Those two look like being the ones to be on in those contests, but the opening race of the meeting, the Injured Jockeys Fund 50th Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, looks an altogether more open affair.
Calipto heads the betting after his luckless run in the Triumph, but even if he'd won that race I doubt he'd be a much shorter price here as it wasn't a vintage renewal and there looks to be very little between the top juveniles.
With that in mind Fred Winter winner HAWK HIGH looks well worth an investment at 14/1.
Like all your bets on day one, the weather is worth keeping an eye on here as rain is forecast and any softening of the ground would probably be against Tim Easterby's charge.
Though relying on forecasts is a dangerous business, the worst of the weather looks to be later in the afternoon and hopefully it will be riding something like the current 'Good-Good to Soft in places' come the opening race as better ground looks key to his chance.
When he won at Aintree back in October it was good ground and the same conditions prevailed at the Festival where he saw off the attentions of Katgary to land the prize.
I think Katgary would've been a much shorter price than 14s had he lined up here and Hawk High does seem to have been underestimated on account of the hard-luck stories some of his opponents endured at the Festival.
But the way he travelled just off the pace at Cheltenham suggests he was a worthy winner and this track could be even more to his liking.
There's no standout juvenile in this race, the Fred Winter form looks as good as anything on offer to my eyes and 14/1 is fair.
Later on the card the two handicaps on the Mildmay and Hurdle tracks could be run on softer ground than the opener and it's something to bear in mind if you're betting before racing starts.
The Silver Cross Red Rum Handicap Chase is a tricky puzzle but Arnaud could be the answer with the talented Ger Fox taking off 7lb.
Charles Byrnes' horse jumped for fun when finishing second to Arkle fifth Valdez at Doncaster and a mark of 148, not including Fox's claim, could well underestimate his potential.
However, he hasn't been missed in the market and prices around 7/1 represent his chance.
There are a couple I think could be overpriced with Nigel Twiston-Davies' ASTRACAD one of them at 20/1.
He's a victim of his own consistency but the handicapper has finally given him a chance by dropping him to 140 - his lowest mark in 14 starts.
The eight-year-old was dropped 3lb after pulling up in the Grand Annual, but he suffered for trying to go with Next Sensation, a thankless task that eventually did for him.
However, he's not one to give up on especially now he has a chance at the weights, as he's usually a reliable performer in a strongly-run two-mile handicap chase, as his close third off 142 at Cheltenham in December proves.
His record at Aintree is also good. On his second start this season he was second in the Old Roan Chase and he was runner-up in this race off a 5lb higher mark two years ago.
I'll chance him at 20s and I can't resist having a go at BULLET STREET at 50s in the same contest.
Only small stakes are required but he could be worth a small punt given that his trainer Evan Williams is a fine placer and wouldn't be running him here if he didn't have half a chance.
There was evidence of that earlier in the season when Wychwoods Brook won the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. Out of the handicap that day, Williams used the 7lb claim of Conor Ring to great effect and could repeat the trick here.
Bullet Street is 6lb out of the handicap but Ring's claim helps on that score and any rain wouldn't inconvenience this fellow who is versatile regarding ground conditions.
He's been finishing second and third at a much lower level in small-field affairs, but his hold-up style wouldn't be suited to those kind of races. The blood and thunder of a big-field handicap at Aintree, however, could be right up his street.
Finally, BUSTY BROWN could be the bet of the day in the closing Dominican Republic Handicap Hurdle.
He's disputing favouritism at around the 9/1 mark but he should be a clear market leader in my book given the potential he has now he's unleashed over a trip in a handicap.
A neck third to Our Vinnie the only time he has run over three miles in a Grade 3 novice hurdle, Busty Brown looks sure to appreciate the step back up in distance.
An eye-catching third behind Sailors Warn and Thousand Stars on his comeback at Leopardstown last month, you can't take that form at face value, but a mark of 140 could seriously underestimate his ability.
I also can't ignore the claims of CANTLOW at double the price and he's worth a saver.
Runner-up in a Grade One novice hurdle at this meeting three years ago, he was switched to chasing before he reached his peak over timber.
A credible performer over the bigger obstacles, he's 8lb better off here than he would be over fences and on all the evidence we've seen this season, he's capable off this mark especially now his jumping is less important.
1pt win Hawk High in 2.00 Aintree at 14/1
1pt win Astracad in 4.15 Aintree at 18/1
0.5pts e.w Bullet Street in 4.15 Aintree at 50/1
1pt win Busty Brown in 5.25 Aintree at 9/1
1pt win Cantlow in 5.25 Aintree at 18/1
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: +211.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).