Bourne a winner at Ascot
Ben Linfoot seeks out the value from Saturday's feature action at Ascot and Haydock.
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The heavy ground and relatively small fields means there's very little that appeals at big prices in the feature races at Ascot and Haydock this weekend.
However, proven ability to go through very testing conditions remains an underrated trait when such ground prevails and one or two horses are worth backing with this in mind.
Take the Keltbray Holloway's Hurdle at Ascot for example. I'm a huge fan of two of the market leaders, The Skyfarmer and Minella Forfitness, but neither have proven themselves in heavy ground before.
In The Skyfarmer's case, trainer Philip Hobbs is on record as saying he didn't think such a test would suit and you can only presume the timing of this contest is ideal for his programme.
His Cheltenham form from earlier in the campaign has been boosted a couple of times and the feeling is a mark of 140 underestimates his potential.
Yet both he and Minella Forfitness, another progressive hurdler on good ground, are short enough in the betting considering the rain that has fallen and I reckon they'll have to be well ahead of their marks if they are to successfully give over a stone and a beating to BOURNE.
He has won on heavy ground - and off a rating 7lb higher than he races off on Saturday too.
That was at Kempton 11 starts ago, and it was his last win, but he's taken a slide in the ratings on the back of his losing sequence and the signs are he's ready to bounce back to winning form.
Just two starts following that aforementioned success he was a close fourth over Saturday's course and distance off a mark of 140, 15lb higher than the rating he races off this weekend.
That was his second good effort over the course and distance too, as he won a handicap hurdle in February 2012 off the identical rating of 125 that he's handily slid down to in time for Saturday's assignment.
To be fair, he has raced off 125 his last three starts. Two of them were good efforts in third at Bangor and Wetherby, while the other was a respectable eighth in a hot handicap hurdle won by Saphir Du Rheu.
While none of those efforts on their own suggest he is particularly well handicapped, they have been good enough runs to inspire confidence now he returns to Ascot in ideal conditions.
When he won here he outstayed subsequent World Hurdle third Smad Place and given he clearly thrives at the venue and in the ground, he looks well handicapped enough to have a big shout. The 15/2 at Stan James appeals.
Over at Haydock NIGHT ALLIANCE is also worth a bet at the generally available 8/1 in the Peter Marsh Chase.
I'm keen to take on Merry King and Vintage Star after their Welsh National exertions, while Sydney Paget was very disappointing at Wetherby and Chance du Roy comes alive when faced with the National fences.
The Minack would do very well to win this test after such a long absence, while Vino Griego might've ruined his chance in a handicap for now after beating Rolling Aces and Harry Topper in a three-runner affair at Sandown.
The main danger is Katenko now he's back in handicap company on ground he loves, but we've yet to see the same sparkle he showed pre-colic scare and considering that he's short enough.
The rest are racing out of the handicap, including the selection, but being 3lb wrong is of little concern given the positives.
He's rapidly improving over three miles in these sort of conditions, as he showed by winning at Ffos Las and Ascot in November, before going in again at Haydock on December 21.
The way he stayed on that day gives hope that he can defy what is effectively a 16lb hike in the weights, as does the form of that contest.
The second Loch Ba ran well in the Betfred Classic Chase last week, the fourth Samstown went down only by a neck at Wincanton the other day and the sixth Wicklow Lad has won since at Ayr.
On top of this his trainer Richard Newland is in sparkling form too, so the 8/1 about Night Alliance might be worth getting on board.
1pt win Bourne in 2.25 Ascot at 15/2
1pt win Night Alliance in 3.15 Haydock at 8/1
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: +260.81pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).