Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bet selections on BetVictor Gold Cup day at Cheltenham and he's got three selections across the afternoon.
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*Benatar non-runner (Self cert, blood analysis not normal)
Tactics could be key in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday and I’m putting my faith in a couple of horses that are likely to be ridden with patience off what could be a really strong gallop.
Baron Alco and West Approach look the obvious pace forcers and they are likely to be kept up to their work by Rather Be and Splash Of Ginge as well, with Frodon, Willie Boy and Eamon An Cnoic others that could be well to the fore at an early stage.
That doesn’t automatically guarantee a rip-roaring gallop, of course, but I do think it increases the chance of a strong pace, something that plenty of these horses aren’t used to, especially in this early part of the season.
It should suit Kalondra, a horse that looks well-handicapped on the basis of his performance when falling at Galway, and I have nothing against him apart from his price, which looks to have all the juice squeezed out of it now he’s a general 7/1.
BENATAR has been backed in recent days, too, but at 9/1 (bet365, Boylesports) he still looks worth backing as, along with Kalondra, he looks to have excellent claims from a handicapping point of view and, crucially, a strong gallop should really suit.
He was beaten at Newton Abbot first-time back last time, but he pulled really hard in a small field and had nothing left to give in the closing stages.
But as a getting-him-ready-for-his-big-target exercise it should be deemed a success, as it will have run the freshness out of him and got him spot-on fitness-wise for this test.
He’s been keen in small-field races before, but it didn’t stop him winning his first three starts over fences including a Grade Two win against Finian’s Oscar last December.
Kept fresh for the Cheltenham Festival after that, he ran very well in third in the JLT Novices’ Chase, a race that has worked out exceptionally well.
Benatar pulled hard in that race as well, but he still finished ahead of Kemboy, now rated 157 (and maybe higher) after three wins since, while subsequent Grade One winner Finian’s Oscar was fifth and other winners to have come out of the race, Bigmartre and Modus (in a handicap off 146), were seventh and eighth.
That form gives Benatar an outstanding chance off 149 and, though this is the biggest field he’s ever faced, it should at least allow him to get plenty of cover and get settled in the early stages, thus, hopefully, allowing him to show his very best.
I do want two strings to my bow in a race as competitive as this and Paul Nicholls’ ROMAIN DE SENAM is the other one I like at 33/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, 28/1 General).
Nicholls took an age to win this race but he’s won it twice since 2012 now and he has three contenders this time around, with Frodon and Movewiththetimes his other runners.
They’re interesting enough for different reasons, but it’s Romain De Senam that appeals at the Friday night odds as he’s another that should really show his best off a proper gallop.
He was way too keen last time at Aintree to do himself justice and the fact he finished third looks an indication of how well he is in himself, as he had every right to drop right out considering how hard he pulled in the first mile.
Interestingly, the hood was left off in Liverpool but it’s back on this Saturday, so hopefully the headgear will help him settle as well and if it does he’s handicapped to have a big say.
He was a flying-home second in the Fred Winter a couple of years ago off just a 2lb lower mark, a race also run on the Old Course, while he wasn’t a bad fifth in this race last year in soft ground off a 7lb higher mark.
The six-year-old prefers better conditions than he got that day and he gets them on Saturday, so the stage is set for him to produce his best, which would see him outrun those 33/1 quotes in style.
Earlier on, I thought the race might just pan out nicely for ROCK THE KASBAH in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase and at 9/1 (General) he’s worth a bet as well.
It’s great to see Coneygree back but he does look likely to set the race up for something else on his reappearance and he and Perfect Candidate, who would prefer it softer, could well be sitting ducks at the business end.
Rock The Kasbah is likely to sit just off the leaders under Richard Johnson and he could well pick them off as he still looks fairly handicapped off 147.
He won at Chepstow off just a 5lb lower mark last season and finished his campaign with a good second in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown off 2lb higher.
Partly due to an excellent first-time out record he was well-backed for his return at Chepstow last time, where he was sent off the 2/1 favourite in a race won by The Young Master with Traffic Fluide second.
It looks good form with both of those horses winning since and, while he doesn’t usually need a run, Philip Hobbs’ horse did shape like he might have done this time.
He went second at one point but tired in the closing stages to finish sixth, so it could be worth chancing him coming on plenty for that as this sort of stamina test is exactly what he wants.
Finally, I was surprised to see CHRISTMAS IN APRIL in as big as the 8/1 (General) second-favourite in the BetVictor Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at 3.30.
Speedo Boy looks a worthy favourite for Ian Williams as he looks very well treated on his Flat form, but Christmas In April made a hugely encouraging start for Colin Tizzard last time and perhaps should be a little closer to the market leader in the betting.
The former Nicky Henderson-trained horse was a close-up third behind First Assignment at the October meeting at Cheltenham and stayed on well up the hill after finding trouble in-running.
Only raised 2lb for that, we know he acts well on this ground and at this track, and if he improves from that stable debut last time then he could well give Speedo Boy plenty to think about.
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: +336.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 16/11/18.