Our racing expert Ben Linfoot has four Value Bet selections for Gold Cup day at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival including Clan Des Obeaux in the big one.
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The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup market has been pretty stagnant for a few weeks now and Paul Nicholls’ brilliant King George winner CLAN DES OBEAUX remains fifth in the list at 8/1 (Coral, Boylesports, Sporting Bet), which looks plain wrong.
People will point to his zero from five record at Cheltenham as a stick to beat him with, but that's unfair as three of those runs came in his formative years, as a juvenile and a novice, while his last two runs were a second in a top handicap off a big weight and a fifth in last year’s Gold Cup.
He has 11 lengths to make up on Al Boum Photo on that running, but more patient tactics can help in that respect and his preparation has been very different, too.
This time last year he had run a month prior to the Gold Cup in the rearranged Denman Chase at Ascot and it took the edge off him, whereas now he comes into the race fresh and firing after an even more impressive King George victory.
You can pick holes in that form, but there’s no denying he looked even better a year on and if he has improved again he’s a major force in this race off a different preparation.
Nicholls made a point of saying after Politologue’s Champion Chase about how pleased he was he’d stuck to the plan and run him fresh, and it’s the same story with this horse who has always looked like he has the perfect blend of speed and stamina for a race of this nature.
I don’t think you can win the King George twice like he has without having plenty of stamina and if Harry Cobden can deliver him at the right time I think he can beat this field and present Nicholls with a record-equalling fifth win in the race.
Nicholls' former assistant Dan Skelton could have a great day with strong chances in the Triumph (Allmankind) and County Hurdle (Mohaayed) but I fancy a couple of his runners later on the card starting with TWO TAFFS in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (4.50) at 20/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5).
They always go hell-for-leather in this and they are likely to do so again with bags of pace in there including last year’s winner Croco Bay, the revitalised Gino Trail and other pacesetters like Western Miller, Adrrastos and Jan Maat.
That will suit Two Taffs who has barely tried two miles throughout his career, his best performances coming over 2m4f, but that proven stamina could be a big asset in this race and Skelton has reached for the cheekpieces in a bid to help him travel into the contest.
Arguably, three of the best performances of his career came in the cheekpieces, the only three times he has sported a pair, including his close-up third in the Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival two years ago and his next-time-out victory at Ayr off a mark of 142.
That was a much easier contest than this, but he did it in the style of a very good horse so it's fair to say he's well treated now off a mark of 144 on his very best efforts.
Crucially, he hasn't shown his hand this season after a run over a hurdles, a Ladbrokes Trophy no-show and then a return to form at Warwick last time when second.
That should've put him spot on for this and at 20/1 he looks a fair each-way bet.
Also, I like Skelton’s FLASH THE STEEL in the closing Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey' Handicap Hurdle at 20/1 (Coral, Sporting Bet).
There are loads of plot horses in this including a double-handful from Ireland, so it’s a race for small stakes but this horse goes really well fresh and Skelton has clearly pointed him at this from a long way out.
On his first run for 168 days he won a red-hot race at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance, beating subsequent winners like Imperial Aura, Indefatigable, Ballyandy, Champagne Court, Bold Plan and Greaneteen.
They went a rip-roaring gallop in that race so this contest should really suit and he’s massively unexposed at the trip being one-from-one at around 2m4f thanks to that Chepstow victory.
Skelton puts cheekpieces on him for the first time and his full brother, Doctor Duffy, took well to the sheepskin, so there’s every chance the headgear will eke out further improvement.
Finally, back Nicky Henderson’s ELUSIVE BELLE at 20/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5) in the Randox Health County Hurdle at 2.10.
She looks potentially very-well handicapped off 136 considering her third place to Champion Hurdle winner and stablemate Epatante at Newbury in November, after which Henderson revealed he expected Elusive Belle to win.
That meant she was sent off 5/4 at Kempton over Christmas, but she was too keen that day and had to settle for second in the end behind Miranda, who has run well since, and ahead of course specialist Eddiemaurice, who has won subsequently.
She should settle better in a race like this and with Henderson's team being in such good form all week she's worth backing off a low weight at 20s.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 12/03/20
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 and Ireland. Running total: +326.89pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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