Our racing expert Ben Linfoot seeks out the value at Ascot on Saturday with four selections advised on a card full of competitive handicaps.
Recommended Bets: Saturday, November 2
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The jumps take centre stage on Saturday, in England and Northern Ireland at least, and while the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal provide the quality, it’s at Ascot where a posse of competitive handicaps appeal from a betting perspective.
So let’s dive straight into those beginning with the feature Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at 3.20.
This Grade Three contest is the starting point for Kim Bailey’s Vinndication, a horse that graduated to run in Grade One novice chases last term where he twice succumbed to the talents of Defi Du Seuil.
He’s of obvious interest off a mark of 151 at the beginning of his second season over fences, especially now he steps up in trip to three miles, and he looks the right favourite given his potential over this distance.
Away from him it looks a pretty open race, with the more exposed and experienced horses outnumbering the lightly-raced ones, but I am drawn to an each-way bet in the shape of Harry Fry’s ACTING LASS at 25/1 (General, 1/5 1,2,3,4,5).
This horse hasn’t had many runs for an eight-year-old, but he’s well treated on handicap-winning form at Ascot and is of interest now he returns to the Berkshire track a fresh horse off a reduced mark.
Back in 2018 he looked most progressive, winning handicap chases off 135, 141 and 143 at Market Rasen, Leicester and Ascot respectively, two of them in soft ground and he got better the further he went up in trip.
His win at Ascot came over 2m5f and he shaped every inch like he’d prosper for a sterner test of stamina, as he just seemed to idle when having the race in his back pocket only to find more when Kilcrea Vale got within touching distance.
That was a good race and he hasn’t had his (soft) ground since, his defeats at Kempton and Punchestown either side of a 434-day absence coming on faster than ideal conditions.
He’s worth forgiving those and the handicapper has cut him some slack as a result, dropping him 6lb to his last winning mark taking into account the absence as well as the two defeats.
He remains of interest, though, and it could be significant Fry points him here for his return. You’d expect him to be cherry ripe given his trainer’s record both at the time of year and at Ascot, with his career record in November reading 68 wins from 236 at 28.81 per cent, while his course record is a very healthy 18 wins from 68 at 26 per cent.
With rain forecast at the track the softening conditions look favour of Acting Lass, so at 25/1 he’s worth getting on side each-way.
Earlier on the card I like the look of DIEGO DU CHARMIL in the Byrne Group Handicap Chase at 12/1 (General).
A few of Paul Nicholls’ big guns looked in need of the run last weekend but I’d expect him to have certain handicappers ready to fire and Diego Du Charmil fits into that category.
This is because Nicholls knows he goes so well fresh having won with him three times on the back of breaks between 100 and 200 days and now could well be the time to catch him after 189 days away.
Owner Johnny de le Hey loves a winner at Ascot and he’s had 12 of them at the track at almost 20 per cent, all trained by Nicholls with three of them coming in November.
Last season was a write-off for this horse and he kept on seeing the backside of Altior from a distance, but he’s dropped 7lb since the start of that campaign and he’s of major interest back in handicap company off a mark of 150.
He’s had wind surgery since he was last seen, too, while Lorcan Williams takes a further 3lb off. It could be worth remembering he won a Grade One at Aintree in soft ground as a novice and he might just enjoy sitting off the pace likely to be set by Speredek, Hatcher and Imperial Presence here.
Also worth backing is Chris Gordon’s ON THE SLOPES at 12/1 (General) in the Ascot Underwriting Chase for novices at 1.35.
He looks underestimated at that price judging by his run at Uttoxeter last time out where he jumped well, albeit to his right, before not being beaten far by Erick Le Rouge, Not That Fuisse and Django Django.
Erick Le Rouge is rated 137 and On The Slopes was racing him off level weights, while Not That Fuisse chased home Al Dancer at Cheltenham subsequently, so Gordon’s horse might not be badly treated in this sphere off 128.
Judging by his run last time he’ll certainly appreciate the return to a right-handed track and off a low weight in handicap company he’s worth a bet.
Finally, GUMBALL looks just about on the right side of big at 10/1 (General) in the Sodexo Handicap Hurdle at 2.45.
Rated 149 at the end of his juvenile campaign, he’s rated 10lb lower now and he went into the jumps season on the back of a successful Flat campaign in which he won three times from four runs.
On his hurdling return at Market Rasen at the end of September, on the back of a 134-day break, he raced too fresh and keen up front but plugged on well to be third, doing the best of those that helped force the pace.
That suggests he’s got a nice prize in him off his current mark and, if he settles better for talented 5lb claimer Ben Jones, it could well be on Saturday in a race trainer Philip Hobbs and owner Terry Warner won three years ago with Sternrubin.
Posted at 1700 BST on 01/11/19
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: +353.39pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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