Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of Cheltenham's November Meeting with Philip Hobbs' fancied to strike with a long-absent horse.
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The Magic Starts Here according to the official Cheltenham website and it’s certainly exciting to have three days of racing at Prestbury Park to look forward to.
And the race on the first day of The November Meeting that always seems to get the juices flowing is the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase, affectionately known simply as ‘The Sections’ on the Sporting Life racing desk, probably because it’s usually won by a good 'un.
Denman, Grands Crus, Dynaste, Taquin Du Seuil, Champagne West, More Of That and Finian’s Oscar have all won this race in recent years and they were all well fancied in the market on the back of their hurdling exploits.
However, this year’s race has an unusual look to it as none of these have a Grade One win in the locker, with only three of the contenders (Mr Whipped, Count Meribel and Le Breuil) even contesting a race over hurdles at that level, and all three were pulled up.
Still, it is a race packed with potential and while you can’t argue too much about Nicky Henderson’s pair heading the market, I do want to take them on with JP McManus’ JERRYSBACK at 11/2 (General).
This horse arrived at Philip Hobbs’ on the back of an easy point-to-point win and he made some impression in two novice hurdles in the early part of 2017.
Again, both victories were easy for him and they were expected, his Plumpton win came at odds of 1/2 and his follow-up at Wetherby, under a penalty, came at 4/11.
The form of neither race is anything to shout about, but he couldn’t have been much more impressive as the handbrake didn’t come off on either occasion to the delight of Barry Geraghty who described him as "gorgeous" after Wetherby (was 12/1 for that year’s Ballymore in a place).
He was a bit clumsy at his hurdles, especially at Plumpton, and he jumped the odd one big, including the last at Wetherby, but that’s quite encouraging with his chasing debut in mind and his long absence isn’t really a concern.
It’s likely he’s been targeted at this meeting for ages, just like Bold Henry was for the same owner and trainer on this card a few years ago, and the Hobbs yard is in great form thanks to 11 winners in the last fortnight.
On top of this, Hobbs has a terrific record at this meeting. Overall it’s good, but if you take the handicaps out of the equation it’s even better, as he’s had 20 winners from 57 runners at 35.09 per cent at Cheltenham’s November meeting over the years (non-handicaps only, +£23.34 to £1 level-stake at SP).
On hurdling form he has plenty to find, but there’s no superstar hurdler in this and at the prices he’s well worth taking a chance on.
It’s a shame the novice handicap hurdle isn’t on ITV as it subsequently hasn’t been priced up in time, so we’re left with the seven-runner BetVictor Handicap Chase at 1.50 for another bet.
The good thing is the trio of horses at the top of the market look worth taking on as Bun Doran regularly finds one or two too good, A Hare Breath didn’t look a natural over fences when he last tried it and Doitforthevillage, last year’s winner, usually needs a run.
I tipped Shanahan’s Turn for this race last year and he was really disappointing, not for the first or last time at this track, either. He’s well handicapped, but he’s hard to catch right and he might be tapped for toe over this trip as well.
With Rock On Rocky having struggled at this track before, too, and Peppay Le Pugh needing a strong gallop (which isn’t guaranteed), process of elimination leads me to MOVIE LEGEND at 8/1 (General).
Lucy Wadham’s horse likes good ground and he likes small fields; his last four wins coming in field sizes of five, five, three and four.
I like that as this could get tactical with no obvious front-runner and this horse seems to settle well whatever the gallop which could well be a good trait to have on Friday.
He’s also well handicapped as he’s won off Friday’s mark of 124 before and it’s good to see Leighton Aspell back on board as he has a good record on the horse (won twice from eight starts while finishing second or third on five other occasions).
His form tailed off last season, but he was at his best at the start of the campaign and that could be the case again after wind surgery, his win in novice hurdle company at Fakenham last month certainly hinting as much.
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: +338.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 15/11/18.