Ben Linfoot fancies Coolanly at a big price in the final race of the Cheltenham Festival - find out why in the latest Value Bet.
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Willie Mullins has never won the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he has four good chances this year and, crucially, all four of the quartet look really strong stayers in a race that always finds out plenty of fancied horses up the gruelling hill.
I’m not completely convinced Clan Des Obeaux, Might Bite and Thistlecrack will truly get 3m2f around here and with Presenting Percy having not seen a fence, in a race at least, this season, he looks short enough at 4/1.
Native River looks the really solid one at the top of the market, but this race has a history of throwing up big-priced placed horses and sometimes they win, as well, so with that in mind I’m inclined to chance Mullins’ outsider INVITATION ONLY at 33/1 (General).
This horse looks underestimated on the back of graduating out of handicap company, but I firmly believe he’ll be operating at the top table from now on in and his prize asset looks to be his stamina which was on show last time out in the Thyestes Chase.
He won that easily off a mark of 152 and he was put up 9lb for it, a rating of 161 putting him on the periphery of Gold Cup class. That 3m1f was the furthest he’s ever raced, though, and he’s going to thrive at the Gold Cup trip.
Improvement is expected and you only have to look at Djakadam’s first Gold Cup season when it comes to recent previous from a Mullins-trained Thyestes winner in this race.
Djakadam won the Thyestes off 145, went into the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup rated 162 and ran a gallant second to Coneygree. It’s far from beyond the realms that we’ll see something similar from Invitation Only and I don’t think his claims are too dissimilar to Bellshill, also trained by Mullins and owned by Graham Wylie, who is much shorter in the betting.
If he hadn’t slipped four out in last year’s JLT he could well be coming into this a much shorter price and, while genuine soft ground would be preferable, I don’t think drying conditions should inconvenience him too much being a son of Flemensfirth.
Beaten a length by Ryanair runner Monalee in last year’s Flogas Chase over 2m5f, he has some classy back form to his name and he looks underestimated from an each-way perspective due to his apparent position in the stable pecking order.
Now for the handicaps, with the County Hurdle, Grand Annual and Martin Pipe having 70 horses between them with 26 going forward for the first-named race.
Willie Mullins has a fine record in this so it’s no surprise to see his Whiskey Sour head the betting, but I’m going to go against him with an each-way bet on PINGSHOU at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5) for Colin Tizzard.
This horse was sent novice chasing at the start of the season after a 572-day absence, but two defeats in that sphere behind Lalor and Dynamite Dollars saw him revert to hurdling at Haydock in January where he was last of five behind Global Citizen.
There’s not much there to convince you so far, granted, but the handicapper has given him a chance here off 142.
He beat William Henry at Cheltenham as a novice, while his Grade One win at Aintree later that season saw him win by four-and-a-half lengths and he was just behind Cilaos Emery and Melon at Punchestown after that.
On that sort of form he has a chance off 142 and this is the first time since Aintree that Robbie Power has been in the saddle.
At 33s he looks worth chancing, with the first-time tongue-tie and blinkers application from Tizzard the clincher. It may be a last throw of the dice from the trainer to reinvigorate him, but he does have a good record when utilising this particular headgear combination for the first time.
He has six wins from 33 at 18 per cent when using the tb1, and two of those winners were Theatre Guide and Royal Vacation, the former winning a handicap at this course, while the latter won a Grade One at Kempton, albeit fortuitously.
He’s a horse that stays further, and if the new headgear does spark him back into life I can see him going well in this big-field handicap scenario.
In the Grand Annual MARRACUDJA looks well handicapped off 139 for Dan Skelton and he’s worth a bet at 20/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5).
I like that he comes in here fresh following wind surgery as recent winners of this race have all had a break and we know he’s well treated on his best form as he was rated as high as 147 at his best.
He looks to have found his form again for the switch to Skelton’s and the removal of the hood, his best two runs for his new trainer coming on his last two appearances.
At Ascot in December he sat well off the pace and ran on nicely for third behind Caid du Lin, another horse with a big chance in the Grand Annual, and then last time at Wetherby he was only beaten a nose by Cracking Find.
His conqueror there franked the form with another win at Doncaster subsequently, but Marracudja has been kept back for this since and he might just get one over his old trainer, Paul Nicholls, who has the favourite in Magic Saint.
Finally, COOLANLY is a fair each-way bet at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5) to land the closing Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle for local handler Fergal O’Brien.
He won the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham earlier in the season, easily from Pym, a race that’s usually a good trial for the Albert Bartlett.
His sights have been lowered after defeats to Champ in the Challow and, more disappointingly, in a Wetherby novice hurdle in February where he was sent off the 8/15 favourite.
However, he has at least dropped a couple of pounds for that run, and he was far too fresh and keen up front to do himself full justice.
Indeed, I think he’ll like being buried in a big field here, and his jockey, Connor Brace, is in great form following six wins from his last 15 rides, three of them for O’Brien.
He knows this horse likes Cheltenham and he knows he stays, so hopefully the pair can finish with a flourish to defy big odds that seem to underestimate him based on that course win at the November meeting.
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: +343.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 14/03/19.
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