Our racing expert Ben Linfoot seeks out the value at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday with a former Grand National winner fancied to get his head in front again.
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Racing is under threat on Saturday thanks to Storm Dennis and predicted high winds, but we’re not going to know until the morning just how severe the gusts will be so we’ll press on as if Ascot and Haydock have both been given the green light to race.
What we do know is the ground will be extremely testing at both tracks, as plenty of further rain is forecast overnight and it’s likely to be riding heavy, which is a far cry from the conditions the horses were faced with only last week at Newbury.
Riders Onthe Storm could be an apt winner in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase but he has his work cut out against course and distance specialist Cyrname, who has 15lb in hand over his main rival on official figures.
Paul Nicholls’ horse is expected to win the feature but the best race for a bet at Ascot on Saturday is the ‘Give The Gift Of Ascot Annual Membership Handicap Hurdle’ at 3.00, with 15 runners doing battle over two miles three furlongs and a bit.
Eden Du Houx is a lightly-raced improver for David Pipe and he is respected, as he won his bumper at this track from a couple of smart sorts in Imperial Alcazar and The Glancing Queen and the step back up in trip, following a narrow win over two miles at Chepstow last time, looks a wise move as well.
However, he has been well found in the market and the underestimated one in that respect is MYPLACEATMIDNIGHT at 16/1 (Ladbrokes, 14/1 General) for Neil King.
He’s a very consistent horse but this intermediate trip on heavy ground looks the key to getting another win out of him and he was unlucky not to do exactly that under such conditions at Taunton last time out.
The eight-year-old chased a strong pace set by Trans Express that day and paid the price in the end, a stumble at the last also not helping as he was eventually reeled in by the more patiently-ridden Limited Reserve.
That form has been franked in style by the winner, who won a better race at Sandown two weeks later. Myplaceatmidnight, up just 2lb, beat the rest convincingly and he was giving 11lb to the Christian Williams-trained winner.
Hopefully things will pan out better for him on Saturday and they could do, as there doesn’t look to be too many front runners in there, he’ll likely track the pace set by the aforementioned Eden Du Houx and there seem to be several hold-up performers in opposition.
He’s very much at home on a right-handed track, will handle the testing ground and Jonjo O’Neill takes over in the saddle, too, which is another positive. 16/1 looks big.
Earlier on the Keltbray Swinley Chase looks a trappy race and it’s the first preference for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyoptic.
I don’t particularly fancy him at right-handed Ascot as the evidence points to him being a much better horse going anti-clockwise, but he’ll run there if it’s on as Sam Twiston-Davies is at the course to partner Riders Onthe Storm.
However, if Ascot is off and Haydock is on the pair will be rerouted north and in that scenario I want BALLYOPTIC on side at 14/1 (General) in the Unibet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at 3.15.
This race looks a better fit for him as all of his best form is on left-handed tracks and, combined with that, the heavy ground conditions are absolutely key.
According to Timeform’s going descriptions he’s four from four on heavy under Rules and I think he jumps better when the ground is testing. Indeed, it was soft at Chepstow and heavy at Wetherby in the two victories that kicked off his campaign and he jumped well in both of those wins.
He looked a bit jaded in the Betfair Chase and again in the Becher Chase after that, but he’s been freshened up since then and he doesn’t look handicapped out of this by any means considering both the conditions and his early-season form.
If Ascot’s on the above five paragraphs can be ignored but either way I want ONE FOR ARTHUR on side at 11/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power) in the same race.
Lucinda Russell does well in this type of race at this time of year and she’s won this very contest on three occasions thanks to the exploits of Silver By Nature and Lie Forrit.
One For Arthur has a different profile to those two, being a former Grand National winner, but he’s shaped as though he retains plenty of his ability on his last three runs and he was given plenty to do in the Becher last time.
Perhaps the emergence of cheekpieces mean that it’s time to bin the exaggerated waiting tactics and, however he’s ridden, the step back up a few furlongs in trip can only help.
The last time he ran over a trip of three-and-a-half-miles or thereabouts in testing ground he bolted up in the Warwick Classic Chase and he’s back down to his National-winning mark of 148 now.
He looks the best-handicapped horse in the race and in these conditions the stayers will come to the fore. Yala Enki and Elegant Escape are entitled to go well with that in mind, but they both have to give significant weight to One For Arthur and he’s double the price of that duo.
The former National hero is worth chancing.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 14/02/20
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: +351.39pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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