Ben Linfoot seeks out the value in the Classic Chase at Warwick and the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday, with Solomon Grey fancied in the latter contest.
Recommended Bets: January 12
*Erick Le Rouge was withdrawn at 17.13 on Friday evening (Vets Cert - abscess)
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It’s been largely dry around the country since Christmas and the lack of rain gives this weekend an unusual look.
To see the Classic Chase at Warwick and the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton not run in soft or heavy conditions is a rarity and it means we’re looking for different types of winners this year.
The ground at both Kempton and Warwick is largely ‘Good’, so your mud-splattered sloggers, so often the type of horse you look for, particularly at Warwick, look at a disadvantage this weekend.
DUEL AT DAWN was beaten by that type of horse last time, when he was down the field behind Daklondike in the Tommy Whittle Chase, a three-mile slog in ‘Haydock heavy’ not playing to this horse’s strengths on his first start for 284 days.
He shaped well, though, as if he’d come on plenty for the run, and at 15/2 (William Hill, 7/1 General) he’s well worth a bet for the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase, to give the race its full name.
A good novice last season, he beat Flintham 16 lengths at Exeter for his first chase win before finishing a six-length second to subsequent Ladbrokes Trophy winner Sizing Tennessee at Cheltenham, giving him 5lb.
Another good second to Ms Parfois here at Warwick followed before he was pulled up in the four-miler at Cheltenham, but he’s easily forgiven that and looks well treated here off 137 after dropping 4lb from his novice season.
Perfectly at home on these sort of conditions, the cheekpieces he ran in during his novice season have been reapplied and that Tommy Whittle form is working out well following subsequent wins for Sharp Response and Houblon Des Obeaux.
Step Back is a danger with the cheekpieces back on, as he ran okay without the headgear at Chepstow last time and that race, featuring subsequent winners Traffic Fluide and Rock The Kasbah, has worked out well, too.
However, the 14lb rise for winning the bet365 Gold Cup means he doesn’t hold any secrets from the assessor, unlike IMPULSIVE STAR who is another worth getting on side at 8/1 (General).
Fourth in the four-miler behind Rathvinden, Ms Parfois and Sizing Tennessee, he only weakened from the second last after being prominent throughout that day, suggesting he was worthy of being rated towards the 140-plus numbers of those that finished in front of him.
It’s not the only clue that a mark of 133 might underestimate him, as he won a handicap hurdle easily off 130 before being sent off 8/1 favourite for the 2017 Pertemps Final, and he finished close up behind the 147-rated Ok Corral off level weights at Plumpton last time.
They went a slow pace in that contest and he was admittedly flattered to get as close as he did to the winner, but there was still plenty to like about how he finished his race on what was his first run of the season.
He jumped well on the front end at Cheltenham and a similar display could see him go really close in this, while he’s another with the cheekpieces reapplied after they were left off for his reappearance.
I know it’s unusual for me to tip two single-figure price horses in a race of this nature, but it’s a very condensed market with nine horses trading at such odds on Friday evening and these two make plenty of appeal.
Over at Kempton the big betting race is the Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle and horses towards the top of the market have dominated in recent years.
There are some likely types vying for favouritism again this time around, but I was surprised to see ERICK LE ROUGE (NON RUNNER - Vets Cert, abscess) wasn’t a tad shorter in the market and he looks big enough at 10/1 (Coral, 9/1 General).
Nick Williams has won this race three times before and wife Jane could maintain the family honour in the contest with Erick The Rouge who has improved hugely this season, winning three times from three starts.
The handicapper is struggling to keep up with him and a 5lb rise for his latest course and distance victory might well underestimate him, especially as he now gets to race on the sort of slightly better ground that he bounced off when hosing up at Warwick.
In a really tight handicap Chester Williams’ 7lb allowance could prove vital and claiming jockeys have won this race in four of the last five years.
There is room for an each-way bet as well, though, with plenty of bookies offering four places, and I particularly like the look of the 16/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4) about SOLOMON GREY.
Dan Skelton has had 16/1 shots finish second and third from just three previous runners in the Lanzarote and it looks significant that he steps Solomon Grey beyond two miles for the first time in this contest.
A half-brother to three horses that won over 2m4f and by a sire that has produced a Grand National winner, Solomon Grey looks the type that will take off now he’s running over further.
His half-brother Amore Alato won at Kempton and Solomon Grey has good form at the track having finished not far behind If The Cap Fits here as a novice, while the application of a first-time tongue-tie looks really interesting.
Skelton has had 15 winners in a first-time tongue-tie in handicaps from 49 runners at a 31 per cent strike-rate, so he certainly knows what he’s doing with the aid and it might be just what this horse needs following his last-place finish at Doncaster last time.
That was unusually lacklustre for him as he’s typically very consistent, but it was his first run for 300 days so he’s given the benefit of the doubt, especially with plenty else pointing towards a positive run.
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: +348.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 11/01/19.