Ben Linfoot seeks out the value in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and the two big handicaps at Ascot on Saturday afternoon.
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The weather is forecast to be inclement enough to warrant a precautionary inspection at Haydock on Saturday morning and, although racing is expected to go ahead, you can also safely presume the ground will be pretty testing.
That's good news for OTAGO TRAIL ahead of the Peter Marsh Chase (3.15) and at 6/1 (General) he's worth backing to bounce back from a below-par performance at Ascot last time.
Sent off at 7/1 for what was a competitive handicap chase on his latest start, he was a tad too keen early and a bad mistake at just the second fence knocked him out of his rhythm.
On the back foot after that, he moved into contention before the turn for home but weakened rapidly at the business end, paying for his early exertions and, perhaps, because it was his second start after a long break.
Still, he’s worth forgiving that run with the early error in mind, as he showed loads of promise on his reappearance in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, a race that has worked out well.
The winner, Lake View Lad, went in again at Wetherby, beating Newcastle second Captain Chaos once again, while the fourth, Sharp Response, won the North Yorkshire National at Catterick just over a week ago.
Otago Trail split those horses in third, shaping really well on his first start for 665 days, and it would be no surprise if he returned to that sort of form with that Ascot run out of the way.
He likes Haydock having finished second in this race two years ago to course behemoth Bristol De Mai, and his runs at Newcastle suggest a left-handed and galloping track suit him very well.
From a handicapping point of view the key ingredient is 7lb claimer Hugh Nugent, a jockey that is five from 25 at 20 per cent for trainer Venetia Williams this season, including a recent high-profile Saturday win aboard Calipto.
He could be the difference for this horse and, considering Williams remains in great form, Otago Trail looks primed and ready to run a big race.
His appeal isn’t limited to his own profile, as likely market leader Daklondike looks vulnerable at his price considering the recent hike in the weights for a last-time out win in the Tommy Whittle.
Robinsfirth has been good after long absences before and is a danger, but he runs off a career-high mark and looks short enough with that in mind, while Captain Redbeard hasn’t been given any slack by the assessor although he does have the Haydock factor in his favour.
Another horse with a course win under his belt is RED INFANTRY, and at 9/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral) I want him on side as well.
He won over three-and-a-half miles at this track two starts ago, but his stamina looks a positive in the likely conditions and he ran really nicely in the London National subsequently when trying to defy a 5lb rise in the weights.
Ian Williams’ horse didn’t quite manage it, running second to Morney Wing when trying to concede 16lb to the winner, but the way he travelled into things suggests he’s ahead of his mark.
He’ll have to be, as he’s gone up another 5lb since, but I like his progressive profile, I like him returning to a left-handed course (jumped a little out to his left at Sandown) and I like to think he’ll be ridden prominently here in a bid to draw the sting out of his rivals.
There’s a couple of good handicaps over at Ascot as well and while Nicky Henderson will have bigger fish to fry when Altior runs in the Clarence House Chase, he could well strike on the under card, too, with COLONIAL DREAMS (9/1 General) in the Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle (2.25).
He won his maiden at Ascot in the March of last year and went in again at Market Rasen after that, before succumbing to a double-penalty at Ludlow in May.
Kept off the track for 227 days, he returned at Kempton on Boxing Day and shaped like he needed it after finishing sixth behind Erick Le Rouge in a good handicap hurdle.
Held up and kept wide throughout, he travelled into things ominously and was matched at a low of 2.66 in-running on Betfair, only to wilt a little in the closing stages.
That was highly encouraging, though, and the handicapper dropped him 2lb as well, so he looks a player here at the scene of his maiden hurdle success off a mark of 129.
Finally, it could be worth rolling the dice in the bet365 Handicap Chase with outsider of the field QUITE BY CHANCE at 25/1 (bet365, Ladbrokes ¼ 1,2,3).
He comes with risks attached as this is a good race and his form in the summer is well below the required standard, but he is undoubtedly very well treated now and he has some excellent form at this track.
Rated 147 not that long ago, he races off a mark of 135 now – a rating he’s won off at Ascot, while he’s been second off 143 and 144 at the track as well.
Those runner-up finishes came over 2m1f and he stayed on for second on both occasions, suggesting he’d relish an intermediate trip around here.
His Ascot win and one of those seconds came after breaks, too, so his 120-day absence looks a positive, while another wind operation is also cause for optimism, if only because it might explain some of his recent efforts.
There's a chance he’ll be outclassed in this, but considering he gets weight from everything, off a lenient mark and at his favourite track, he's worth backing each-way at a big price.
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: +357.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 18/01/19.
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