Our racing expert Ben Linfoot tackles the two handicaps over the Grand National fences at Aintree on Saturday while he has two selections at Sandown as well.
Recommended Bets: Saturday, December 7
1pt e.w Minellacelebration in 1.30 Aintree at 40/1
1pt win Theo's Charm in 2.25 Sandown at 20/1
1pt e.w Federici in 3.15 Aintree at 22/1
1pt win Get On The Yager in 3.35 Sandown at 20/1
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record
The Grand National fences are back at Aintree on Saturday and the Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase looks as wide open as ever as 18 runners gear up to do battle over the famous spruce.
Those dominating the market are a mixture of the most unexposed and specialists of these fences, with last year’s winner Walk In The Mill of obvious interest off just a 4lb higher mark in conditions that look to be very similar.
He could well go in again, but he’s a single-figure price after being pulled up on his seasonal reappearance, so it’s a race that looks ripe for getting the bat out on a big-priced outsider as I’m not sure I’d want to trust any of those trading at shorter odds.
Those with winning Aintree fences form don’t look to be particularly well handicapped, while horses like Mulcahys Hill and Kimberlite Candy look short enough considering their relative lack of experience.
The one that I think has been underestimated is Katy Price’s MINELLACELEBRATION at 40/1 (Sky Bet, bet365 ¼ 1,2,3,4, Bet Victor, Betway 1/5 1,2,3,4,5 - go five places if you can) as he’s got some very interesting form on the Mildmay course and he jumps like these fences will bring out the best in him.
He was sixth on his reappearance at Wincanton but, while he has gone well fresh in recent seasons, he ran like he needed the run and on five occasions in the past he’s improved for his first appearance following a break.
His handicap mark of 139 looks one he can cope with, as he’s won off 133 twice in the Staffordshire Plate at Uttoxeter and he’s won off 135 at Aintree, too.
That was his last win here on the Mildmay course, three starts ago in June, and the victory took his form figures at the Liverpool track to 1-2-1 from just three goes.
Form on the conventional course doesn’t always translate to the National track, but Price spoke of giving him a go over the Aintree birch a couple of years ago, because of his good jumping, but it’s only now that the stars have aligned allowing him to take his chance.
Regular pilot Ben Poste takes the ride and he’s forged a good relationship with this horse, winning five times over fences on him, and he usually rides him prominently, which is the best way of avoiding trouble on this track.
Others on the shortlist were As De Mee and Ballydine, but we’ll just go with the one bet each-way in both the Becher and the Virgin Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase later on where FEDERICI appeals at 22/1 (William Hill, Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4).
I like horses that are well-handicapped on their previous form over the Aintree fences and Federici firmly ticks that box.
Even though he’s 2lb out of the weights on Saturday Federici is very well treated on his form in all previous goes over these fences, as he’s been sixth off 136, fourth off 133 and fifth off 134, while he gets to race off 126 this weekend.
He jumps the fences really well and though two of those efforts were over 3m2f in the Becher Chase I quite like him dropping back to 2m5f over the spruce, as well, as the last time he tackled such a trip he won at Kelso off 124.
Off a light weight he can give William Kennedy a great spin and getting a stone and more from the market leaders could be crucial in the final analysis.
Over at Sandown there are a couple of handicaps on the Tingle Creek undercard and I can’t help but feel that GET ON THE YAGER has been underestimated at 20/1 (General) in the Betfair London National Handicap Chase at 3.35.
It’s a surprise this is his first go at a trip at around three-and-a-half miles, as he beat Ramses De Teillee easily on his only go at 3m2f (off a mark of 128) and his two forays into the Midlands Grand National over 4m2f seemed to stretch his stamina.
This trip could well be ideal and off 130 he’s dropped to a mark we know he can win off, as he’s won from 3lb higher in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby and he was rated around the 140 mark for four runs after that win on Boxing Day a couple of years ago.
He has something to prove on recent form, but he didn’t run badly at Uttoxeter in March when third and he was entitled to need his comeback run at Cheltenham last time.
Skelton has a fine record in staying handicap chases and the application of cheekpieces on this horse don’t appear to be a negative, either, as the Warwickshire trainer is five from 18 (27.78 per cent) when applying the sheepskin to his chasers for the first time.
He’ll like the ground and if he gets into a nice rhythm under Harry Skelton he’s handicapped to win.
Finally, there are a few unexposed types of interest in the Jumeirah Hotels And Resorts December Handicap Hurdle at 2.25, including Paul Nicholls’ pair Malaya and Ashutor.
However, in soft conditions this could be a gruelling examination and I’m drawn to the claims of an experienced hurdler that stays much further and will love the conditions; THEO’S CHARM (20/1 General).
His career strike-rate of three from 27 sets alarm bells ringing, but I think he’s a better hurdler than chaser and he spent seven races over fences without success.
It’s over hurdles where he’s won the bulk of his prizemoney and he’s run some fine races in defeat, finishing second or third in handicaps off marks of 130 (three times), 132, 134 and 137 (twice), so he looks well treated on Saturday off 132.
His best form is on testing ground and he’s run well twice over 2m4f since wind surgery, travelling well on both occasions and suggesting as though he’ll appreciate the drop to two miles for the first time since he won a couple of novice hurdles many moons ago.
He’s risky on account of the trip and his win strike-rate, but at 20s he’s worth a small bet as there don’t look to be many better-handicapped horses in the race and trainer Nick Gifford has a pretty good record in Sandown handicap hurdles (winning five from 34 at 14.71 per cent).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 06/12/19
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: +382.39pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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