Ben Linfoot has three big-priced selections for Ascot on Saturday including Harry Fry's Air Horse One in the feature handicap hurdle.
Value Bet: December 23
A pre-Christmas treat at Ascot on Saturday as the Grade One JLT Reve De Sivola Long Walk Hurdle headlines an excellent six-race card with Unowhatimeanharry bidding to follow up last year’s win in the race.
This time last year he emerged from the festive fog to beat Lil Rockerfeller comfortably and this season’s renewal looks a good opportunity for him to rack up his fourth Grade One.
The nine-year-old is 7lb clear of his nearest rival on ratings and that horse is last year’s second, with L’Ami Serge probably the biggest threat given how unexposed he is over the trip.
It would be a surprise if Unowhatimeanharry is beaten, though, and it could be another good day at Ascot for his trainer Harry Fry with stablemate AIR HORSE ONE (12/1 General) fancied in the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle (3.35).
This prestigious race, known as The Ladbroke in a previous guise, was won by Fry a couple of years ago when Jolly’s Cracked It dead-heated with Sternrubin in a thrilling renewal and he might well have a horse that can win the trophy outright this year.
The six-year-old has returned this season better than ever and has perhaps been a bit unlucky to have gone up 6lb for two defeats, but don’t let that put you off him as Saturday’s test looks right up his street.
Fourth at Ascot on November 4 in a red-hot William Hill Handicap Hurdle, that race could hardly have worked out better with six of the 14 runners winning subsequently, including the winner Elgin in the Greatwood Hurdle and the third High Bridge at Newbury.
Air Horse One meets Elgin on 5lb better terms on Saturday for a two-and-a-quarter length defeat, while the fifth home Verdana Blue gets just a 2lb pull for being beaten four-and-a-half lengths by Fry’s horse.
He comes out best at the weights from that informative Ascot race, then, and he ran well at Newbury last time over the extended 2m4f, the furthest he’s ever gone.
Just edged out of the runner-up spot by Remiluc, that horse went and franked the form when finishing second at Cheltenham a week ago so Air Horse One’s form this campaign has a very solid look to it.
His absolute optimum conditions, though, look to be a strong gallop over a stiff two miles on testing ground. Given he’s won at Ascot before, this looks the ideal race for him.
While they didn’t go much of a gallop the last time he ran here, they should on Saturday with Evening Hush, Silver Streak and Nietzsche in the field, and with the ground being softer than anything he’s run on this season he has perfect underfoot conditions.
He looks well worth a bet at 12s and so does Suzy Smith’s CLONDAW CIAN (28/1 bet365, Betfair, Paddy Power ¼ 1,2,3 for your each-way bets) in the preceding Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase at 3.00.
This is a hot race and this horse’s toughest test to date, but he’s been overlooked by the market at 25s probably on the back of a remote second in a three-runner race at Market Rasen last time.
However, there’s no shame in getting beat by Barney Dwan and that small field wouldn’t have suited the selection given he needs a strong gallop to be seen to best effect.
Indeed, two starts ago at Ascot, he ran a superb race when beaten a neck by Toviere in a novices’ handicap chase, as he was under pressure some way out after a mistake at the second fence.
He finished his race really strongly, though, pulling clear of the third by 10 lengths and the fifth home, Creep Desbois, franked the form when winning at Fakenham earlier in the week.
Back at Ascot, in soft ground that he loves, off a likely strong gallop and off a low weight, Clondaw Cian can belie his Friday night odds by running a big race for Gavin Sheehan, who rode him for the first time when second here last month.
Finally, back DREAM BOLT at 11/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power, BetVictor) in the My Pension Expert Handicap Chase at 1.50.
David Rees’ nine-year-old looked as good as ever at Taunton last time, staying on really well to get the better of an admittedly soft Coeur Tante under James Bowen.
However, the runner-up’s (lack of) resolution shouldn’t put you off as Dream Bolt is on a rapid upward curve over trips in excess of two miles.
Although he was a regular over 2m4f and further when first moving to Rees’ yard in the summer of 2015, he’s largely run over two miles since dropping in trip to around the minimum distance in the September of that year.
It has been a successful transition, there is no doubt, but with his confidence up he returned to 2m5f at Newton Abbot in May and won well, while his stamina won him the day over 2m2f last time.
A 4lb rise means he has to run off a career-high mark of 132, but I want to back him at a good price in a decent race while he’s thriving, especially with Saturday’s distance of (almost) 2m3f likely to bring his stamina reserves into play.
Sean Bowen takes over from his brother in the saddle, but he’s three from six on him and at 11/1 it’s with hope he can improve that excellent strike-rate further this weekend.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 22/12/17.
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: +384.89pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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