Don't miss Ben Linfoot's Value Bet preview ahead of a massive day at Cheltenham, with Ballyalton among three recommended bets.
Ian Williams can cap a brilliant few weeks when BALLYALTON bids for a third Cheltenham success in the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday afternoon.
The Worcestershire handler landed a unique Elite Hurdle-November Handicap double last weekend thanks to London Prize and Saunter respectively and Ballyalton looks primed to continue his trainer’s winning form in the big Saturday races in this prestigious Cheltenham contest.
A winner at the December meeting here over hurdles and at the Festival when he landed the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase in 2016, Ballyalton has barely been seen since but arrives back at the scene of his greatest triumph in good health as a well-handicapped horse.
His only start over fences since his Festival win came in the Grade One Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree the following month when he was a creditable fifth behind Native River, but a knock he picked up in that race ruled him out for the whole of last season.
The good thing about his absence is the handicapper has dropped him 6lb to 143, just a 3lb higher mark than the one he won off at the Festival, while a really encouraging run over hurdles at Aintree last month will have put him spot on for this assignment.
He travelled well at Aintree before fitness got the better of him in the straight, but he ran a good race in sixth and the form looks strong with the winner, Bags Groove, coming out and winning at Kempton, while Clondaw Kaempfer, who finished 16 lengths behind Ballyalton, was second at Bangor a couple of days ago.
That Close Brothers form worked out well, too. Ballyalton travelled through that race like a dream, on the same Old Course he runs over on Saturday, and the only horses that got anywhere near him that day were Bouvreuil (rated 147 at his best afterwards) and Double Shuffle (now rated 151).
Ballyalton gave that pair 2lb and was going away again at the finish, so he’s clearly well treated off 143 and the ground should be fine for him despite it riding perhaps a tad slower than would be ideal.
The top of the market has become congested in an open race, with seven horses trading at 10/1 or less, but Ballyalton looks the clear pick of the fancied runner and he looks worth a good each-way bet (1/4 1,2,3,4 shop around for offers, Sky Bet are going SIX places) in the day's feature.
At bigger prices Guitar Pete and Viconte Du Noyer were on the radar, but I’m a bit worried about the former’s jumping while I didn’t quite convince myself the latter is well-handicapped enough over this trip.
Earlier on the card I like the look of PERFECT CANDIDATE at 12/1 (General) in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase (1.50).
This horse has needed his first run the last couple of seasons so his spin around Cheltenham at the Showcase Meeting last time should've put him spot on for this and he looks set to get into a good rhythm in a prominent position as long as he doesn’t get into a battle for the lead with Three Faces West.
Paddy Brennan will be wise to that and Perfect Candidate looks in a good position in this race getting weight from the top two, against four horses out of the handicap and half his rivals are having their first runs of the campaign.
A mark of 152 is tough, but he’s won off 150 before and was beaten a nose around here last December off 147, so he might not be badly treated at all having dropped 4lb since the Grand National.
His two wins at Cheltenham came in fields of eight and he faces that number of rivals on Saturday, so everything is in place for him to put his best foot forward.
Finally, the Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at 3.30 is an ultra-competitive race full of unexposed handicappers, but the one I feel is underestimated is COUP DE PINCEAU at 12/1 (Paddy Power, BoyleSports).
A smart bumper horse for Paul Nicholls, winning at Ludlow and Ascot from two goes, he ran into Lough Derg Spirit on his hurdling debut and he finished second to the now 138-rated hurdler that day at Kempton.
Off the track for the best part of a year after that, Coup De Pinceau returned at Wincanton last month and was sent off 6/4 to get his first win over timber under his belt.
He jumped well up front, trading at 1.4 in-running on Betfair, before the impressive Red River got to him and scooted clear in the final quarter mile.
Still, Coup De Pinceau was miles clear of the rest and he shaped really well following his absence, suggesting that he’s well placed to take a big leap forward now he makes his handicap debut off a mark of 125.
Value Bet selections: Cheltenham November Meeting Day Two
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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: +371.39pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 17/11/17.