Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets in the Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton and the Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.
Recommended Bets: Value Bet February 23
The ‘Beast from the East’ looks set to decimate the racing programme over the next week and more but not before Kempton host what is now the Betdaq Handicap Chase on Saturday, a traditionally strong race won by Pendil, Desert Orchid, Rough Quest, Gloria Victis and Nacarat in years gone by.
If there’s an absolute top-notcher that might one day rank alongside that lot in this year’s field it’s likely to be Acting Lass for Harry Fry, as his improvement shows no sign of stopping just yet.
Unbeaten over fences from three goes, he’s shot up from a mark of 135 to one of 149 this season and looked to be merely idling when Kilcrea Vale closed the gap on him at Ascot last time.
Fry won this race five years ago with Opening Batsman and this horse could well win him the trophy for a second time, but 7/2 looks short enough in what looks a competitive renewal.
It is a slight concern that Acting Lass has never taken on more than five rivals in any of those chases, while the Fry stable are 0/15 in February too, which also tempers enthusiasm about his chance.
Of the others Theatre Guide always runs well in this race and has to come into calculations, while Ballykan has run respectably in this contest twice before off higher marks than the one he runs off on Saturday.
They’re respected at around 16/1, but at a similar price I like the chances of ART MAURESQUE and at 12/1 (General) he’s worth backing for Paul Nicholls.
The key to this horse is faster ground and with conditions predicted to be riding ‘Good, Good to Soft in places’ come Saturday afternoon he’s going to have an advantage over those rivals that like to get their toe in.
Not only will he have conditions in his favour but he has the freshest legs, too, having run just twice this season and the first of those runs saw him depart at the first fence.
He is, usually, a good jumper and he put in some flying leaps at this track last time when second to subsequent Grade One winner Waiting Patiently. That horse is the real deal and, even though Art Mauresque was beaten eight lengths, it looks the strongest recent form on offer in this.
It was the first time he’s been beaten at Kempton in three goes so he obviously likes it around here, possibly because of his preference for better ground, and the likely strong pace in the line-up (Loose Chips, Monbeg Charmer, Go Conquer and Josses Hill all like to lead) looks set to play to his strengths.
The one question mark is the trip, but the way he’s won over two-and-a-half-miles in the past bodes well and his stamina is worth the risk at 14s with plenty else in his favour.
I also think it’s worth taking a chance on LABEL DES OBEAUX at 22/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill) for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson.
This horse is versatile regarding ground conditions but his best form came at Ayr last spring when he won a novice handicap chase on good ground over three miles off a mark of 148.
He’s only 1lb higher than that now after dropping 5lb this season and he ran okay in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time when he stayed on for sixth as the five in front of him fought out a close finish.
That was a step in the right direction and off his new mark on better conditions he looks more dangerous than his odds would imply.
Usually held up, the predicted decent gallop should help him work his way into things and King’s stable are in really good form following six winners in the last few weeks at 20 per cent.
Talking of stables in good form, Henry Daly’s yard are flying at present and that boosts confidence ahead of a punt on BACK TO THE THATCH (9/1 bet365, Sky Bet, Stan James) in the Betfred Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle (2.45).
Daly has had 12 winners in January and February at a 34 per cent strike-rate and Back To The Thatch was one of those when he sluiced up at Chepstow last month.
A mistake at the second last couldn’t stop him as he won easily by 11 lengths, with another 10 lengths back to the third, Paddy The Oscar, a wonderful 15-year-old who franked the form with a win over the same course and distance on his next start.
Back To The Thatch has gone up 9lb for that win but he looks highly progressive, he glides through heavy ground and stamina looks his forte. He’s never run beyond three miles before, but he shapes as though it won’t be a problem and he is a distant relative to Grand National winner Papillon on his dam’s side.
The extra distance could well unlock further improvement and, along with Vinnie Lewis, he looks to be one of the few horses in the field that looks seriously on the upgrade.
Experience can count for plenty in this sort of contest and that is one area where he is lacking; some of his rivals in this are twice his age and more.
However, I loved how he bolted up last time in similar conditions. With the form boosted and the champion jockey on board, I’m swayed by his potential against his rivals' experience in this instance.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 23/02/18.
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: +356.89pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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