Ben Linfoot picked out 18/1 Royal Hunt Cup winner Settle For Bay on Wednesday and he's backing four at big prices on Thursday including two trained by Aidan O'Brien.
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Aidan O’Brien joined the Royal Ascot party with a 1-2-3 in the Queen’s Vase on Wednesday and he’s expected to be among the winners again on Thursday as Order Of St George goes for his second Gold Cup.
He’s looked in good form in a couple of runs this season and we know he’s a strong stayer, so he understandably heads the betting ahead of Stradivarius.
If there’s any variable that might not be ideal for him it’s the fast ground, as he’s been at his very best on soft, but he was a very close second to Big Orange in this race last year on similar conditions so he should be fine.
I certainly don’t want to take both him and Stradivarius on, but it’s a good undercard where the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes looks ripe for a bet with Wild Illusion heading the betting.
She carries a penalty, has to prove herself on the ground and will have to settle better than she did in the Oaks as well.
At the odds she’s worth taking on and Sun Maiden also looks short enough considering she graduates from maiden company, for all that she was a hugely impressive 12-length winner at Salisbury.
The one I like is O’Brien’s second string, ATHENA, as she has the potential to improve massively now she steps up to 1m4f and at 11/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power) she’s worth a bet.
By Derby winner Camelot, she’s closely-related to Bracelet who won this race back in 2014 on her first go at a mile-and-a-half.
She shapes as though she’ll relish the extra couple of furlongs herself and she’s been steadily improving over 10 furlongs anyway, chasing home the progressive Sea Of Class at Newbury two starts ago with Crystal Hope back in third.
Last time out she won a Fairyhouse maiden easily, as she was entitled to, with Donnacha O’Brien riding the filly for the first time and he retains the ride on Thursday.
She has a similar profile to O’Brien’s last two winners of this race in that she’s bred for it and steps up to the distance for the first time and, at double-figure prices, it’s worth chancing he’s found the right Ribblesdale formula once again.
Earlier on O’Brien could strike again in the Norfolk Stakes with No Nay Never colt LAND FORCE who makes plenty of appeal at 10/1 (General).
Like the Ribblesdale, it took a while for O’Brien to find the right mix for the Norfolk, with no winners trained at Ballydoyle between Johannesburg’s win in 2001 and Waterloo Bridge three years ago.
However, like the Ribblesdale, O’Brien has won the Norfolk a couple of times in recent years, including 12 months ago with Sioux Nation who came into the race on the back of a defeat in the Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh.
Sioux Nation was sixth of seven in that race but appreciated the drop back in trip on faster ground in the Norfolk and Land Force ran in the same Curragh contest this season, finishing just behind Fairyland and Van Beethoven.
It was a good effort and he’s crying out to be dropped back down in trip as he showed plenty of pace to lead at halfway and only just lost out for second in the closing stages.
This is a win and you’re in race for the new Juvenile Turf Sprint at the Breeders’ Cup and, given his breeding, you’d think Land Force would be a likely type for that race.
There’s a long way to go before we start talking about Kentucky, but Land Force looks overpriced to throw his hat into the ring early by landing an admittedly hot-looking Norfolk.
O’Brien has some interesting runners in the Britannia Stakes as well, but the one horse I want to back in this is Simon Crisford’s OSTILIO at 16/1 (General, shop around for best each-way terms, Sky Bet pay 1,2,3,4,5,6 at 1/5 the odds).
The New Approach colt has never finished out of the first two and is highly progressive, kicking on from his second to subsequent St James’s Palace hero Without Parole when easing to a handicap success at Newmarket on May 17.
That came off a mark of 84, he won by almost three lengths without Andera Atzeni asking for anywhere near maximum effort and the placed horses have franked the form since, of sorts, by running good placed efforts again.
He only went up 6lb for that, which was generous, and he just sneaks in towards the bottom of the weights.
Atzeni has chosen to ride the same owner’s Sam Gold, but he’s trained by Roger Varian so I wouldn’t read too much into that, and there’s nothing wrong with his replacement, a certain Silvestre de Sousa.
Crisford and De Sousa have a terrific strike-rate when teaming up, as they’ve won 25 races together from 84 goes at a very healthy 30 per cent so the jockey booking looks very much a positive.
Ostilio’s half-brother, Cape Byron, won on the Ascot straight course in a good conditions race last September and ran in the Hunt Cup (was 13th) off a mark of 100 on Wednesday.
It’s easy to envisage Ostilio running off that sort of rating sooner rather than later and, off 90 on Thursday, he can go well for a trainer that remains in great form (six wins from 25 at 24 per cent for the last fortnight).
Finally, DUBHE has drifted to a very backable 14/1 (General) in the closing King George V Stakes.
William Buick has chosen to ride stablemate Cross Counter, for whom the vibes are strong, and the ground could well have done with being a touch easier for the selection.
His best form has come when there has been juice in the ground, but I think he’s a group horse in waiting and if is going to get away with better conditions it’s going to be in a handicap on his way up the ladder.
At 14s he’s certainly worth the risk. He beat subsequent London Gold Cup winner Communique by four lengths at Sandown on April 27 and they race off identical terms on Thursday as both are 9lb higher now.
That was over 10 furlongs but the step up to a mile-and-a-half will suit Dubhe, as he was really strong at the finish at Sandown and he’s bred for a trip being out of Irish Oaks winner Great Heavens.
The ground might well help Communique turn the tables but he shouldn’t be four points shorter for my money.
A wide draw in 19 is no bad thing, either, according to recent history in this race, and owners Godolphin have won three of the last four renewals.
Posted at 1700 BST on 20/06/18.
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: +347.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).