Our flagship racing tipster Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets on day two of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival as he tackles the big two handicap hurdles.
Recommended Bets: Value Bet Cheltenham Festival Day Two
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The ground was clearly very testing at Cheltenham on day one and it’s going to take some getting through on Wednesday despite a dry couple of days.
It’s an added factor ahead of the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, where there is the distinct possibility of an Arkle-type (Tuesday’s race, not horse) breakaway from the front-running Special Tiara and Ar Mad.
What goes on behind them with Altior, Douvan and Min will be compelling. Will Ruby Walsh be confident enough in Douvan’s well-being to go forward with the front two? It’ll be a fascinating first half of the race.
The second half won’t be bad either, but predicting what will come through and win isn’t easy. Special Tiara is likely to be caught on this ground, but both Altior and Douvan both come into this on the back of very different setbacks and it’s not a race to be confident about anything.
Perhaps Min, a horse that showed his well-being to be as good as ever when running away with the Coral Dublin Chase, could be the one, but the very fact his stablemate and ownermate Douvan runs in this has to be a negative to his chances.
If the market agrees and he drifts markedly he might well become too tantalising a price, but for now the handicaps look the best punting opportunities and the Coral Cup (2.50) is as devilish a puzzle as ever.
A key point in this race is the prospect of a rip-roaring gallop. There are loads of potential front-runners – Mischievous Max, Diamond King, Springtown Lake, Stowaway Magic, Red Indian and Le Breuil have all led recently and there are plenty of prominent racers in opposition as well.
I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a patiently-ridden stayer on side, then, and the one I like at a price is Oliver Sherwood’s THE ORGANIST at 33/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5).
She improved for the step back up to three miles when winning a handicap off 133 at Newbury in December and was only raised 6lb for that success despite storming home under a patient ride.
Next time she ran better than the bare result at Warwick after running wide in the straight and it’s interesting she comes here rather than the Pertemps having qualified for the Final that day.
The thinking must be that the tempo of this race on the testing ground will suit and it’s a theory I like. Jockey Leighton Aspell is a fine exponent of a patient ride, too, and given the way this race is likely to be run she looks a good each-way bet at big odds.
At the other end of the market it’s surprising that WILLIAM HENRY isn’t a clear favourite and at 9/1 (William Hill, 8/1 General) he’s well worth a bet.
The classier types have dominated this race in recent years, including Whisper for the same owner and trainer combination who won this race off 153 in 2014 with then-claimer Nico de Boinville helping ease the burden a little.
De Boinville has thrived at the Festival since then and big things are expected of William Henry’s jockey, James Bowen, who claims what could be a vital 3lb off his mount on Wednesday.
Bowen has been one of the up-and-coming stars of the season and he almost bagged his first Festival win aboard Shantou Flyer on Tuesday, but compensation could be quickly forthcoming in the Coral Cup.
William Henry has an eerily similar profile to Whisper, but gets in here off 2lb lighter. He too looks like a horse that could play a hand at the top level and a 6lb rise for his latest win looks a rare bit of leniency from the handicapper.
The form has worked out incredibly well, with second home Spiritofthegames running third in the Betfair Hurdle behind Sky Bet Supreme runner-up Kalashnikov, the third Red Indian running second at Towcester, the fourth Topofthegame winning at Sandown (re-opposes off worse terms), the seventh Le Patriote winning at Ascot and the eighth Dentley de Mee taking second in the EBF Final at Sandown on Saturday.
A 6lb rise with that lot behind him is incredibly fair, especially as William Henry won like a horse that had plenty more to offer.
Nicky Henderson reaches for first-time cheekpieces, as well, and the ground should be no problem as it was pretty soft in that Lanzarote win at Kempton.
Finally, the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle looks as baffling as ever and one each-way bet here will suffice. At 33/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power 1/4 1,2,3,4) MERCENAIRE looks like he could give us a good run for our money.
Nick Williams has a fine Cheltenham Festival strike-rate considering his small number of runners and he supplemented his win in this race last year with Flying Tiger by landing the Ultima on day one with Coo Star Sivola.
Mercenaire looks a likely type for this race as he looked a juvenile of some ability when hosing up at Exeter in November and he ran really well in Grade One company next time when third to We Have A Dream in the Finale at Chepstow.
He was too keen that day but shaped as though a big-field handicap would suit and he can be forgiven a wide-margin defeat to an older and stronger horse in Vision Des Flos in very heavy ground back at Exeter last time.
A mark of 135 looks fair enough on his Grade One form and Chester Williams, who rode Dentley de Mee into second in the EBF Final on Saturday, takes another 7lb off his back.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 13/03/18.
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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