Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bet selections for the Spring Cup at Newbury and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.
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Richard Fahey has a fantastic recent record in the Elite Racing Club Supporting Greatwood Spring Cup Handicap at Newbury (3.45) and he could enhance it further with THIRD TIME LUCKY (25/1, General, ¼ 1,2,3,4) on Saturday.
With three winners and two runners-up in the last decade this is clearly a handicap that Fahey targets and, as usual for the time of year, he goes into it in fine fettle with five of his last 12 runners having won (before Bath started on Friday).
Third Time Lucky is the perfect horse for the race as he loves a strong gallop over a straight course, as you would expect for a six-year-old that has won one Cambridgeshire (off 95) and finished fourth in another (off 100).
Fit from an all-weather campaign that has seen his mark drop back to 95, he’s a big price because of a lacklustre run in Ireland last time but he’s easily forgiven that as 1) it was by far the softest ground he’s ever run on and 2) he had the worst of the draw breaking from 20.
His trainer himself admits that he’s an in and out type, but he’s got the talent to win this if he’s on a going day and with the ground fine, a good middle draw ideal and his handicap rating as low as it’s been since he won the 2015 Cambridgeshire, now is the time to back him at a massive price.
Last year they came up the middle as one group and with the pace middle to high that could well happen once again, a scenario that could well suit Third Time Lucky as he breaks from stall 10.
However, I don’t think breaking from 24 should be too harmful to HUMBERT’S prospects and at 12/1 he’s well worth a saver.
Hugo Palmer has only had the one winner in April but his horses are running well as he had a couple of seconds at the Craven Meeting where most of his team did themselves justice.
His season looks like it might be about to take off and Humbert could be the one to light the spark as he’s highly progressive and massively unexposed on turf following just the three runs on grass.
The Kodiac gelding ran an absolute belter in the Spring Mile at Doncaster, especially as Josephine Gordon said he was keen and hung to his right a little in the early stages. That didn’t stop him seeing off all rivals bar 50/1 winner High Acclaim from the front end, the pair nearly three lengths clear of the rest.
If Gordon manages to get him settled this time he could be tough to beat and she’ll have options from her high draw where she could drop in and get cover or bowl along in a prominent position.
Either way, he’s in great form, he has a race fitness advantage over his market rivals towards the top of the betting and, judging by that Doncaster run, he’s perfectly at home in a big-field straight mile handicap.
Up at Ayr it’s the Coral Scottish Grand National (4.05) where Vicente goes for an incredible third consecutive win in the race.
He could do it, too, as he’s only 4lb higher than his last two wins and with the ground drying out conditions are absolutely ideal.
With just three runs under his belt this season as connections have, in the main, dodged the worst of the ground with him, he should be A1 for this assignment and there is no doubt he deserves to be favourite.
However, if there is one horse that is now absolutely thrown in at the weights it’s Neil Mulholland’s THE YOUNG MASTER and at 16/1 (General) I have to have him on side.
A winner of good handicap chases off marks of 144 and 148 in his pomp, he’s now rated 132 following a losing run of 10 that stretches to his 2016 bet365 Gold Cup win.
Some sketchy jumping has been a factor in seeing his form dip, but, he’s still only nine and Mulholland has the talent to pull a rabbit out of the hat with this horse.
Crucially, he showed the first sign of a revival in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival last time, seemingly benefitting from wind surgery as he rallied for sixth after being outpaced with half a mile to go (jumping much better than he has been).
He could be flattered by that, but I took it as a positive and especially so now he steps up in trip to four miles.
His very best form has also been on good conditions, so the ground drying out is a bonus and all the more reason to view that encouraging run on soft last time in a positive light.
Bought by connections to be an Aintree Grand National horse, things haven’t panned out how they would’ve liked. But a Scottish National wouldn’t be a bad consolation.
Finally, I’m going to throw a few quid at PEARL SWAN at 66/1 (General ¼ 1,2,3,4) as well as I thought he shaped pretty well at Aintree last week.
He certainly jumped very well in Liverpool and though he weakened into eighth in the closing stages in the handicap chase won by Thomas Patrick, he did just shape like a horse that was lacking for a bit of fitness.
It was just his second run after a 391-day break, so perhaps it’s brought him further forward fitness-wise, and if it has I think he’s dead interesting tackling a trip on decent ground for a stable that know a thing or two about staying handicap chasers.
It’s four years since Peter Bowen won the Scottish National with Al Co, a horse that went off at 40/1, and he also has Henri Parry Morgan as he bids to land some more of the Ayr loot.
Henri Parry Morgan isn’t without a chance himself after a confidence-boosting win last time, when Bowen switched his cheekpieces for blinkers before he did the business at Ffos Las.
He has gone 6lb back up the handicap since, though, and Pearl Swan, with blinkers replacing the visor, looks more attractively-handicapped towards the foot of the weights with the trainer’s son, James, taking a further 3lb off.
Posted at 1700 BST on 20/04/18.
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: +380.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).