Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bet selections on Saturday including a 40/1 chance in the Victoria Cup and one at a price in the Swinton Hurdle.
Value Bet: Saturday, May 12
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The totescoop6 Victoria Cup takes centre stage at Ascot on Saturday with a maximum field of 29 lining up in pursuit of the £105,000 pot.
This type of puzzle on the straight track at Ascot has proved fiendish recently, not just because of the ultra-competitiveness of these handicaps but the various potential scenarios when they jump out of the stalls.
We’ve seen them all flock over to the stands’ side in one group, like in this race last year, we’ve seen two groups form on either flank, we’ve seen three groups separating with one in the middle and we’ve seen one group head down the centre of the track.
What happens on Saturday is anybody’s guess and pointing out that the early pace is spread across the course will mean nothing if they all come across to the stands’ side again.
Instead of waffling any further about how it may or may not pan out, I’m just going to concentrate on the horse that most interests me at the prices, namely SIX STRINGS at 40/1 (back him each-way at bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5 or Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6) for Eve Johnson Houghton.
This horse is drawn in stall nine and he will in all likelihood be poorly positioned if they do what they did last year, but he’s been crying out for a proper big-field handicap type of gallop and I can’t let him go unbacked now he gets that scenario on Saturday.
He looks well handicapped off 85 on several bits of form for Richard Fahey last season, with three placed efforts off 87 certainly hinting so, especially his half-length third-placed effort at Doncaster last August.
It was an excellent performance to be beaten by such a narrow margin as he was extremely keen early on, the run a perfect example of why he could be dangerous when he encounters a proper end-to-end gallop.
His new yard must think they’ve got a well-handicapped horse on their hands as he was sent off 15/8 favourite for his stable debut at Lingfield last month and he was extremely eye-catching, being completely undone by the lack of pace but not given a hard time of things by any means as he finished a four-and-a-half length sixth.
It wasn’t a bad run at all and if he comes on for that he's going to be dangerous off 85. His new trainer reaches for a first-time hood, which could help him settle and she’s two from 10 in handicaps with that particular headgear first-time out (an admittedly small sample, but encouraging nonetheless).
Johnson Houghton is in fine form, with four winners from her last 12 runners (before Friday’s action), and she has good recent previous in a race of this type having landed the totescoop6 Challenge Cup over the course and distance with Accidental Agent last October.
Given what I wrote at the top of this piece I have to back one drawn towards the stands’ side as well and the one that sticks out is David O’Meara’s FIRMAMENT at 20/1 (General).
This horse has several excellent efforts to his name on the Ascot straight course including two close-up fifths over seven furlongs in big-field handicaps last season off his 2017 static mark that was 109.
It’s a bit disconcerting that he’s not shown much in two starts so far this campaign, but the good news is he’s dropped to a mark of 102 and he’s well treated on a mountain of Ascot form off that rating.
It’s with hope that the return to a track he acts so well on can see him bounce back to top form and, from stall 28, he could end up being well positioned whatever the jockeys decide to do.
Earlier on at Ascot KOEMAN makes plenty of appeal at 12/1 (General) in the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap over 1m4f.
He did really well to win a good handicap at Lingfield last time, a race that launched the four-year-old campaign of Van Percy a few years ago, rallying after being outpaced and sticking his neck out to win by half-a-length from a couple of horses that have franked the form subsequently.
That collateral form gives his chance a very solid look, especially given he only went up 2lb and considering the potential improvement now he runs back on turf for the first time since last October.
Talented claimer David Egan takes another 3lb off and he knows him well having won on him before, so there’s plenty to like about his chance in what looks a cracking race.
Finally, it could be worth chancing ALL SET TO GO at 25/1 (General) in the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle over at Haydock (3.10).
He was second in this race two years ago off a 3lb higher mark when with Paul Nicholls and confirmed his liking for a flat, galloping track with an easy win at Doncaster off a mark of 140 later that year.
It was 15 months before he was seen again for new trainer Kevin Frost in this year’s County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but while he didn’t show much in that he showed up quite well when fourth at Aintree last time.
Dropped 7lb for those two runs, he’s very much at home on better ground and the soft conditions in Liverpool won’t have played to his strengths.
Back at Haydock, off his new mark, on spring ground, he could well kick on from that encouraging run last time and at 25s he’s worth a small play.
Posted at 1700 BST on 11/05/18.
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: +356.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).