Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday and he's taking two against the field including a 50/1 poke.
Recommended Bets: Value Bet, February 10
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Newbury is the scene for some returning heroes on Saturday as Altior and Native River make their seasonal reappearances in races they won on this very card last season.
Altior is the big draw, with last year's Arkle winner aiming to consolidate his position as Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite on his first start since that well-documented wind operation.
It might only be a three-runner field, but it’s great to see neither Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls have blinked with both Altior and Politologue declared and, considering the latter’s improvement this season, this is a real test for the former, going for his 12th consecutive win.
It’s not a contest to set the pulse racing from a punting perspective, though, and neither is the three-runner Denman Chase in which Native River aims to retain his crown, even if he does look a touch vulnerable after his own absence.
Both are fascinating races to watch, but it might be worth putting all of your Saturday eggs in the Betfair Hurdle basket with 24 runners lining up in an ultra-competitive renewal.
It’s great to see a maximum field turn up for this after only 16 did battle last year and with it we have the most competitive handicap hurdle of the season, something the most valuable race of its type in Britain deserves.
Whittling the shortlist down isn’t easy. For a start, novices have a good recent record in this race and there are some likely types from that sphere this year with Irish Roe, Lalor and Kalashnikov all towards the top of the market.
I really like Irish Roe from those three, as she’s 11lb well in at the weights, goes on the ground and all her form has come at Doncaster, a course not dissimilar to Newbury in that it’s a flat, galloping track that goes left-handed.
Giving she’s a thriving mare that’s so well in the weights she looks the right favourite and I couldn’t put anyone off her. At 9/1, though, she looks like she’s found her rightful place in the market and with that in mind I’m swayed towards a couple of others at bigger prices.
Spiritofthegames holds solid form following a second in the Lanzarote behind William Henry and that form has started to work out well with fourth home Topofthegame winning at Sandown last weekend.
He’s interesting at 25s, but the first-time cheekpieces will have to sharpen him right up if he’s to cope with the drop in trip from 2m5f and my fear is he will be outpaced by some true two-milers.
Nicky Henderson has a couple in that category among his five-strong team and though Jenkins is the shortest in the betting from his quintet I much prefer the claims of KAYF GRACE at 12/1 (General ¼ 1,2,3,4 – check your each-way terms. Sky Bet are paying six places on the race at 1/5 the odds).
This daughter of Kayf Tara has never run at the track but has Newbury coursing through her veins. She’s a half-sister to Missis Potts, a horse that was sixth in this race 10 years ago, while her dam, Potter’s Gale, a useful two-mile handicap hurdler, is a half-sister to Hennessy legend Denman.
With such a pedigree big things were expected of Kayf Grace, especially after she won the Nickel Coin mares’ bumper at the Grand National meeting two years ago. That was some renewal, as she had Augusta Kate, Shattered Love, Copper Kay, La Bague Au Roi and Theatre Territory in arrears.
Unfortunately Kayf Grace has only run three times since then, as she got injured as a novice hurdler when being prepared for the mares’ novice at the Cheltenham Festival.
The good thing is her slow progress means she could still be ahead of the handicapper despite her 8lb rise for winning at Kempton on December 27. That was an excellent run where she whizzed over her hurdles and ran away from Eddiemaurice in the closing stages without being shown the whip.
It looks a really good performance. The front two were eight lengths clear of the third, Azzerti, a horse that franked the form with a win at Huntingdon on Thursday, while the fifth, Unison, won a handicap hurdle at Taunton last Sunday.
That Kempton race has also been a pointer to the Betfair Hurdle in the past, including when Violet Dancer won the 2015 renewal having finished runner-up at the Sunbury track over Christmas.
With more rain forecast everything is in place for Kayf Grace to run a massive race. She goes so well on testing ground and it might well be a pre-requisite for her looking at her profile. At 12/1, she could well be the one to give Nicky Henderson his sixth win in the contest.
However, I can’t leave it at that, not with 24 runners to pick from. And the one I like at a massive price is Brian Ellison’s NIETZSCHE at 50/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral ¼ 1,2,3,4).
This horse has been slightly disappointing in two runs this season, but I’m not sure he’s ever had his optimum conditions over hurdles and that he might well get those for the first time this weekend.
On the Flat his best two performances came in soft ground on flat, galloping tracks at Ayr and Nottingham. The day he won at the latter track he cruised through the contest, winning as easily as he ever did.
Over hurdles, he’s yet to encounter a flat, galloping track on soft ground but he will do at Newbury on Saturday. And the good thing is, he will do so off a reduced mark of 132 having dropped 5lb for his runs at Cheltenham and Ascot this season.
That’s a mark just 2lb higher than the one he ran off in the Fred Winter last year, where he might’ve won but for a mistake at the last.
On that form he’s got a big chance and his jockey that day, Danny Cook, is back in the saddle for the first time since that Cheltenham run. The hood has also been left off for the first time in seven runs and he’s likely to race prominently, perhaps just off the pace, which never seems to be a bad thing in this race.
I didn’t think he settled too well at Ascot last time, but he was still bang in contention until a mistake at the second last ended his chance. He went backwards after the mistake, but I’m convinced he’s better than that and hopefully he can show it this weekend.
Ellison and the owners certainly have a score to settle in this contest after their Bothy just lost out to Recession Proof in the 2011 renewal and, though he has to step up on recent efforts, Nietzsche is really interesting off a low weight at a huge price.
Posted at 1700 GMT on 09/02/18.
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: +360.89pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
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