Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets on the Scottish National card at Ayr and at Newbury on Saturday.
Recommended bets: Value Bet
Luca Cumani won the Be Wiser Insurance Spring Cup the last time it was held at Newbury and while the Newmarket handler has yet to have a winner this season that could all change with BANKSEA on Saturday afternoon.
The stable form isn’t a concern as he’s only had 11 runners and they’ve all been running pretty well, while Banksea is a horse that goes very well fresh having won and been second on his last two seasonal reappearances.
Sent off the 9/1 favourite for the Cambridgeshire when last seen in September, he failed to land a blow at Newmarket but he’d been on the go since May and very little got into that race from off the pace.
He’s better judged on his previous two races over a mile where he was narrowly beaten after travelling well, notably proving that a straight-mile is right up his street when second at Doncaster at the Leger meeting.
That came off just a 1lb lower rating and improvement could be forthcoming as a four-year-old with a gelding operation potentially a catalyst.
I’m convinced we haven’t seen the best of him yet and I like that he’s proven over further while showing his very best form in good one-mile handicaps. This big field and likely good gallop looks set to play to his strengths and at 11/1 (BetVictor, 10/1 General) he looks the one to be on.
Richard Fahey has an excellent record in this race having had three winners and a second in the last 10 years and I’m going to give another chance to his ANOTHER TOUCH, too, at 25/1 (Ladbrokes, 22/1 General).
He was disappointing in the Spring Mile at Doncaster, but his trainer has had three weeks to fine-tune him and on last year’s form he has a cracking chance here.
A winner on Newmarket's July Course off 92 in August, he wasn’t far behind Banksea at the Ebor meeting after that and he improved on that effort when going down narrowly to Weekend Offender back on the Knavesmire in October.
That effort came off just 2lb lower and from admittedly limited evidence it looks like he’s right at home on fast ground.
Paul Mulrennan takes the ride and he’s got a healthy 25 per cent strike-rate when teaming up with Fahey, who has started the season all guns blazing.
His big price is due to that disappointing Doncaster run, but I’m prepared to forgive him that – perhaps he needed it – and it would be no surprise if he came on significantly for that outing.
Up at Ayr it’s the Coral Scottish Grand National and I had a pretty long shortlist for this with Alvarado appealing from a handicapping point of view, Dancing Shadow ticking the stamina box more firmly than most and Sugar Baron looking interesting up in trip.
In the end I couldn’t get away from the claims of TRUSTAN TIMES, however, and at 16/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) he looks worth an each-way bet.
Tim Easterby ran him a couple of times in this race, notably when third behind Al Co in 2014 and when he was pulled up two years ago.
That turned out to be his last run for Easterby, but the 11-year-old has returned to the track this season with Mark Walford and after an uninspiring start at Doncaster he looked right back on good terms with himself when winning easily at Kelso last time.
His win in Scotland came over hurdles over a trip you wouldn’t think he’d have the pace for, so he deserves extra credit for the victory and it should have put him spot on for a third crack at this prestigious contest.
Fears that he’s not contested the hurly burly of a big handicap chase for a few years are valid ones, but they are allayed by his handicap mark which is 8lb lower than the 140 rating he has previously run off in this race.
He’s always been a strong stayer and, freshened up by his new surroundings, now could be the time he puts it altogether on the big stage.
It’s a really good undercard up at Ayr and the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle is a good race with many from the County Hurdle reopposing.
County second L’Ami Serge and seventh Mohaayed are fancied towards the top of the betting, but I’d rather back Cheltenham third OZZIE THE OSCAR at 12/1 (Ladbrokes, 11/1 General).
He ran a belter at the Festival and was the first to reel in long-time leader Wakea before the last, only giving way to Arctic Fire and L’Ami Serge in the run for the line.
Given he was prominent in the chasing pack throughout he did really well to keep his effort going all the way up the hill and he was only beaten half a length in the end.
There’s very little between himself and L’Ami Serge off identical terms, but I think the latter benefitted from being produced late off a strong gallop at Cheltenham and this smaller field might not play to his strengths.
I’d rather back the Philip Hobbs horse at 12/1, his trainer attempting to win this race with a beaten County Hurdle hopeful for the second time having achieved the feat with Cheltenian a couple of years ago.
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: +351.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1710 BST on 21/04/17.