Value Bet: Back King for double double
Ben Linfoot seeks out the Value Bets at Cheltenham and Doncaster on Saturday and he thinks Alan King could dominate again.
Ziga Boy: Fair price at 12s to win a second Sky Bet Chase
Value Bet Selections
1pt win Dark Flame in 12.35 Cheltenham at 14/1
1pt win Annacotty in 1.10 Cheltenham at 20/1
1pt win Top Gamble in 1.45 Cheltenham at 11/1
1pt win Ziga Boy in 3.40 Doncaster at 12/1
1pt win Caid Du Berlais in 3.40 Doncaster at 14/1
It's a monster weekend for racing with good stuff all over the place at Cheltenham, Doncaster, Leopardstown and beyond. It's no coincidence we're just six weeks away from the Cheltenham Festival as the timing is pretty much perfect for that last preparation run.
We'll even see Faugheen at Leopardstown on Sunday for the first time in a year, while Thistlecrack, Un De Sceaux, Unowhatimeanharry and a whole host of star novices are on show on the enlarged trials day card at Cheltenham. It's hard to argue that Saturday isn't the best single day's racing we'll see on a weekend all season.
With so much going on being selective is key. I don't want to take on Thistlecrack in the Cotswolds Chase for obvious reasons and I'm not sure trying to get the big two beat in the Cleeve Hurdle, Unowhatimeanharry and Ballyoptic, is a sensible tactic either.
You could say the same about Un De Sceaux in the Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase at 1.45, but he looks very short to me at 1/2.
Yes he sets the standard on form, but I wouldn't go overboard about his Tingle Creek win and I'm not sure he fully justifies his 169 rating or his skinny odds. He made one or two mistakes at Sandown as well and he's far from bombproof despite the market suggesting as much.
I guess the problem is the lack of credible opposition, but with a good pace likely thanks to the presence of Special Tiara and Royal Regatta, I do think TOP GAMBLE could be a bigger threat than his 11/1 (general) odds imply.
Kerry Lee's horse was well beaten when fifth behind Fox Norton at the Open meeting at Cheltenham in November, but that was his first run of the campaign and the stable had a pretty slow start to the season.
He ran much better over 2m5f in handicap company at the track on New Year's Day, a patient ride from Davy Russell enabling him to fill third position off top weight.
More will be needed here against a rival of Un De Sceaux's calibre, but I thought that run last time was encouraging with targets like this in mind. He's not a spring horse given his preference for testing mid-winter ground and he'll be primed to take advantage if his opposition are being trained with more than an eye on the bigger prizes in March.
He showed at Newbury and Fairyhouse last season he was capable of picking up the pieces in graded two-mile chases under suitable conditions, and though the ground will probably be a bit better than he'd ideally like he's been a little underestimated.
Earlier on the card, I really like the look of Richard Rowe's DARK FLAME in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase (12.35) at 14/1 (general price).
This horse has some really good chasing form to his name after a couple of goes over fences and there could well be plenty more to come.
At Sandown on his chasing debut in November he gave 3lb to Paul Nicholls' More Buck's and beat him eight lengths, form that has been franked twice since by the runner-up who won at Fontwell and back at the Esher course.
Then at Ascot last time he was a really good third in a hot handicap where he came out the best horse at the weights. The winner, Poker School, and the fourth, Overtown Express, have emphatically franked that form at Kempton and Warwick since.
Two-and-a-half miles looks his trip at this stage and off the same mark of 135 (than he ran off at Ascot) he looks attractively handicapped with plenty more to come after just two chasing starts.
He looks big at 14s and I'll rely on him, though I did toy with the idea of having a saver on Burtons Well. At 13/2 or thereabouts he's a little short now, but he's hugely progressive for Venetia Williams, who has had a placed runner in this race the last five years, and his form behind Waiting Patiently and ahead of Pistol Park gives him solid claims.
This horse finished second in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase in 2014 and has won this race the last two years off marks of 144 and 151.
His form this season has been poor in two runs, but we know he thrives at this meeting at this time of year and he is now only 3lb higher than his win in this race last season.
Interestingly, Alan King also swaps the cheekpieces for blinkers, headgear he hasn't worn in six starts for his new trainer.
He used to sport them when with Martin Keighley, though, and he won the Grade One Feltham in first-time blinkers back in 2013.
If they wake him up he's a big price to win this race for the third consecutive year and you couldn't argue this is a particularly better renewal than the last two he's won.
His first win in the race, in 2015, came in first-time cheekpieces, further evidence that he likes a fresh change of headgear (he also won the Paddy Power on his first start for King when cheekpieces were back on instead of blinkers).
Over at Doncaster King also applies cheekpieces to ZIGA BOY for the first time as he bids to land back-to-back renewals of the Sky Bet Chase – and he's fairly priced at 12/1 (general) to do just that.
We know he loves Doncaster and he ran a perfectly satisfactory prep race at the track last time, leading for a long way and battling on in the straight once headed by No Duffer and Long Lunch.
He gets a significant 5lb pull at the weights with Long Lunch on Saturday and that race, coming just a week after he departed at the first when hampered in the Becher, should've put him spot on for this.
The ground will be fine even with the forecast rain and he's only 5lb higher than he was last year. There are very few negatives with him and you can't say the same about plenty of those shorter in the market.
Bigbadjohn is inexperienced and his Thistlecrack form looks factored into his price, Out Sam hasn't jumped well enough over fences to justify second-favouritism, Southfield Royale could be rusty having not been seen this season and Ballyboker Breeze's form doesn't stand up to close inspection.
Another Hero is interesting as he's getting to grips with his second season over fences, but he's been punted into what looks his correct price now and Coologue is 2lb worse off with Ziga Boy for his three-and-quarter length defeat in this race last year.
With all this in mind, I'm going to take a chance on Paul Nicholls' CAID DU BERLAIS at 14/1 (general) as well.
Nicholls has a good record in this race with a few wins under his belt and it's interesting Sam Twiston-Davies elects to ride this horse instead of proven stayer Vicente.
The trip is the angle with this horse as he's massively unexposed over three miles having tried it just once in his career, at Aintree over hurdles in November, where he sluiced up off a mark of 140.
He travelled supremely well in that race and seemed to enjoy the tempo of going over further. Indeed, dropped back in trip at Ascot since, he seemed to be outpaced by Top Notch over 2m5f in a graduation chase last time.
However, he did come down a couple of pounds for that and off a mark of 146 he's well enough treated to take a chance on. He won the Paddy Power off just a 3lb lower mark and was only 6lb lower for that hurdles cruise earlier in the season.
Proven in a big-field handicap, he has the class to have a big say and, though he's a tough horse to catch right, I want to be with him on his first go in a handicap chase at this trip.
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: +395.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
*Sky Bet are offering EXTRA VALUE to followers of the Sporting Life Value Bet column with guaranteed prices for at least 15 minutes from the time of publication (usually 5pm).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 27/01/2017.