Value Bet: Bally good show
Ben Linfoot bids to follow up last weekend's 12/1 winner Ziga Boy with two Value Bets for Sandown and Wetherby on Saturday.
Ballyculla: Worth chancing at big odds at Sandown on Saturday
Value Bet Selections
There's already heavy patches in places on the home straight of the Sandown hurdles course and there's a bit more rain forecast, too. It's likely to be very testing at the Esher course come Saturday afternoon.
We know Sandown is a stiff track anyway thanks to the long climb up the hill to the winning post, but getting home is going to be even harder work than usual this weekend. It's a key factor to bear in mind when calculating your bets.
It shouldn't cause the market principals in the small-field feature action many problems, though. Buveur D'Air is well equipped to deal with this sort of ground ahead of his hurdling return, while it shouldn't inconvenience anything in the Scilly Isles.
There's a good chance conditions will have a major impact on the Betfred Mobile Heroes Handicap Hurdle at 3pm, however.
Run over the best part of three miles, this is going to be a thorough test of stamina but there is a surprising lack of concrete evidence over the staying power of plenty of the runners.
Only three horses in the field have stayed this far in victory, and though plenty should stay on pedigree or running style or both, I'd rather back a horse that's been there and done it given this could be really hard work.
The first thing to acknowledge is this horse's lack of good recent form. He's run twice this season over fences and has been stuffed both times. If recent form is a prerequisite for you it's time to skip eight paragraphs.
For those of you that are with me, he's worth forgiving those two runs. His seasonal reappearance came in a hot renewal of the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day and he didn't show anything from an early stage when pulled up in the North Yorkshire Grand National last time at Catterick. That's a tough race on a sharp track and I'm happy to ignore the run.
The good thing is both his hurdles and chase marks dropped 8lb to 128 on the back of those efforts. He returns to timber off a nice mark and one that is lenient when considering the evidence of his most recent hurdling form from a couple of years ago.
When last seen over hurdles he was regularly competitive off marks in the 130s, while he won easily off marks of 119 and 126 just prior to that.
One of those victories came at Exeter, a testing right-handed track and he's run well at the same venue a couple of times subsequently as well. In fact, I'd say three of his top six career efforts have come at Exeter and he's barely raced anywhere else right-handed.
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The relevance of that is probably limited at best, but at least it gives some indication that he'll have no problems with Sandown's configuration and he'll certainly have no problems with the ground given just about all of his wins have come on soft or heavy.
The most important thing, though, is that he's a thorough stayer. He's won over three miles five times and he gets further, so if he's right there's a good chance he'll stay on when plenty of his opponents have cried enough.
It's the 'if he's right' that's the dilemma. Warren Greatrex leaves the headgear off for the first time in 13 starts so this could just be an attempt at boosting his confidence before a return to fences.
Weighing everything up, however, I can't leave him unbacked at 40/1. He's arguably the best-handicapped horse in the race on his old form, Thomas Greatrex takes off another 7lb and he has the tools for this test whereas it's an unknown whether plenty of his rivals do.
Earlier on the Sandown card I was going to tip Dream Bolt in the Betfred 'Treble The Odds On Lucky 15's' Handicap Chase (1.15).
Betfair Sportsbook were first up with 20s which was huge and they later cut that to 10s, while Stan James also went 10s from 16s. 10/1 is approaching his right price, anything bigger is probably still worth taking.
David Rees' horse returned from an absence of 16 months when winning at Chepstow on January 8 and as long as this assignment doesn't come too soon he has a good chance of following up.
He travelled really well at Chepstow, took the two fences that come close together down the back with aplomb (an encouraging sign before he attempts the Railway Fences) and responded well to pressure to see off Ubaltique in the closing stages.
Ubaltique has franked the form emphatically since with an excellent win at Haydock, and that means Dream Bolt meets his old rival on 4lb better terms despite beating him last time.
His Chepstow win proved he could handle testing ground, a 6lb rise for that effort looks fair bordering on lenient and he could well take advantage getting significant weight from everything in the field on Saturday.
It's a shame to miss him as 20s and 16s was too big, but I'll have to bite the bullet and leave him out at the current odds available.
Finally, THE DUTCHMAN looks a fair bet at the general 9/1 in the totepool Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby (2.45).
Sandy Thomson's horse has performed well on all of his three trips to Wetherby in the past, including in a novices' handicap chase at the track last time.
That came off a mark of 137 and he lost nothing in defeat trying to give 7lb to Dan Skelton's Oldgrangewood, a horse that might be unbeaten over fences had he not been brought down at Aintree.
Prior to that The Dutchman carried a penalty against Aux Ptits Soins and Westren Warrior at Kelso, but again he should be commended for finishing a close third against that duo. Back in fourth, beaten 19 lengths, was Saturday's rival Delusionsofgrandeur, with whom The Dutchman gets a 9lb pull at the weights.
That went a long way to proving The Dutchman stays three miles and his pedigree says he should too.
He faces some tough opponents in Calett Mad and Missed Approach on Saturday, but his chasing form stacks up with both of those horses and his proven track record could be a vital edge.
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: +403.14pts 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 03/02/2017.
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