Value Bet: Carole’s to strike gold
Ben Linfoot has had 12/1, 14/1 and 16/1 winners in November – don't miss his Value Bet advice for Newbury and Newcastle on Saturday.
Carole's Destrier: Big price at 33/1 to win the Hennessy
Value Bet Selections
The market for the Hennessy Gold Cup is congested towards the top with no less than seven horses trading at single-figure prices the evening before racing.
At the very top is Native River, a horse that looks sure to be well-backed given the form of the Colin Tizzard stable and his own record, which improved significantly for the application of cheekpieces in the spring.
He looks the most likely to go off favourite as it stands, but something is going to emerge from the cluster of horses in behind him in the market and challenge him for that honour and it could well be last year's jolly, SAPHIR DU RHEU, who looks worth getting on side this time around at best prices of 10/1 (Paddy Power, 9/1 Ladbrokes, BetVictor, 32Red, 888Sport).
Second-season novices are always backed in this race and they dominate the betting here, with Native River, Un Temps Pour Tout, Vyta Du Roc, Blaklion and Henri Parry Morgan all among those trading at single figures.
But established chasers have done well in this race in recent seasons with Madison Du Berlais, Carruthers, Triolo D'Alene and Smad Place all benefitting from experience to take first place and three of those had run in the race, unsuccessfully, before.
With that in mind, perhaps Saphir Du Rheu can take everything he learnt in this race last year and put it to good use on Saturday.
The handicapper has certainly helped his cause as he runs off a 10lb lower mark 12 months on, a drop that contributes to a huge 21lb swing with last year's winner, Smad Place.
Alan King's grey gave him a near 22-length beating last year, but Saphir Du Rheu was still bang in contention three out and that after a bad mistake seven from home.
That was as good as it got last season for Saphir Du Rheu, as he was put in his place by Thistlecrack when returned to hurdles and then had no answer to Cue Card and company when sent back over fences at Aintree.
But he showed a bit more in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown on his final start of the season and I thought his first run this campaign, at Ascot, was hugely promising with this particular contest in mind.
He jumped slightly to his left at times at Ascot but he attacked his fences well and was just short of a gear over three miles. At the end he was staying on well, almost snatching second, and shaping as though an extra couple of furlongs would see him improve.
There looks likely to be plenty of pace on here, which will suit, and he looks a dangerously well-handicapped animal off 153 for a horse that has won a Grade One by 15 lengths. He's still only seven, but looks well equipped for this test now.
The ground, probably riding more good to soft than anything else on the chase course judging by Friday's racing, is ideal and the great form of the Paul Nicholls yard is encouraging too.
He's worth backing from those at the top of the market but there's room for one at a bigger price as well with Neil Mulholland's CAROLE'S DESTRIER making plenty of appeal at 33/1 (general).
This eight-year-old son of Kayf Tara is another starting his third season over fences and he's established himself as a solid handicapper over staying trips, his win at Sandown in the London National last campaign his career highlight so far.
That victory came off a mark of 146, so he's just 2lb higher here, and it was further evidence he stays well given it was over 3m5f. The likely strong pace will suit him, then, and his hold-up style could be a major positive if the leaders take each other on from an early stage.
The good to soft ground is ideal for him as well and his trainer, Mulholland, and jockey, Noel Fehily, are in superb form, the pair teaming up at the track on Friday with Solemn Grundy.
Mulholland gave an upbeat bulletin on Carole's Destrier earlier in the week, stating 'he is as fit as we can possibly get him at home' as he hasn't had a run this season, while saying he had been schooling very well too.
His owners live close to the track and the horse will make the relatively short journey from Bath through the North Wessex Downs himself – at 33s it's worth chancing that trip is a fruitful one.
This horse was second in the contest last year off a 2lb lower mark and that was further evidence that he loves Newbury, as he won a handicap hurdle here and was second again at the track over fences in April.
He showed nothing first-time out at Kempton, but that was also the case last year when he finished 11th at Leicester prior to this contest and it's highly likely this will have been his early season target.
Last season he looked the likely winner heading to the last but was collared by Grey Gold late on. The pair race off identical terms on Saturday, but while Whispering Harry has youth on his side at the age of seven, Grey Gold is rising 12 now.
In any case, Whispering Harry is the bigger price and there looks to be nothing between them off these terms on last season's evidence.
Finally, it could be worth chancing OTAGO TRAIL at 11/1 (general) in the Rehearsal Chase up at Newcastle.
A deluge of rain earlier in the week means the ground will be riding softer than at Newbury and that is vital to Venetia Williams' horse who looked a novice of some potential in deep winter ground last season.
He was put in his place by Bristol De Mai at Haydock, but a 15lb pull in the weights will help him against that rival while now could be the time to catch him as he goes really well fresh.
A handicap mark of 146 is not beyond him given the impression he made when absolutely sluicing up off 141 at Chepstow in January, and he's dropped back down into the mid-140s very quickly following some tough spring assignments that didn't play to his strengths.
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: +402.14pts 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 at 0830 GMT on race-day morning.
What does this mean? Sky Bet will agree to match the prices advised on all selections in the Value Bet column upon its publication for at least 15 minutes from 0830 (GMT) on race day. In the event of non-runners having had a material effect on the market since publication, Sky Bet will guarantee to offer the top-price in the market place.
Posted at 1650 GMT on 25/11/16.