Value Bet: Don’t dismiss Diego
Ben Linfoot tipped last weekend's feature handicap winner Frodon in his Value Bet column and he's trusting Paul Nicholls again on Saturday at Ascot.
Diego Du Charmil (second left): Big price to win at Ascot
Value Bet Selections
Saturday's card at Ascot has a bit of everything and is just about as good as it gets in the deep midwinter of the National Hunt season. There's quality, competitiveness, interesting novices, the lot, and topping the bill is Unowhatimeanharry in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.
I'll cut to the chase. I want to take him on. Clearly, he deserves to be favourite, but you've got to be pretty confident in this company to back him at 5/4 and, though he's improving rapidly, and has a string of 1s next to his name, I'm not sure we have enough evidence to justify backing him at such a skinny price.
The level of form he achieved in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury entitles him to be market leader here, but it's a level of form he's produced once and other horses in the field have delivered similar levels of performance – just not so recently.
There are horses in there with the potential to improve, too. Lil Rockerfeller is a danger and has given weight to some top horses in defeat this season. He's a terrier and could have more to offer at this trip. He can be underestimated – but at 7/1 he looks about right this time.
Ballyoptic could narrow the gap with Unowhatimeanharry at this more testing track under Richard Johnson, Alex De Larredya is an unknown quantity in this country with some top French form to his name and Reve De Sivola, going for a fourth win in this race, should not be underestimated either.
Perhaps the last two named could do with some rain, though, which doesn't look like arriving in any great quantity. UN TEMPS POUR TOUT has posted some very good efforts on soft ground as well, but, as his Cheltenham Festival-winning effort over fences showed, he's just as at home on good to soft conditions and, with that in mind, at the general 14/1 he's worth a small bet.
David Pipe's horse has actually won his last two starts over hurdles and the one before his Aintree win, at Auteuil back in June 2015, was a bloodless effort from the front under James Reveley. That form is arguably up there with Unowhatimeanharry's Newbury success.
It was a Grade One and he won it by 10 lengths, with horses like Zarkandar and the great Hurricane Fly strung out with the washing in behind. Un Temps Pour Tout was only six at the time and it was the first time, really, that he'd come close to justifying his lofty price tag.
That day, though, you could see why connections paid top dollar for him. You saw it at the Cheltenham Festival as well, when he romped home in the Ultima Handicap Chase and he had his first go at a Grade One over fences at Aintree after that.
He had to settle for fourth behind Native River that day, and Colin Tizzard's horse stole the headlines again when Un Temps Pour Tout was well beaten in the Hennessy. However, Un Temps Pour Tout made mistakes at Newbury and he's of interest at big odds now he returns to top-level company over hurdles.
On just his second start in England, he thrashed future World Hurdle winner Cole Harden at Ascot, so we know he's perfectly at home on this track and this test looks ideal for him at this stage in his career. For a Grade One winner over hurdles, he's been underestimated at 14/1.
Tactically, this race is fascinating as the jockeys will be mindful not to give Reve De Sivola too much rope, given they know what he can do off the front end here. He does look to be the only one who likes to go forward, though, with Un Temps Pour Tout a horse that is sometimes ridden prominently.
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Hopefully he'll tank along just behind the leader and be well positioned when they swing into the straight.
In the feature handicap on the card, the Wessex Youth Trust Hurdle (formerly the Ladbroke), tactics could also play a part.
STERNRUBIN set a mighty gallop in the race last year, which did for everyone apart from Jolly's Cracked It, who headed Philip Hobbs' horse late on before being joined again on the line as the pair dead-heated in a thriller.
Jolly's Cracked It hasn't been seen since due to a tendon injury, and the 4lb swing he gets with his old rival is cancelled out, as far as I'm concerned, by that absence from the track.
I certainly don't think Sternrubin should be double his odds and at 16/1 (general) he's worth backing to win the race in his own right this time around.
Having backed this horse in the Greatwood, I was slightly disappointed with his fifth place. However, the ground was soft enough for him that day, there is little doubt he prefers it at Ascot, he reportedly lost a shoe in that run and the handicapper has dropped him 1lb – every little helps!
It looks like the ground will be riding better than it was Greatwood day at Cheltenham, while only Rayvin Black and possibly Unison look rivals for the lead. He might be 10lb higher than he was last year, but he has improved, and he is only 2lb higher than when winning at this track in October.
There is plenty to like about him and this course specialist does seem to be going under the radar, mainly because of some real likely types towards the head of the market.
Golden Spear looks thrown in on his Flat form, the horse heading a trio of horses making the trip over from Tony Martin's yard in Ireland. He's a perfectly understandable favourite but, at 6/1, considering his inexperience over timber, that ship has sailed.
Dan Skelton's challenge is always to be feared in handicaps of this type and his Meet The Legend is interesting, while Nicky Henderson also has a couple of live contenders in Consul De Thaix and Brain Power.
Paul Nicholls is flying at the moment, though, and he too has a strong contender in Modus. He was third behind Sternrubin here in October and second in the Greatwood, but he keeps nudging up the weights in defeat and his stablemate, DIEGO DU CHARMIL, could be better handicapped off 141.
This horse has only had four starts in Britain and he's won two of those; the Fred Winter off 133 on his British debut, and at Chepstow off 138 on his seasonal reappearance. His two defeats came in Apple Jade's ridiculous Grade One romp at Aintree and the aforementioned Sternrubin race here in October.
He was only ninth there, but was sent off the 3/1 favourite and to have him at 20s or even bigger on Saturday looks a gross overreaction.
Very little went right for him at Ascot last time. He made a small mistake at the second and found himself some way off the pace set by Sternrubin despite his prominent position. As Sternrubin came back to the field Diego Du Charmil took a keen hold and did far too much in the middle part of the race.
He then set off in pursuit of the leader in third rounding the home turn with everything else off the bridle, but had done too much too soon and Nick Scholfield went easy on him once his race was run late on.
The Nicholls stable think a lot of this horse and he's expected to be very good over a fence in the future. He's certainly better than his last performance and at 22/1 (William Hill, 20/1 general) he's worth backing to land the Wessex Youth on his way to bigger and better things.
*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).
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: +414.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1600 GMT on 16/12/2016.
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