Value Bet: On the Trail
Ben Linfoot seeks out the best Value Bets from Ascot and Haydock Park on Saturday afternoon.
Otago Trail: Worth backing again at Haydock
Value Bet Selections
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup talking horse Alary makes his British debut on Saturday and all eyes are on Colin Tizzard's new recruit in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock (3.15).
Tizzard has been positive about Alary's homework ever since he arrived at Venn Farm, but an opening BHA mark of 162 makes life very difficult for him in a good renewal and he really will be a major Gold Cup contender if he can defy top weight against Saturday's rivals.
The good thing is his presence towards the top of the market makes this a very attractive betting heat, with Definitly Red putting pressure on him in the battle for favouritism.
Brian Ellison's eight-year-old put in a career-best performance when winning the 188Bet Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby over Christmas, a smooth seven-length success over Wakanda earning him an 8lb hike in the weights.
There's little doubt he deserved that, but it does mean he takes on a host of his At The Races Rehearsal Chase foes off unfavourable terms.
That Newcastle race is a vital piece of evidence when assessing the Peter Marsh as OTAGO TRAIL won by over three lengths, Bristol De Mai was second, Definitly Red was another length-and-a-quarter away in third, BISHOPS ROAD was over four lengths off him in fourth and Virak was well beaten in sixth.
Otago Trail was a very convincing winner of that race and he's only 5lb higher on Saturday with the excellent Charlie Deutsch taking off three of those.
He's actually a couple of pounds better off with Definitly Red after beating him by four-and-a-half lengths and, while he's worse off with Bristol De Mai and Bishops Road, he's overpriced to uphold that form and is worth forgiving a below-par run at Leopardstown on December 27.
There could be various excuses for that run – it was a very hot race and he was top weight, the ground might not have been as soft as he'd like and it was the first time he'd travelled over to Ireland.
Whatever happened, he didn't perform to anywhere near his best and if he hadn't run there he'd arguably be favourite for this. I'm more than happy to forgive the run given he's available at 12/1 (generally, there was plenty of 14s available on Friday afternoon and you might well get those odds on Saturday morning).
His optimum conditions look to be three miles in testing ground – he once and for all proved he stayed three miles well in the Rehearsal Chase – and with Vintage Clouds and Bristol De Mai likely to make the running he should be able to pop away just off the pace.
If I'm going to forgive Otago Trail his last run, then Bishops Road (14/1 generally) is worth another chance too.
On the face of it he was very disappointing in the Coral Welsh National, but Kerry Lee says he 'whacked a joint' during the race and was subsequently sore for a few days.
That would explain his lacklustre effort and the good thing is Lee says he recovered quickly from the knock, while the handicapper dropped him 5lb.
Going back to that Rehearsal Chase Bishops Road ran a very encouraging race for his seasonal reappearance and he's better off with everything that finished in front of him.
He's 12lb better off with Definitly Red, 10lb better off with Otago Trail and 5lb better off with Bristol De Mai.
On top of this he's just 5lb higher than the mark he easily won the Grand National Trial off at this track last February, a race that confirmed he excelled in the stamina department.
That's why connections aimed him at the Welsh National last time, but he's pretty versatile regarding trip and I don't think he'll have a problem staying with them over three miles in testing ground at Haydock.
Lee has been in pretty good form recently with Goodtoknow running so well at Warwick last Saturday and Alfie Spinner winning at Wincanton on Thursday, and with Sam Twiston-Davies booked for the ride Bishops Road is well placed to put in his best run of the campaign.
It's looking unlikely Ascot will beat the frost after a downbeat assessment from Clerk of the Course Chris Stickels on Friday, but just in case the forecasts are wrong I want KRUGERMAC on side at 12/1 (general price) in the Keltbray Holloway's Handicap Hurdle (2.25).
This horse is from the family of Thisthatandtother and Carlingford Lough and connections paid a whopping £185,000 for him at Doncaster's May sale in 2015.
Gary Moore has always exuded a high opinion of this horse, as was shown again this week by his fancy entry for him in the Betfair Hurdle. He'll need a miracle to get in the Newbury race, but at least it shows how much belief Moore has in his charge.
There is no escaping the fact he was disappointing at Sandown a couple of weeks ago, but he was a bit keen on his first start for 13 months and there is a possibility he could improve dramatically for the run.
The best effort of his career came over Saturday's course and distance when he won by eight lengths on his hurdling debut and, while that race hasn't worked out like it looked it might do, third home What's The Scoop's rating alone (127) suggests Krugermac could be very well treated off 119.
Moore has a good record at Ascot this season and this horse, from the bottom of the weights in a first-time visor, could improve it further if racing does happen to get the green light.
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: +397.14pts 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 1655 GMT on 20/01/2017.
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