Value Bet: Shuil to shine
Ben Linfoot seeks out the best value bets at Sandown and Wincanton on Saturday afternoon.
Shuil Royale: Worth a bet at Sandown
Value Bet Selections
With a bit of rain set to arrive overnight and mild temperatures for the time of year forecast on Saturday, it's looking like Sandown's 32Red Tolworth Hurdle card will survive the weather again despite its precarious position in the calendar.
The Grade One feature looks set to be an informative affair with Paul Nicholls, who won the race three times in consecutive years from 2006-2008, set to saddle Capitaine, who sets the standard on form following his win in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Ascot last time.
However, with the hurdles course reportedly softer than the chase course and with that bit of rain in mind, conditions might be a bit more testing than he would like judging by his performance at Haydock in November where he got stuck in the mud behind Tahira.
He also got the run of the race out in front at Ascot last month, so it must be doubtful Saturday's opponents will allow Sam Twiston-Davies so much rope and with plenty of potential among his rivals the general 6/4 looks very short indeed.
There isn't a horse in the field with as much potential as Finian's Oscar, an expensive purchase for Ann and Alan Potts who blew away his Hereford opposition on debut for Colin Tizzard nearly three weeks ago.
He's become unbackable at around 7/4, though, and while he could well go off favourite his lofty reputation is well factored into his price. It's worth remembering that Hereford debut was over 2m5f, too, so this is a severe drop in trip.
Celestial Path and Global Stage look up against it given neither have jumped a hurdle in public, so the two to concentrate on could well be Charlemar and CHALONNIAL, with preference for the latter at 9/1 (Boylesports and Paddy Power, 8/1 generally).
The first thing to note is the red-hot form of the Harry Fry stable, who have hit the ground running in 2017 with six winners from 10 runners already this year.
That number could well be improved by Chalonnial, who contributed to the stable's winning prize money last month by virtue of a comfortable win on his hurdling debut at Bangor.
The form of that race is completely untested, but the impression is he will improve hugely for the outing. He was a bit keen early on and jinked in front of several of his obstacles, but still drew clear without fuss in the manner of a good horse.
If he improves as much as his half-brother, Activial, did between his first and second start over hurdles he'll certainly be in with a chance.
Activial, also trained by Harry Fry at the time, was beaten into second on his hurdling debut, before winning the Grade Two Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton on his very next start.
That bodes well for Chalonnial, and at 9/1 I'm happy to chance he has the ability to shake up the two market leaders.
From abundant potential in the Tolworth we go to the opposite end of the scale in the final of the 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase at 3.00.
The 19-strong field ensure this is a must-watch affair full of old favourites, with dual Grade One-winner Dynaste heading the list of 'well-handicapped' horses given he's now rated 24lb below his career best.
However, it's taken on trust how much zest he retains for the game and I'd rather turn to that man Fry again instead as his SHUIL ROYALE is in the form of his life and he looks very big at 14/1 (BetVictor, 32Red, 888Sport – you might get 16s at Paddy Power).
On the face of it he looks up against it off top weight, his career-high mark of 149 ensuring he has to give 4lb to Dynaste, and he might ideally want better ground too.
But it's his recent form that lures me in at the prices. Since Fry applied the cheekpieces he's put in the top three performances of his career in his last four runs and there isn't another horse in the field with a profile like that.
And he fairly hosed up at Aintree last time in a qualifier for this race, with the form working out reasonably well; Double Ross was back in fifth and he subsequently ran third in the Hennessy, while subsequent winners Forgotten Gold and Eastlake were well beaten.
A 6lb rise for that success was not unreasonable, as he won easily and is clearly thriving. He's not your typical 12-year-old and this race, blessed with a number of prominent racers, looks likely to be run to suit.
Finally, forecast overnight rain at Wincanton looks likely to turn the ground soft and that can only be a positive for Nicholls' ORBASA in the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase at 2.05.
This French import looked to have plenty of potential on his debut campaign for Nicholls last season and was only beaten a length by the vastly-improving Definitly Red at Ayr in April.
That was on soft ground but he hasn't had his conditions in two runs this season, the unseasonably dry weather contributing to two defeats at Aintree and Ascot this term.
His trainer also admitted that he might still be lacking for fitness last time at Ascot, so presumably he's now spot on for this local assignment where Nicholls has an excellent strike-rate (81 winners at 34 per cent for last five years).
First-time blinkers are also employed in a bid to sharpen him up further and leading conditional Harry Cobden takes a further 3lb off.
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: +404.14pts 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 06/01/2017.