Value Bet: Take Steppes at Aintree
Ben Linfoot had 11/1, 12/1, 14/1 and 16/1 winners in November – don't miss his Value Bet advice for Aintree and Sandown on Saturday.
Saint Are: Can go well around the Aintree fences again on Saturday
Value Bet Selections*
The Grand National fences are back on Saturday and we're all set for a typically frantic charge to the first in the Betfred Becher Chase with a plethora of frontrunners set to line up at Aintree.
Of the 24 horses in the field, at least 16 of them like to either make the running or race prominently by my reckoning, and a really good gallop looks assured.
That could be an important factor and so is the unseasonably dry ground. The going is 'good to soft, good in places' with only patchy drizzle forecast, so it's reasonable to suggest we could be in for a good time relative to past renewals of this race.
With that in mind, I'm not sure last year's race, when Highland Lodge was made to grind out a victory from 7lb out of the weights, will be much use as a form guide despite four of the first seven home reopposing this weekend.
However, I am keen on last year's seventh home, SAINT ARE, as the different conditions look set to play to his strengths and at 16/1 (general) he's well worth a bet.
A regular over these fences the last few years, Saint Are peaked over them when he was second to Many Clouds in the 2015 National, while he was third in this race the previous December.
We know he likes the unique test and he's fairly handicapped, too, off a mark just 4lb higher than when he was second in the National. His last win, at Doncaster in February, came off a rating of 146 (just 1lb lower than Saturday) and both those pieces of form came on a good surface.
The key to him is the combination of decent ground and these fences, which is why I'm happy to ignore his last attempt at the National when he was pulled up in soft ground behind Rule The World.
It's fair to assume he was still feeling the effects of that race when he finished in mid-division at Sandown on his next start, while his trainer, Tom George, admitted he badly needed the run on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow.
He came on for that effort when third in a good, if select, veterans' chase at Sandown last time. He tried to give a stone to course specialist Loose Chips and was not disgraced in being beaten just over five lengths by that rival.
George was happy with that, suggesting he saw a glimmer of the 'old sparkle'. The Aintree fences could well fully reignite that spark and with the George yard in great form (seven wins from last 13 runners) I want him on side.
Several others make different appeal. Rogue Angel looks ideal for these fences if he gets into a good rhythm, while The Young Master looks fairly handicapped on his bet365 Gold Cup form. Alvarado ran well on softer than ideal ground at Cheltenham, too, and is another that goes well here.
For a start he looks really well-handicapped on his very best form. He beat the then 151-rated Shotgun Paddy off level weights by a neck in the 2014 four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival and has had his problems since that resulted in him missing most of the 2014-15 season.
However, he shaped nicely on a few occasions last campaign, finishing second at Warwick in the Classic Chase and seventh after a bad blunder four from home in the Kim Muir. A lucky win at Exeter split those efforts.
This season he was going perfectly well, albeit at a relatively early stage, when he bore the brunt of the carnage caused by the loose Le Reve in the handicap chase won by Viconte Du Noyer at Cheltenham, before a confidence-boosting spin around Haydock when third in heavy ground last time.
He goes well in testing ground, but plenty of his best form has come on better conditions and he strikes me as a horse that will enjoy the potentially strong gallop at this trip. I like that he stays further and a patient ride from Wayne Hutchinson, of the type he gave West End Rocker when winning this very race five years ago, would do nicely.
There is no evidence either way as to whether he'll take to these fences, but he's a good jumper and lack of experience over the spruce isn't as much as a concern as it used to be.
At 33s, I'm happy to take a chance on him.
Fergal O'Brien's horse is thriving, much like the yard as a whole, and is in the form of his life after a couple of really good runs around Cheltenham this season.
A victory at Prestbury Park in October was supplemented at the Open meeting with a good second, despite a momentum-stopping blunder three from home.
Both of those runs came on good ground and his front-running style should be suited to this track. He stays further, as his last couple of runs over three miles prove, but the last time he ran over this sort of trip he absolutely bolted up at Leicester.
I'm sure he's got the speed for this test and Conor Shoemark takes over in the saddle. The 16/1 and 14/1 about him went quickly on Friday afternoon, but I still want to get with him at the general 12s.
Finally, it's Tingle Creek day over at Sandown and while the main event doesn't appeal from a betting perspective, there's a good undercard and I think Paul Morgan's CONAS TAOI is the one to be on in the Betfair London National Handicap Chase.
Morgan has had a couple of big-priced winners in recent days, namely Limited Reserve at Sandown on Friday and The Welsh Paddies at Ffos Las on Wednesday.
Charlie Deutsch rode the Welsh winner and he gets the leg up on Conas Taoi who looks set to appreciate the significant step back up in trip at a track he won at last season (albeit fortuitously).
He's run two fine races on the only two occasions he's tackled three-and-a-half miles, finishing second to Any Currency at Cheltenham in April before winning comfortably at Warwick just over a week later.
His seasonal reappearance in an amateur riders' race at Cheltenham, behind the aforementioned Troika Steppes, came over an inadequate trip and he made mistakes, but with Deutsch in the saddle, over a trip he thrives at, back at Sandown, he can leave that form way behind.
*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: +410.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1655 GMT on 02/12/2016.
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