Category Archives: Value bets
From time to time I will highlight a horse I believe to be a decent value bet.
By ‘value’ I mean that in my opinion, its odds should be shorter than they are.
Cheltenham’s superb drainage will be sorely tested if this weather doesn’t relent very soon. The potential silver lining on the storm clouds is that two particular horses are only likely to turn up for the big week if the going is soft or worse – Harry Topper in the Gold Cup and Melodic Rendezvous in the Champion Hurdle.
Betvictor offer them at 2o/1 and 25/1, non runner – no bet. If the trainers stick to their plans (the Festival is always so tempting if a horse is well, no matter the going), then both will start quite a bit shorter than their current prices.
Harry Topper has the slight disadvantage in that he seems to close his eyes approaching a fence, but he clocked an excellent time at Newbury when winning the Denman Chase, running the trip 18 seconds faster than Smad Place did later that day.
I’m not sure how good Melodic Rendezvous is – he tends to run in snatches at times, but he’d be staying on just about the best of them on deep ground. He’s due to run at Wincanton on Saturday and should win there.
Anyway, they’re well worth a speculative EW double, in my opinion.
What happens over Wetherby racecourse in the dark hours between now and sunrise could decide the outcome of the feature race, the Charlie Hall Chase at 3.35. The BBC’s moving weather map shows rain will fall twice before dawn, though there’s no reliable indication of how heavy it will be. The more the better for supporters of Long Run and Harry Topper, and probably Unioniste. Not only will very soft ground improve their chances, it might seriously affect the likelihood of Benefficient seeing out the trip. I advised twitter followers this morning that Benefficient was good value at 10/1, and he has shortened throughout the day. If the rain stays away, he could go off around 6/1.
Apart from Long Run, Benefficient is the only Grade 1 winner in the field (he’s won two of them). He’s a big horse, a Cheltenham Festival winner, who seems to be improving as he matures. Whether that improvement will bring with it the ability to last this trip out against the likes of Long Run, we shall see. If it remains good to soft, soft in places, as it was today, I think he’ll have every chance. Even at 6/1 or so, if underfoot conditions are not too taxing, he’d be worth a bet through the Racing Post App (or William Hill mobile app), as you get your stake returned as a free bet for horses finishing second in Channel 4 races. If it turns very soft, or heavy, Benefficient is probably best avoided, as a serious stamina test will greatly increase the probability of Long Run winning it.
Long Run is a fine animal. I’ve never backed him, mainly because I thought he was badly over rated after his first Gold Cup win. I have no problems with the jockey and I think Sam Waley Cohen takes an awful lot of unmerited flak. His ride on Rajdhani Express at the Festival was a superb one and he’s highly talented. He just doesn’t get the race-riding ‘practice’ of the pros, otherwise, I’ve no doubt he’d be in the top flight. Long Run also has an inclination to leave his hind legs in a fence, especially under pressure. If the ground stays decent and they go a good clip, you could see one or two mistakes from him. I’m convinced he needs a serious stamina test these days.
Kim Bailey says Harry Topper is the best he’s had since Master Oats, and it would please many in racing to see KB with another top class horse. Harry Topper beat Benefficient at Newbury, but the Irish horse has improved 18lbs on official ratings since – Harry Topper 12lbs. HT is hugely promising but still needs to prove he is up to this class, whereas Benefficient has his two Grade 1s in the trophy cabinet. However, if it turns very soft, I’ll have a saver on Harry Topper through the apps mentioned above.
Of the others, I think Unioniste is a bit of a plodder. At this level, you need to be able to pull something extra out, and I don’t think has it to pull. He’s poor value in my opinion, although he’s another who would benefit from plenty rain.
The remainder are thoroughly exposed and outclassed.
It’s great to see the top-notchers back at the start of a new season. Let’s hope they all come back safe and sound.
I fancy Cue Card very strongly to win the King George VI Steeplechase at Kempton on Wednesday. If he does so, he will almost certainly shorten dramatically for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. If he wins convincingly, he might even end up favourite for that race.
If he loses on Wednesday, it’s highly likely lack of stamina will be blamed (assuming he completes the course), in which case he will not run in the Gold Cup.
Betvictor offer 25/1 against Cue Card winning the Gold Cup. If he is a non-runner, your stake will be refunded as a free bet (which must be used on Gold Cup day in March: read the full terms and conditions ). In ‘normal’ ante-post bets, your stake is lost if the horse does not run in the specified race.
If Cue Card shortens in the Gold Cup betting, you will, if you wish, be able to ‘sell’ all or some of your bet on Betfair (if he wins I will post a Betfair video tutorial showing you how to do this). Selling (laying off) ensures you cannot lose from the deal. If he loses at Kempton and for some reason still runs in the Gold Cup without shortening in the betting then you will not be able to lay the bet off profitably (I cannot foresee circumstances in which this would happen).
If you take advantage of this offer, you might also want to have a bet on Oscar Whisky at 6/1 for The World Hurdle. Betvictor’s free bet also applies here and if Oscar Whisky runs (he has a choice of races at the festival) he is likely to be around 2/1 or shorter, thus providing another selling opportunity.
I need to state the usual caveats that this is not investment advice. I have no direct link to the connections of Cue Card and my judgement of where he will run, and how his connections will interpret the result of Wednesday’s race is based on my own experience, so it is not without risk. If he does not turn up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, you will, of course need to find another selection to carry your refunded stake, but that is a much healthier position to be in than losing it without a run.
Good luck and happy Christmas
Bookmakers make Quevega favourite at between 3/1 and 11/2. Oscar Whisky can be backed at 7/1 a price that owes more to the doubt that he might miss the World Hurdle for the Champion Hurdle.
But his trainer Nicky Henderson seems to be growing increasingly convinced that Oscar Whisky was amiss last year when beaten in the World Hurdle. The immediate post-race reaction was that he’d failed to stay but Mr Henderson said in a recent interview that he thought the horse might well have been amiss that day. “Can you really believe he didn’t stay? He finished absolutely unconscious. He was virtually wounded he was so bad. He virtually dropped to the ground.”
Does that sound like a man who wouldn’t like another crack at the World Hurdle, especially minus Big Buck’s? Add to this the fact that Mr Henderson has Grandouet, Darlan and Binocular for the Champion Hurdle. He will, of course, need to persuade Mr Walters. who owns Oscar that the World is at his feet. But at 7/1 I’m willing to take the chance on that.
If he lines up for the race, I suspect he’ll be closer to 7/4 than 7/1
The victory of Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup franked the form of Cue Card who had failed by just a short head to give that top class horse half a stone at Newbury last season over 2m 4f. Some say Cue Card would have won that day had his jockey not looked round after the last fence.
Cue Card went on to run 2nd in the Arkle to the brilliant Sprinter Sacre who beat the Tizzard horse 7 lengths. But Cue Card was 22 lengths clear of the third, Menorah with Al Ferof (who’d made a bad mistake) back in fourth. Sprinter Sacre’s astounding performance at Sandown yesterday forged a gold edged seal on that Arkle form.
First time out this season Cue Card won the Haldon Gold Cup over an extended 2 miles 1 furlong, by 27 lengths. Best Mate won the Haldon Gold Cup by 20 lengths the year before he won his King George.
Cue Card has won over 19f on soft ground at Newbury and over 20f on good at Chepstow where he comfortably beat fellow chasing debutant Silvianaco Conti.
Cue Card can be a tricky ride; he dislikes restraint and often has to make is own running. The hot pace of the King George should suit although it will also test his stamina on his first attempt at 24 furlongs. His jumping, touch wood, is pretty sound these days though, like Sprinter Scare, he is not always straight in the air – there can be a degree of lateral movement which sometimes leads to him screwing slightly on landing.
Still, I would say he has the most solid form in the race. I fear Al Ferof and have had a saver on him, but the 7/1 about Cue Card holds strong appeal. The race is definitely his target according to his trainer and unless a training mishap derails him, he will be there on the day. I suspect, by then, the 7/1 will have shrunk to 11/2.
Bearing in mind that ante-post bets are losers if your selection does not run, some might be willing to sacrifice a point or two in price and wait for the day.
If you decide to back him for the King George, you’d be as well having a small bet at 33s for the Cheltenham Gold Cup too. If he wins well at Kempton he might drop to a single figure price for the festival showpiece.
His Cheltenham record has been blotted only by his poor run behind Sprinter Sacre in this year’s Arkle when he made a horrendous mistake four out (sweated up beforehand too). Mr Nicholls can rarely resist the temptation of taking his Cheltenham runners to Aintree when in my opinion, many should be rested (he’s not the only trainer whose common sense is holed below the waterline by the lure of huge prize money).
Anyway, he boxed up Al Ferof and took him there where he ran a lifeless race. Prior to his festival outing, he’d run a really good race for a novice in the Victor Chandler; he lined up there with just two fencing runs behind him and ended the race with his best ever RPR of 163 for finishing 3rd.
He won a very good Supreme last year beating Spirit Son, Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card and is a high class horse with a strong liking for this track and an excellent record on good to soft which looks likely for Saturday and is always favourite for the festival in March.
I like Grand Crus but I suspect he is a wee bit soft. Al Ferof could come late and battle him out of it in the Paddy Power. Take the 16s now for the Ryanair. If you get the ante-post yips over the winter, you can always lay it off at half the price!
I can find no record of tipsters in The Old Testament although I suppose you could class prophets in the same group. Anyone recommending a bet on David against Goliath would doubtless have been laughed off the track – in this case The Valley of Elah.
A valley in the Cotswolds is where my David in the shape of Sanctuaire will hopefully face Goliath next March in the QM Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre is already as short as evens for the race. Sanctuaire is 50s with Coral.
I need not list the talents of Sprinter Sacre who could be one of the best we’ve seen. But much can happen in a year and a key event comes up in three weeks time in the shape of The Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree. That’s the next planned run for Sanctuaire and he could well get an early sight of Sprinter Sacre alongside him at the start. The Arkle winner appeared to take little out of himself and connections will be tempted to run at Aintree.
But between now and then, I doubt Sanctuaire will get any longer than 50s for next year’s QM and he might go shorter on the run up to the Maghull. If Nicky Henderson keeps his ‘black aeroplane’ at home over Aintree then Sanctuaire will, I believe, have a strong chance of winning the race. Last year’s winner, Finian’s Rainbow got a post-Maghull quote of 10/1 for the QM and supporters collected on that last week.
Even if he finishes runner-up to Sprinter Sacre at Aintree, he will be much shorter than 50s for next year’s big race.
Sanctuaire was a talented but moody sort over hurdles. More evidence is needed that fencing has changed his attitude, but in his two steeplechases so far, he has looked as though he cannot wait until he reaches the next fence so he can fly it. After his Sandown victory last time, his trainer, Paul Nicholls (who has a fine record in The Maghull) said this:
“He got a bit fed up with hurdles and had a few hard races, but he´s an awesome jumper and fences could be the making of him. He´ll be really interesting next year and could be very good in the big two-mile chases. Horses who gallop and jump like that can take a bit of catching and he could be good in a race like the Tingle Creek.”
Sanctuaire’s chasing victories have been class 4 small field events – from those to running a big race in the QM is an awful long way. But he’s only 6, we know from his hurdling career he has talent and his trainer seems to be eyeing the big 2m prizes for next season. He might not be good enough to beat Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham but he could easily be placed and at 50s, I think an EW bet is very good value.
The horse with the best engine in racing, Big Buck’s, can be backed at 80 on Betfair for next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Connections have often declared that he will never return to fences but given the desolation shown by uber-competitor Paul Nicholls over his yard’s performance at this year’s festival, I’m certain the temptation will have crossed his mind.
I don’t think owner Andy Stewart would take too much persuading that the horse should be given another chance at steeplechasing. The horse has matured since his last outing over fences – more than four years ago – when, had he not unseated (the first time he failed to finish in 7 ‘chasing runs), he might well have become the first 5-y-o to win The Hennessy.
Synchronised made six mistakes when winning the Gold Cup. Long Run made four errors winning his. Big Buck’s would probably need to walk through every fence to lose the race given the standard of competitor likely to turn up next March.
I’m happy to take a chance at the price that the Nicholls ambition and persuasive powers will see the big horse turning out in the Gold Cup next year. If so, the hardest part of Ruby’s job will be steering him away from the 3m hurdles start.
The Racing Post will publish Willie Mulllins’ thoughts on his festival team tomorrow. The Kremlin’s top inquisitors would baulk at getting anything out of Mr Mullins but on the off chance that he offers a positive word for Gold Cup entry Quel Esprit, I’m advising a bet at the 16s currently available NRNB.
Quel Esprit does not have the form to win a Gold Cup. But he’s improving, is unbeaten in the 4 completions (of 7 ‘chases), was leading, travelling strongly in last year’s RSA when coming down three out and might well have won had he stood up. It was a weak Grade 1 he picked up last time but his jumping was very slick bar a slight error at the 7th. He races quite keenly and I think he benefited considerably from being allowed to stride on early last time. Hopefully P Townend will adopt the same tactics next Friday – the grey is a most efficient fencer, very quick from one side to the other.
Stamina is a question but I’m happy, at the price, to risk that he will set up a lead and hold onto it travelling well on the likely good ground.
Long Run’s dodgy jumping, Kauto’s confidence, age and interrupted prep might leave this Gold Cup vulnerable to an improver. Weird Al was the value a few months back (tipped here at 20s) but I believe Quel Esprit is the best value bet now.
The RSA chase result might hinge on the participation of current favourite Grands Crus, around 2/1 for the race just now. But there must be a reasonable chance he will miss the race for the Gold Cup. Even if he doesn’t, his freegoing style could see him emptying up the hill.
Bobs Worth is 2nd fav, at around 3/1. His official rating (a professional handicapper’s assessment of his ability) is 151. Cannington Brook (CB) who is rated 1lb inferior at 150 is a 50/1 chance (non-runner, money back with Coral) and that simply must be taken by anyone who places value at the heart of their betting strategy.
Last time out CB won a 20 furlong race by 35 lengths. Before that he was 5th in the Welsh Grand National, a fine run in stamina-sapping conditions, especially coming just ten days after CB’s victory in the Tommy Whittle ‘chase at Haydock. These last three runs have been in heavy ground and I guess the bookmakers have him down as a slowcoach handicapper.
But he has a decent piece of form on good ground when 3rd in a Grade 1 hurdle at Aintree 2 years ago. The Racing Post summarisers had this to say about that run:
This was a fine effort from Cannington Brook, who started out the season over fences. Easy winner of a weak maiden hurdle at Ludlow latest, he is highly regarded by his trainer and showed why here, leading up the chasing pack and travelling well into the straight, but just lacking a telling change of pace on the ground. He could go a long way returned to fences next term.
The form comments of the first seven of his chase runs are peppered with ‘mistake’, ‘blundered’, ‘not fluent’, but he has been error-free in his last three runs and seems to be improving with every race.
His trainer, Colin Tizzard has been in sizzling form of late and given that Grands Crus might not turn up, Bobs Worth is probably over-rated as a fencer (and certainly under-priced), the Irish star Bog Warrior is reportedly staying at home, and the fancied Invictus is out with an injury, Cannington Brook’s price looks a major rick by Coral (Ladbrokes go 25s).
CB holds entries in two handicaps as well, but his twin attributes of speed and stamina, allied to his improved jumping, give him a fine chance in the RSA in my opinion. Let’s hope he lines up there and lands the value bet of the festival.