Value at Risk a solid pick for stamina test
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, 3m, New Course (due off 2.40pm)
Willie Mullins has carried all before him at this year’s festival and it’s no surprise to see his Black Hercules at the head of the market. Fourth in last season’s Champion Bumper, he’s a perfect 2-2 over hurdles this term and that includes a Grade 3 success at Cork, where me made all and stayed on well to defeat Alpha Des Obeaux by two and a half lengths. That horse has since chased home Douvan, giving the form a solid look, and he definitely falls into the ‘could be anything’ category. If he can be crabbed at all it’s the fact all his wins have come on deep winter ground and his front-running style leaves him there to be shot at. Given his stable form and his trainer’s ability to ready one after a lay-off, his absence since December is of no real concern. Top price: 5/1 Sky Bet.
Who else is fancied?
The presence of Gordon Elliott’s No More Heroes gives the Irish a very strong hand and he’s joint favourite with some firms. He was being touted for this race before Christmas after beating Shaneshill in a Grade 2 at Navan but took a walk in the betting after flopping as favourite at Leopardstown in January. However, he apparently scoped “dirty” after that race, giving him an excuse, and he’s reportedly in good heart now.
Any decent outsiders?
It’s 10/1 bar the front two and you can make a case for plenty of them. Martello Tower is unbeaten over 3m and arguably put up his best effort in defeat last time, when second in Graded company over an inadequate 2m4f. He’s more battle-hardened than most, but may find one or two too classy on the day.
Dan Skelton’s Value At Risk spearheads the British challenge and he’s carried over his good bumper form to hurdles this season, winning at Newbury before finding the smart Ordo Ab Chao a quarter-length too good last time out Cheltenham. Given he’s out of a mare, Miss Orchestra, who won the Midlands National, it’s a wonder that he’s racked up the level of form he has over trips short of 3m. That suggests he could be very good (his trainer certainly thinks so) and he could easily step up again now he’s faced with a proper stamina test.
Caracci Apache is chasing a four-timer here but races lazily and may need headgear, while strong stayer Thomas Brown has shown his best form with plenty of cut. His trainer Harry Fry will be hoping the weather forecast is correct.
Trainer quote: “”I think he has a massive chance and three miles is definitely going to help. It’s going to be important and it’s what is going to make him a competitor. You are going to need a man for the Albert Bartlett and the way he ran from the back of the final flight last time tells me he wants to compete and that he is a real trier. “I’d love to see it rain on Thursday night or Friday morning but I won’t be at all worried by good ground. If he goes into the race in the form he is right now I’ll be delighted. There will be no excuses.”
Best bookie offer
Back the winner of this race at 4/1 or bigger with bet365 and they will give you a free bet (up to £50) on the next live Channel 4 race (the Cheltenham Gold Cup). If that also wins at 4/1 or bigger, get another free bet and so on.
Having considered deserting ante post pick VALUE AT RISK on account of the ground, I’m all over him again now that there’s some significant rain forecast. Let’s just hope they’re right – for once!.
Selections – Value At Risk @ 11/1 bet365