Value Bet tipster Ben Linfoot has six selections for Saturday's action on 2000 Guineas day at Newmarket and Goodwood.
Recommended Bets: Value Bet
It’s D-Day for Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday where we’ll get to find out if the top juvenile from last season can see off a high-quality field on the Rowley Mile.
A winner of his last five starts, Churchill did it nicely at this track in the Dewhurst and that form is looking good now after the exploits of Godolphin’s pair that were third and fourth in the race, Blue Point and Thunder Snow, in the recent weeks and months.
Neither of those two line up in the Guineas, but Godolphin do have a strong hand thanks to Greenham one-two Barney Roy and Dream Castle.
It would be surprising if two weeks and the application of a hood has been enough time to get Dream Castle to settle appropriately for this challenge, but Barney Roy has very solid claims after a taking effort at Newbury.
He should thrive over the distance now he tackles a mile again, but he has found his rightful place in the market as the 4/1 second-favourite and so have Al Wukair and Eminent just behind him in the betting.
It’s not hard to imagine any of the three unbeaten colts winning this, or the favourite himself, but this is a deeper Guineas than the odds suggest for my money.
Churchill is short enough considering Aidan O’Brien will have a long year in mind for him and, if he is to win it, I think he’ll have to do it the Camelot way.
This looks a tougher Guineas than Camelot’s, though, with three good trial winners to take on as well as the rest of the field. The problem I have with backing the trial winners at their current prices is their lack of experience.
Neither Barney Roy or Al Wukair have run at the track, and while Eminent does have the course form he only has two starts under his belt and he does look reliant upon the prospect of a strong gallop.
At 33/1 (Ladbrokes, 25s General), then, I think the bet is Churchill’s stablemate LANCASTER BOMBER.
He does have the course form by virtue of his excellent second in the Dewhurst and he has very good international form, too, from his last couple of starts. Indeed, on form alone, he’s overpriced.
But the key to this colt is fast ground and he’s going to get his conditions on Saturday. It might also be worth remembering that Churchill’s least impressive win as a juvenile came the only time he encountered good to firm ground in the Tyros Stakes at the Curragh.
Lancaster Bomber made huge strides at the end of his juvenile campaign on better ground. He ran a fine race in the Dewhurst (on good) when only beaten a-length-and-a-half by Churchill and he stayed on well once he met the rising ground to regain second spot.
In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (on Firm conditions) he took second once again and the fourth, fifth and sixth from that race have all won subsequently.
And last time on Dirt in the UAE Derby in late March he ran to the line in the style of a colt on good terms with himself, despite running into kickback most of the way around as he tried to come from off the pace on the inside of the track.
His last three starts have been promising and if he’s anything like his half-brother, Excelebration, he’s only going to improve over the next season or two. Interestingly, another half-brother, Mull Of Killough, was a Rowley Mile specialist.
O’Brien second strings have beaten his first strings before and in this race, as well. Taking into account his last three starts, the potential for further improvement and the ideal conditions, Lancaster Bomber looks overpriced to cause another shock.
The undercard at Newmarket is a corker with the Group Three Longholes Palace House Stakes heading the best of the rest.
There are a posse of top-class sprinters in this and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if someone told you it was a Group One. While Marsha is penalised to the tune of 7lb for her Group One win in the Abbaye, Clive Cox’s Profitable, who won this race last year, escapes penalty for his King’s Stand win.
That makes him the one to beat, but there are some improving sprinters in against him here and at the prices it’s the 16/1 (General) about DANCING STAR that looks too big.
It’s 23 years since Lochsong broke the track record in this race, a record that still stands today, but Dancing Star could uphold family tradition by blazing to glory in this on her first go at five furlongs.
Her grand dam, Nunthorpe winner Lochangel, is a half-sister to the mighty Lochsong who won a King’s Stand, a Nunthorpe, a couple of Abbayes and plenty more besides in a stellar career.
Lochangel and Lochsong both improved with age after dropping to five furlongs from six and Dancing Star is bidding to follow in their hoofprints after a terrific three-year-old campaign that yielded four victories from six starts including a Stewards’ Cup cruise.
The way she moved through that hottest of sprint handicaps at Glorious Goodwood suggested that she would be going to the very top and, considering how she travelled that day, a drop to five furlongs should be no bother at all.
She was well beaten in the Group One Haydock Sprint Cup on her last start in September, but the soft ground was against her that day and she’ll be much more at home on the good-to-firm conditions this weekend.
It is a bit of a concern that Andrew Balding says she’ll come on plenty for the run, but such fitness concerns are factored into her price. There’s a chance she could take the sprinting world by storm this summer and I cannot resist prices as big as 16s.
The card opens with the Spring Lodge Stakes, a handicap over nine furlongs, and while Ballet Concerto and Next Stage set the standard both have gone up in the weights for winning weaker races than this.
There’s a couple worth backing against them and the first of those is Charlie Hills’ GRAPEVINE at 10/1 (General).
This horse pulled way too hard at Newbury last time, ran into trouble and didn’t have an ideal passage throughout, but he still tanked into things on the bridle and was just pipped on the line by William Haggas’ unbeaten Signe.
Up just 3lb to 90 subsequently, he’s got a victory in him off this sort of mark and the slight drop in trip should help him settle better. If Jamie Spencer can get him relaxed nice and early he’s going to be tough to beat.
The other one I want to be on is Mark Johnston’s ABAREEQ at 14/1 (General).
This horse is a stone better off in the weights than he is on the all-weather and there was plenty of encouragement to take from his run on turf at Epsom last time.
He was closing on the leaders when he found trouble-in-running and he was repeatedly hampered in the closing stages, suggesting he can take advantage of his lower turf mark at some point this season.
That was his first turf run since last August and there’s no reason why he can’t catch up with his All-Weather mark this campaign.
The Johnston stable won this race with Tartan Gigha back in 2010 and off a light weight with his proven stamina for further a likely asset, Abareeq is a tempting proposition at a big price.
Later on the card Roger Varian’s Victory Angel is the one to beat in the Hot Streak Handicap (4.10).
He beat subsequent Doncaster winner Rich And Famous convincingly last time and an 11lb hike in the weights might not be enough to stop him following up.
However, he does look very short at around 7/4 in another competitive race and at 25/1 (General) David Evans’ SMOKEY LANE has been underestimated.
Evans has upset the odds in this race before as his Jack My Boy won it at 16/1 back in 2010 and his representative this year shouldn’t be the outsider of the field.
A winner on a couple of occasions as a two-year-old, he’s racked up plenty of experience and he looks to be a typical Evans horse in that he’s improving as he gets more runs under his belt.
He’s had two starts this season since being gelded, both over five furlongs, and his run last time at Sandown was arguably a career-best. Outpaced early on, he stayed on really nicely for a one-and-a-half-length fifth.
He’s crying out to be stepped back up to six and off the same mark of 93 on Saturday he’s not handicapped out of things by any means. He’ll be stronger than most when the chips are down and he’ll get maximum assistance from Adam Kirby in the saddle.
Finally, there’s good racing at Goodwood as well and LIGHTNING CHARLIE (8/1 Betfred, 15/2 General) can finally break a run of seconds in the Betfred ‘Treble Odds On Lucky 15s’ Handicap at 2.40.
He’s drawn well in four for a prominent racer and he’s got the perfect running style for Goodwood as he also travels really nicely through his races.
Indeed, he’s got some good course form to his name on the straight course over six furlongs but I think he’ll improve again now he goes around the bend here.
Last time, at Windsor, he got no sort of run when trapped on the rail but he stayed on nicely once he saw daylight and that suggests he’s got plenty more to give off his current mark.
His attitude isn’t in question despite that run of seconds and at 8/1 he’s good value to get the better of likely favourite Zwayyan, who has plenty of potential but comes with risks attached following a 231-day absence.
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: +362.14pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 BST on 05/05/17.