Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Gordon Elliott has had a very quiet week at the Cheltenham Festival so far but he has some big guns to fire on Gold Cup day with DIRAR a standout bet at 18/1 in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle.
I'll admit this horse wasn't on my radar until I watched a rerun of last year's County Hurdle while doing research for Friday but the running-on eighth really caught the eye.
Paul Carberry executed a waiting ride on the York Ebor winner but the pair didn't have the easiest of passages and his run was checked more than once.
Still, he galloped up the hill with zest and was only beaten four lengths in the end.
His only run over timber in the UK and Ireland since then came in the Galway Hurdle when he was third to Moon Dice, giving him 6lbs for six lengths.
Elliott's charge gets a 15lb pull at the weights with that rival now, the improvement of Moon Dice giving credence to the selection's form.
Dirar is twice the price of Moon Dice at 18/1 and that's got to be worth snapping up.
I also think it's worth backing LOCAL HERO in the County Hurdle at 20s given some of his lines of form.
His juvenile season was very closely linked with Third Intention who is rated 153 now, the pair seventh and eighth in the Triumph Hurdle, a race that has thrown up big handicap winners in Zarkandar and Smad Place this season.
Local Hero is still only rated 140 because he hasn't played his hand. His only run this season was a three-and-a-half length loss to brilliant Neptune winner Simonsig at Kelso.
Of course, Simonsig was very good value for the winning distance that day, but I firmly believe that Local Hero could be well handicapped on 140.
He did give Simonsig 4lbs in Scotland and first-time cheekpieces can help him in the hustle and bustle of this contest. Back him at 20s.
Back to Gordon Elliott now and his main hope for the Festival, TONER D'OUDARIES who is worth a win bet at 8/1 in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.
This horse also had some smart juvenile form. It's only 13 months since he was sent off at 7/1 for a Grade One race won by Unaccompanied and I've a feeling he too might've been underestimated by the assessor.
That was the last time he wore a tongue-tie and it's reapplied here, which makes me think he had problems getting air into his lungs the last time he ran at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The five-year-old was a huge eyecatcher, and the subject of a huge gamble, that day, when travelling supremely well before fading tamely in the straight.
The drop in trip to this intermediate distance looks a shrewd move and I can't leave him unbacked.
Finally, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual looks as tough as ever to crack but I'm willing to have a go with Venetia Williams' RENARD at 25/1.
I think we're getting a big price about this horse because of perceived wisdom that his trainer is having a disappointing week but I thought Houblon Des Obeaux ran a cracker in the Pertemps.
Renard is a rapid improver, especially at the minimum trip, as he routed his rivals when dropped to two miles at Taunton at the end of January.
He stays further, in fact he was a good fourth ahead of Cape Tribulation and Michael Flips over 2m5f at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, and that should stand him in good stead here.
Perhaps he could do with a bit of cut in the ground, but even so, there's no way he's a 25/1 chance.
|1pt e.w Dirar in 1405 Cheltenham at 18/1 (Stan James 1/4 1,2,3,4,5).||Went fairly close in this last year despite troubled passage, can go closer this time.|
|1pt e.w Local Hero in 1405 Cheltenham at 20/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5).||Smart juvenile last year who could be well handicapped on several bits of form.|
|1pt win Toner D'Oudaries 1640 Cheltenham at 8/1 (Boylesports, Ladbrokes, Hills).||Another smart juvenile who travelled like he had a big handicap in him at this trip last time.|
|1pt e.w Renard 1715 Cheltenham at 25/1 (General).||Rapidly improving two-miler who gets further.|