Saturday Racing Tips: Forgotten First Lieutenant is major Hennessy value
There's a bumper Saturday of racing with top-class action at Newbury and Newcastle and Tony Calvin can't resist offering up the following sextet at chunky odds...
"First Lieutenant races off 147 here and if he builds on that very encouraging Clonmel start, then he is promises to run a massive race. Yes, he is a 10-year-old and doesn't fit into the normal profile of a Hennessy winner. But we know he stays, acts on the track, can handle himself in big fields, and goes in testing ground. And the final piece in this betting jigsaw is the re-application of the cheek pieces."
First Lieutenant could well be the forgotten horse of the Hennessy at 15:00 and there are sound reasons for siding with him at odds of [27.0] or bigger.
Everyone has made a lot of the fact that 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth could be a blot on the handicap in here off 153 after a mildly - yes, mildly - promising win over hurdles at Aintree. And he may be.
But if you fancy that horse, then you simply have to back my fancy at more than three times the price.
Why? Well, they have very similar profiles - not least against other - and both are thrown in if they return to their best of a couple of seasons ago.
But I'd argue pretty strongly that there was more substance in First Lieutenant's 6¾ lengths fourth to some very good horses - the Gold Cup third, Road To Riches, won the race, no less - over an inadequate 2m4f over fences at Clonmel on his reappearance, than Bobs Worth's.
A lot more substance. For example, he was also only a neck behind the 160-rated Felix Younger, albeit in receipt of 7lb, there.
In fact, victory here over Bobs Worth would be sweet revenge for the selection. He finished runner-up to him in the 2012 RSA, was third in this race the same year, and 1½ lengths behind him when second in the Lexus the following season.
But First Lieutenant has not always been the bridesmaid. In fact, he is a three-time Grade 1 winner, with a Cheltenham Festival novice hurdle and a Betfred Bowl on his CV, and he was rated 170 in his pomp.
He races off 147 here and if he builds on that very encouraging Clonmel start, then he is promises to run a massive race.
Yes, he is a 10-year-old and doesn't fit into the normal profile of a Hennessy winner. But we know he stays, acts on the track, can handle himself in big fields, and goes in testing ground. And the final piece in this betting jigsaw is the re-application of the cheek pieces.
They were left off at Clonmel but they were on when he ran some of his better races in the past. He has an awful lot going for him for a 25-1+ chance, and it wouldn't surprise me if he were the gamble of the race.
Obviously, you can make a case for any number of these, and my idea of the likeliest winners are Smad Place if he lasts home on this ground, and If In Doubt provided he jumps, but First Lieutenant looks the stand-out at the prices.
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Talking of lenient handicapping, I was staggered to see that Ma Filleule was dropped 10lb after her disappointing return over hurdles at Wetherby last month.
That now leaves her some 23lb lower than her chase mark, so the handicapper almost begged Nicky Henderson to run her here instead of at Carlisle over fences this weekend.
Yes, she was disappointing at Wetherby but she needed her reappearance badly last season and, with that run blowing away the cobwebs and over an extra 3f or so here, the Ryanair runner-up rates a definite bet at [5.0] or bigger in the 13:50.
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World Hurdle winner Cole Harden would be one of my favourite horses in training - mainly for financial reasons, I'm happy to admit - but he may have his work cut out giving 4lb to Thistlecrack, who rates a fair bet at [5.0] in the 14:25.
He also did me a massive favour when winning a Grade 1 at Aintree at 25-1 in April and he looked very unlucky not to follow up at Punchestown. With only six hurdling starts under his belt, he could go all the way to the top of the staying division this season.
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In the last at 15:35 I have to give Parsnip Pete a chance at [13.0].
There isn't too much to say about his chance really. He may ideally want better ground but he won first time out last season at Aintree, races off a 2lb lower mark here, and has good course form. Indeed, he won at this meeting in 2012 and finished second in this very race in 2013. I imagine this has been the plan for a while.
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Over at Newcastle, Identity Thief could be the answer to a competitive Fighting Fifth at 14:05 and I was expecting him to be a couple of points shorter than he is. So back him at [9.0].
He has a fair bit to find with the likes of Wicklow Brave but it was hard not to be impressed by his defeat of subsequent winner Whiteout, who Willie Mullins rates highly, at Down Royal last month and he is a five-year-old firmly on the up.
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Having chucked a few quid at massive prices on Cloudy Too for the Hennessy, I'll be beside myself if he wins the Rehearsal Chase at 14:40 without any of my cash. So back him at [21.0], as I am.
He has had excuses for two poor runs this season - though connections weren't inclined to blame a lost shoe for the tame effort at Bangor last time - and I have to roll the dice at these odds.
He is 6lb lower than winning the Rowland Meyrick by 10 lengths two seasons ago, and he is clearly a supremely well-handicapped horse on that effort. He may have gone at the game but at least his owners report him to be in decent form at home, so he is worth throwing a few quid at.
Back Ma Filleule at [5.0] at in the 13:50 at Newbury
Back Identity Thief at [9.0] in the 14:05 at Newcastle
Back Thistlecrack at [5.0] in the 14:25 at Newbury
Back Cloudy Too at [21.0] in the 14:40 at Newcastle
Back First Lieutenant at [27.0] in the 15:00 at Newbury
Back Parsnip Pete at [13.0] in the 15:35 at Newbury