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Best value bets and preview for Saturday February 17

Our flagship racing column is 47pts in profit so far this year – check out all the big-priced fancies for Saturday’s racing at Ascot and Haydock, including a 33/1 shot.

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Value Bet tips: Saturday, February 17

1pt win Issam in 2.25 Ascot at 16/1 (bet365, BoyleSports)

1pt win Torn And Frayed in 3.00 Ascot at 14/1 (BetVictor, Coral, BoyleSports, Ladbrokes)

1pt e.w. Chambard in 3.15 Haydock at 22/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4)

1pt win Sporting Mike in 4.10 Ascot at 33/1 (bet365) – 28/1 Sky Bet

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

When the going gets tough…

Extreme stamina is going to be essential at Haydock on Saturday and CHAMBARD beating Coko Beach by 13 lengths in near-unraceable conditions at Aintree earlier this season really sticks in the mind.

Only three others finished that grey day in Liverpool and, with the second winning well over the banks at Punchestown subsequently, it’s a piece of form that leaves Venetia Williams’ charge looking way over-priced as he looks to get back in the groove in Saturday’s Virgin Bet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.

Since Aintree, the 12-year-old Chambard, who has built up a fantastic association with claiming rider Lucy Turner over the past few years including victory together in the 2022 Kim Muir at Cheltenham, has been pulled-up when carrying a 4lb penalty in the Welsh National, but I can give him a pass for Chepstow as he was still going well towards the head of affairs before sprawling on landing just after halfway.

His jumping went to pieces from that point and Turner sensibly looked after him for another day and, despite effectively running off a 3lb higher mark this weekend, it looks one of those Haydock afternoons where an ability to go through the taxing ground just about trumps everything else.

Four horses have defied the burden of 11-12 in this event since the turn of the century and, while Chambard is clearly heading towards the twilight of his career, four of the past five winners have been aged 10 or 11 so experience obviously isn’t a negative.

That includes the 10-year-old Quick Wave, who gave Williams her third victory in the Grand National Trial, following on from Rigadin De Beauchene (2014) and Yala Enki (2018), and it’s worth noting that Quick Wave’s profile was strikingly similar to that of Chambard, the mare defying a career-high mark (148) at Haydock after winning in December and being pulled-up when penalised in the Welsh National.

I can see the perfect sky is Torn

Sounds Russian is the only other one I’m interested in at Haydock but he’s not been missed in the market on his return to smaller obstacles – and return from a layoff – in the Virgin Bet Rendlesham Hurdle, while Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle isn’t very appealing either, so I’ll skip to Ascot.

The ground is good to soft (the soft in places has now disappeared from the official description) at the time of writing and they won’t want it drying out much more or there must be a small chance Betfair Ascot Chase headliner L’Homme Presse will be preserved and head straight to the Gold Cup. Let’s hope he takes his chance here as it looks a good next test for him after beating Protektorat, albeit getting weight, on his Lingfield comeback.

Paul Nicholls has won this Grade 1 four times but only twice since Kauto Star which may be a bit surprising to some and I do feel Pic D’Orhy will need to raise his game again despite the fact he was trying to concede 3lb to Banbridge when coming off second best in the Silviniaco Conti at Kempton.

Ahoy Senor is the one that intrigues me most and, hand on heart, I’ve warmed to his claims in the past day or so but can’t quite make him a bet at current odds. It could be a better ploy to take a flyer on him for the Ryanair but I see all the 20/1 about him for that Festival race has dried up now too so it’s merely another small-field Saturday feature to watch in my view.

The Injured Jockeys Fund Ambassadors Programme Swinley Handicap Chase is more punter-friendly and I’m rolling the win-only dice with TORN AND FRAYED as he’s surely going to appreciate the prevailing ground.

The 10-year-old remains a lightly-raced chaser having spent almost two years on the sidelines after winning a Cheltenham handicap over the intermediate trip on Trials Day in January 2022. Things haven’t really gone to plan since resuming this time, but he showed enough when sixth behind Fugitif in the December Gold Cup to suggest he’s worth persevering with when he gets better conditions.

In fact, it’s been soft or heavy for each of his three starts so far this season – all of which have been at Prestbury Park – which won’t have played to his strengths at all, while he was competing from 8lb out of the handicap when last to finish behind Shakem Up’Arry on New Year’s Day, so that’s a run I can comfortably put a line through.

Freshened up after another short break and able to run off his proper mark again, which is now just 1lb higher than for that striking success two years ago, he’s expected to enjoy the return to a right-handed track (pushed Faivoir close on the chase course here in his youth), where I can see him being given a bold show by Sam Twiston-Davies.

Encouragingly, there’s only really top-weight Threeunderthrufive who also likes to lead in this field so it could pan out nicely for the selection if he’s on or close to the early pace, and I think he’s being overlooked in the market.

Hard to argue he Iss-n’t over-priced

Earlier on, the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Handicap Hurdle is the other major betting event at Ascot and Monviel could be the horse to beat. I can let him win at single-figure prices, though, as this is seriously competitive and I’d rather be with ISSAM at the odds.

A progressive six-year-old, he looked unlucky to be picked off over a slightly longer trip at Sandown last month, racing a touch keenly early on and paying for it late as he got lonely after the last and almost stopped to a walk.

He seemed to pick up again once headed by the strong-staying Havaila under Harry Cobden, to whom the selection was giving over a stone in weight.

It was another fine effort from Issam, who won a shade cosily at Exeter the time before, and I’m not convinced another 2lb rise will be enough for the assessor to really anchor his progress.

Even more importantly, Issam should be able to sit just off a very strong early pace as there are four of five in here who like to get on with it, and hopefully that will help Tom Symonds’ horse to settle better from the outset.

Sporting chance on Ascot undercard

It’s not on ITV and consequently only priced up by a couple of firms at the time of this column’s publication, but SPORTING MIKE is fancied to outrun long odds in the Ascot Racecourse Supports Box4Kids Handicap Hurdle.

You get the impression he’s largely been a source of frustration for Ben Pauling but I’m convinced the in-form trainer will find the key to him again at some stage this season and he could spark back to life back over hurdles as he’s not enjoyed his two starts over fences this season.

The last one at Doncaster came after a wind op and it offered very little in the way of encouragement but he’s been given a proper chance back hurdling as he can run off a 4lb lower mark of 112. That’s 2lb lower than when narrowly beaten into third in a novices’ handicap hurdle at Exeter last April and I like the return of Beau Morgan here as the only time he’s ridden Sporting Mike they were second to No But I Will at Bangor.

That rival, who was getting 5lb on the day, has won again since and is now rated 119 over fences so there’s no getting away from the fact the selection is the right side of the assessor if everything finally clicks. The ground, the step back up in trip and jockey give me the impression this might be his day.

Published at 1600 GMT on 16/02/24

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