Friday, 28th October 2016
Good afternoon, contrarians,
On the menu today….
One thing I try not to do is to reach for bets because I feel I need to tick a box or fulfil some self-imposed quota of bets.
At the beginning of the week I’d anticipated maybe playing in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, for example.
But that race has cut-up to a field of just 7 runners and I reckon the market has the order and price of things just about right. In other words, I don’t think there’s much in the way of value to be found. And I’m swerving the race as a result.
The role of this column is to identify value bets in the big races. I don’t just put up a runner at a half-decent price because I feel I have to put up a bet – any bet. I only put up bets when I feel the market has got it wrong about a specific horse.
It’s early days in the jumps season, the fitness of a lot of horses is an unknown quantity and there’s very little form in the book. At this stage of proceedings I only want to be putting up bets when I can make a genuine case for doing so – at the prices.
So, if you were really looking forward to a pick for the Charlie Hall Chase or any other race on the Wetherby card, I am sorry to disappoint. The shape of the races and the markets simply didn’t pan out to suit.
But it’s a long season. There will be plenty of opportunities for bets in the weeks ahead. And I’m pretty sure nobody wants me putting up best for the sake of it. So just one race worth shooting at this week – at least that’s my view….
Only 12 runners go to post in the end for tomorrow’s Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.35) – which is down on the numbers of recent years and a little disappointing.
It’s a tight enough market – with 4 horses trading at prices between 4s and 13/2 – but the one I like at 12s is Nicky Henderson’s HADRIAN’S APPROACH.
He’s got a few more miles on the clock than most of these and things didn’t really work out for him last term. He didn’t make it past the first fence in the Grand National and in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown (which he’d won in 2014) he ran well without quite getting into the mix.
A new term offers fresh opportunity and this early-season Ascot race presents the 9yo with the good ground he requires to be at his very best.
The handicapper has helped too. The horse has slid down the ratings to an official mark of 141 – from a career-high of 153. Tomorrow afternoon he gets to race off a mark 5lbs lower than that off which he delivered his last win.
For sure that last win did come more than 2 years ago. But he’s had his problems since then and has only raced 5 times since. In effect he’s dropped more than 2lb per race down the scale.
That’s a relatively rapid rate of descent and, if it proves to be an over-statement of the actual case, it offers the horse a golden opportunity to get back to winning ways tomorrow.
At this early stage of the season fitness is the unknown quantity. Often times we can only guess at it or take it on trust. Hadrian’s Approach has gone well fresh previously – which is encouraging. And reports from the gallops this week suggest he’s been working very well – which is also encouraging.
The other encouraging factor is Nicky Henderson’s record with horses coming into this specific race for their seasonal debut. The 4 to do so over the last decade produced a win and two places.
Trainers are creatures of habit and I expect Henderson to have his hose primed to go well tomorrow. If that’s the case then the 12s about his charge represents a fair each-way play –with the bookies paying out 1/4 1-2-3 (let’s just hope there’s no pull-out that reduces the field to 11 runners).
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.35 Ascot)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
That’s all from me for now. I’ll be back in your inbox a little later with ATC Extra….