Friday, 4th November 2016
Good afternoon, contrarians,
On the menu today….
It really is the final curtain on the flat season tomorrow. The last knockings will be played out at Doncaster and I fancy a bet in the big handicap on the card – the November Handicap (3.35).
The race is run over the 12f trip and a field of 23 runners will head to post. Most years this race is run on ground with at least some cut. For the last 3 years the ground has been heavy. But the dry weather produces a different variable this time round. The ground is currently described as good to firm.
There are some light showers forecast over Doncaster between now and the off – but, if the meteorologists have called it right – I think we can rely on the ground being on the faster side.
Not hard to work out why the unexposed Capa Cove is heading the market. A decent effort last time out at Doncaster and the application of first-time blinkers serve as the magnet for the early money.
But the horse will need to overcome a 9lb hike in the weights and reproduce the last-time-out form – produced over 14.5 furlongs – over a trip a quarter of a mile shorter.
That said John Gosden’s horses are holding their form well in the later part of the season and the 3yo is clearly a player (Gosden has won this race twice this century). At 6s, he’s plenty short enough for this column though and I am happy to look elsewhere for more juice.
Wrangler is another lightly-raced and progressive type. He runs for the William Haggas yard who won this race with Conduct in 2013 and whose runners have been going well over the last fortnight.
He gets in at the bottom of the weights. His last time out effort over course and distance was promising enough – just about a career-best on my rating scale. But he has plenty still to find with some of these and 7s is short enough.
Prize Money is interesting at 12s. He sports first-time headgear – in the form of a hood – and that combined with some decent-enough Group form earlier in the summer account for his popularity in the market. But he must overcome a 101 day lay-off and hit the straps first time up.
Mark Johnston’s SOLDIER IN ACTION makes more appeal as an each-way bet at the general 12s.
He’s been a bit in and out over the summer. But last time out – after a layoff – he bounced right back to his best and produced a cracking effort at Goodwood where he made a competitive handicap over tomorrow’s trip look like a procession – pulling well clear and winning by 6 lengths.
He’s gone up 11lbs for that success but he remains relatively unexposed over this trip. The manner of the Goodwood win suggest there could well be more to come from a classy performer. His yard excels with its middle distance performers and I wouldn’t imagine we saw the 3yo’s full hand in what was a 19k race. A replication of the Goodwood performance would see him go very close to landing a better pot tomorrow.
Unlike some of tomorrow’s runners Soldier In Action will relish the quick surface and the track shouldn’t be an issue either – he won at Doncaster back in April.
The NH season is still in its very early stages and I remain minded to tread cautiously but I am going to have a few quid each-way on GENTLEMAN JON at the 14s with Coral in tomorrow’s Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton (3.20).
His yard is in a purple patch of form right now and there could be more to come from this 8yo. He has more miles on the clock than most of his opposition but he is unexposed at this kind of trip.
He’s only raced once beyond 3 miles and that was at tomorrow’s venue toward the end of last month where he won a competitive small-field race in decent enough style.
He’s now got two races under his belt this term, he could have an edge in fitness over his rivals and he can improve again for tackling a genuine staying trip. Another plus is that the unseasonal quick ground will certainly suit him – something that isn’t necessarily the case for some of the others.
He’s up against some more recognisable names – fully fledged Saturday horses – but several of those will be making their seasonal bow and may well need the run. Some are prepping for bigger races a little further down the lines and won’t quite be at their very best tomorrow.
Both those factors are advantageous to Gentleman Jon. He’s fit and race-ready on ground he likes and he could well outrun a double-figure price in the circumstances.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the November Handicap (3.35 Doncaster)....
In the Badger Ales Trophy (3.20 Wincanton)....
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 a little later with ATC Extra – targeting prices in tomorrow’s Jack Berry House Handicap at Doncaster.