Friday, 25th November 2016
Good afternoon, contrarians,
On the menu today….
The Hennessy Gold Cup (3.10 Newbury) is one of those special races that punctuate the racing calendar….
Plenty of last season’s smart novice talent steps-up to the plate to take on more battle-hardened veteran handicappers – and the big field slugs it out over the stamina-sapping 26-furlong trip and 21 fences. It all adds up to a great betting heat.
You can make a case for plenty of tomorrow’s 20-runners. Last year’s novice chasers – young, lightly-raced, progressive and potentially well-handicapped – dominate the top berths in the market.
And fair enough. I see why. I could make a case for any of Native River, Vyta Du Roc, Blaklion, Un Temps Pour Tout and Henri Parry Morgan.
But the mission statement for this column does not include playing it safe and following where the market leads. Instead we look to dig in the ground the market is overlooking or ignoring – and identify potential contenders trading at value prices.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX doesn’t fit the common statistical profile of a Hennessy Gold Cup winner – and that’s part of the reason he can be backed at 20s this afternoon. But that’s a price that could very well underestimate his chances tomorrow afternoon.
This 9yo absolutely loves Newbury. He gets into a real rhythm at the track and has produced some fine performances there.
He won the G2 Denman Chase in tearaway style as recently as February. The previous year he was 2nd in that race behind Coneygree – who went on to win the Gold Cup next time out.
And Houblon Des Obeaux has Hennessy Gold Cup form in the book too. He was 6th in 2013 and in 2015 he was 2nd behind Many Clouds off a mark of 154. His official rating rose to a high point of 162 after that – before a series of disappointing efforts saw him slide back down the scale.
The downturn in form came to an end at Newbury in February when he won the Denman – first-time cheek-pieces appearing to work the magic – and connections reported the belief that they had ‘got the horse back’.
If that’s true – and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t – he can run a big race off a mark of 153 tomorrow afternoon with Charlie Deutsch booked to take off an additional 5lbs.
He turns up without a prep-run – just as he did in 2014 – and he has a very good record first-time-up. The progressive and lightly-raced youngsters will take some beating as a group – but Venetia William’s horse is experienced, battle-hardened, proven in the race and is weighted to serve it up and provide much stiffer competition than his price suggests.
CAROLE’S DESTRIER is the other one I can see out-running a massive price. Neil Mullholland’s charge can be backed at 33s this morning – and that’s big for a horse who jumps well and relishes a test of stamina.
There’s no doubt about the 8yo getting the trip – he won the London National over 29f on good to soft ground at Sandown last December. And he runs tomorrow off a mark just 2lb higher.
If there’s pace on early doors tomorrow, he can work his way into proceedings at the business end of the race.
He’s on a nice racing weight, he goes well fresh, he’s only raced 11 times over fences, he’s won 4 of those and he’s got the right kind of numbers in the book. I think he’s over-looked, over-priced and I’m prepared to bet he runs a bigger race than the price suggests.
A field of just 9 runners goes to post up at Newcastle for this year’s edition of the Rehearsal Handicap Chase over 3 miles and the one I want to be with at the prices is Venetia Williams’s OTAGO TRAIL at the 11s with bet365.
He won a class 2 handicap in decent style at Chepstow in January (having put in another excellent effort at Exeter the time before that) – a performance which saw the handicapper push him 13lbs up the weights to a mark of 154.
That pretty much put him out of the handicap picture and he subsequently ran in a brace of novice G2s and a G1 – without anything remotely resembling success.
He’s dropped back down the weights and he runs off 146 tomorrow – a more realistic mark that he is plenty good enough to take advantage off. First-time-up form figures of 112 suggest he’s easy enough to get fit back at base and I expect a big run at a nice price.
A Hennessy Gold Cup entry tells you something about the regard he is held in at home – but connections have come here instead for what looks like easier pickings. Having had just 6 chase runs to date there should be more to come and the soft ground will play to his strengths. He’s a fair bet at the prices.
The price is not quite sufficient for me to go in each-way. I’m backing the horse to win. But don’t let me put you off playing for the places if that’s the way you want to go.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Hennessy Gold Cup (3.10 at Newbury)
In the Rehearsal Handicap Chase (3.30 at Newcastle)
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 today with ATC Extra.