Friday, 16th December 2016
Good afternoon, contrarians,
On the menu today….
Yesterday we had a quick spin through the historic record for tomorrow’s Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot (3.35)….
Match-fitness has been a significant feature of winners of the race over the last decade or so….
Only 2 horses have managed to win the race over that period without having had a prep run at some point within the previous 8 weeks…. And just one of the additional 29 to hit the frame over that time-period went into the race without a recent pipe-opener of some description.
With that in mind it’s slightly surprising that two of the front 3 in the market pitch up at Ascot tomorrow having not been seen for 279 and 364 days respectively.
It’s not impossible to win the race first-time-up, of course….
…. Harry Fry’s Jolly’s Cracked It – one of the two who dead-heated in last season’s renewal – has a very good record fresh.
…. And Dan Skelton, who trains Meet The Legend, has already proved this season (with North Hill Harvey) that he is adept at getting one ready to do the business first-time-up in one of these valuable 2-mile handicap hurdles – the type of race he is building a very strong record in….
But it won’t be easy to beat a big-field containing plenty of fit and in-form horses that have been building up to a peak on the race track…. And both are short enough for me in the market….
Tony Martin’s Golden Spear heads the betting. He’s been warming up for this with some smart efforts in some big flat handicaps – including a 6th place finish in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket and a win in late October at Leopardstown….
Fair enough. He’s clearly got bags of potential. But he’s got plenty to find over hurdles and the yard’s runners over the last fortnight would encourage me….
Modus has seen a bit of money over the last 24-hours or so – and that’s understandable….
Last time out he put up a cracking effort to finish 2nd behind North Hill Harvey in the Greatwood at Cheltenham in mid-November….
The time before that – on his seasonal debut at Ascot – he produced another solid performance in defeat. He ran off 139 that day – and he’s now on 145.
The horse that interests me most at tomorrow’s prices was also having his seasonal hurdle debut at Ascot that day. He ran just a short-head behind Modus off a mark of 135 and goes again tomorrow – having not been seen since – off a mark just a pound higher.
Seamus Mullins’s FERGALL wouldn’t be a typical winner of tomorrow’s race. At 9-years-old, he’s already had 14 runs over timber. He’s older and more experienced than the usual suspect….
That’s what the stats say. But the stats are one thing and the individual horse is another. And that run at Ascot saw the son of Norwich produce a performance that equalled his career-best on my ratings.
He ran a cracker. He was always up there with the pace, he travelled strong the whole way and he stuck it out well. He only lost 2nd-place in the dying strides. He was beaten just a length by the winner. And the form has been franked by the subsequent performances of Modus and Ch’Tibello.
I think Fergall will prove ahead of his current mark. Kevin Jones, who rode the horse in that Ascot race, takes off a handy 5lbs and first-time cheek-pieces might well be the variable that enable the horse to produce another big run and another new top….
I think the 25s is a cracking each-way price. Seamus Mullins’s stable-star can outrun that market assessment….
Many Clouds is a high-class animal on his day and a wind-op over the summer helped him make a favourable impression on his seasonal return at Aintree a couple of weeks back.
The only one able to go with him – at least most of the way – on the day was the Paul Nicholls-trained LE MERCUREY – who is my pick at the 12s with bet365 for tomorrow afternoon’s Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.00)
He was stepping back up in trip to 3 miles and was out to prove his stamina. He did that well enough under Sean Bowen. The front two pulled well clear of the rest. Okay, the 6yo was beaten 3.5 lengths by Many Clouds but given that he got just 5lbs from the winner, despite there being a stone between the two horses in the ratings, it wasn’t a bad performance. And he can step up again on that.
His two races to date this term should have put him spot on form tomorrow afternoon’s assignment at a track where he won as a novice – albeit over 21-furlongs. Sam Twiston-Davies reclaims the ride and now that the horse has proved he stays 3-miles he can land a handicap at just the second time of asking.
The 12s is a nice about a smart horse connections have always expected big things from – one who shows all the signs of working up to a peak performance. It’s not quite big enough to encourage me to go in each-way – but don’t let me put you off if you want to play for the place money….
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle (3.35 at Ascot)....
In the Silver Cup Handicap Chase (3.00 at 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 a little later with ATC Extra….