Friday, 3rd February 2017
It’s a quiet weekend – one of those where there’s a lull between big races as we head towards the Cheltenham Festival….
But Sandown looks like it will go ahead this year – tomorrow’s card was abandoned three years out of the last four – and it does provide us with something decent to shoot at….
A field of 15 runners goes to post for the G3 Heroes Handicap Hurdle over the 3-mile trip….
The bookies are taking no chances and it’s a tight old market – half the field trades at a single-figure price this morning…
I can’t argue with Rolling Dylan’s occupation of top-spot in the market…
He comes into the race on the back of a series of progressive efforts – including last-time out at Cheltenham….
He was having only his second go in a handicap that afternoon and he was stepping up to the 3-mile trip for the first time. And the extra distance suited. He produced a career-best and found only one of his 16 opponents too good.
He looked the winner at the last, but seemed to suffer a lapse of concentration. Phillip Hobbs has reached for the first-time cheek-pieces in a bid to remedy that issue for tomorrow’s assignment.
If the headgear does the job and focuses the 6yo, then he’s clearly a dangerous horse on a progressive streak – despite an 8-pound rise for that Cheltenham defeat.
But all that said he’s short-enough at 5s. This is a contrarian column. We seek value rather than consensus horses. I must look elsewhere….
Desert Sensation is another runner that the caught my eye during my initial deliberations. He too arrives at Sandown on a progressive streak this term.
He was a place behind Rolling Dylan in that Cheltenham race – 5 lengths to the rear. And he meets that rival on 5lbs better terms tomorrow. But I’m not a pounds and lengths man and, in any case, Dr Richard Newland’s charge is short enough in the market for my contrarian tastes at 8s….
Here at Against the Crowd we don’t seek out winners.
Looking for the winner of a race suggests that there’s some pre-determined outcome to discover. That there’s only one specific scenario that can unfold….
That doesn’t make any sense to me. I prefer instead to look at the prices and to determine which potential winning scenario is under-estimated. Which bet provides best value for money….
Of course, that’s a course of action that can go wrong too. And it does – more times than not.
But I rarely get beaten at a short-price. And when it goes right, I get rewarded at odds that make the exercise worthwhile….
Looking down the market and identifying horses that I believe can run big races at big prices is my default approach to the game.
It’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Some punters don’t have the temperament to handle the losing runs my game-plan inevitably involves….
But I won’t be changing anytime soon. I won’t be going ‘cautious’ or ‘conservative’. I won’t be playing safe.
I stick to my guns and roll the dice at prices – win, lose, draw and die-trying.
The big decision I’ve had to make with tomorrow’s race is whether to back one horse each-way or have two-against-the-field and back both on the nose….
I’ve gone for the latter option. With 15-runners there’s only 3 places to play for anyway. And I don’t want to choose between two horses stepping up in trip tomorrow….
First up for me is FOUNTAINS WINDFALL at 20s. Hon the face of it he was little disappointing in the Lanzarote last time. But he hadn’t run since May, he got a bit keen and took a keen hold and I thought he ran a big race for a long way before tiring that day. He had every right to perhaps need the run.
That was his first go at 21-furlongs – on only his 4th go over hurdles. And he goes up to the 3-mile trip for this next-time-out assignment. There’s a suggestion he got outpaced on the bend at Kempton. But he was sticking on well enough in the closing stages and this extra 3-furlongs could be the key to him.
He’s the least exposed runner in the field. He’s only had the one handicap run. And his mark of 130 could underplay his hand when you consider the level reached by some of the horses he ran well against last term as a novice. The yard is in a nice vein of form too. Art the price, I’m prepared to bet the 7yo.
The other one I’m going to back is the one that finished 3rd in the Lanzarote – LORD OF THE ISLAND at 11s.
The Lanzarote was run at real clip and Fergal O’Brien’s did well to keep tabs on the leaders before sticking on well at the end. He looked a little outpaced at one point and he will benefit from this step up to 3-miles – and he gets to run off an unchanged and competitive rating of 129.
He tried 3-miles at Uttoxeter in May and pulled-up. But you can ignore that run. It had nothing to do with not staying the trip. This horse needs to go right-handed….
Fergal O’Brien’s yard is flying right now. The yard fired in its 47th winner of the season on Wednesday – as part of an across-the-card double.
That equals their best-ever seasonal performance and confidence is high as they strive for that next winner that will take them over the top. I like confidence born of winners. It breeds more of them.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.00 @ Sandown) ....
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….
Until then. Stay tuned.