Wednesday, 15th March 2017
Unowhatimeanharry has carried all before him in the staying hurdling division this winter. And given what he’s achieved he deserves to be the hotpot he is for tomorrow afternoon’s G1 Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30).
That said, putting my contrarian hat on, he must be taken on at his short price. Yes, he’s unbeaten in his last 8. But all the races he’s won over the winter to propel himself to the top of the staying division have been won on winter ground.
The ground he encounters tomorrow might not just serve to take some of the lustre off him. It will also serve to add a little polish to some of the horses who are not quite so good at toiling through the winter mud. In other words, the ground could well represent a leveller.
Cole Harden – a one-time winner of this race – is an obvious beneficiary of a sounder surface. So too one-time Champion Hurdle winner, Jezki. Nichols Canyon is another. But the market has pretty much found them.
The one that interests me at a more attractive quote is the novice, WEST APPROACH. He’s as big as 16s this afternoon and that’s a big price.
Fair enough, Unowhatimeanharry thrashed West Approach at the Festival last year. But in the Cleeve Hurdle under Ruby Walsh in January, Colin Tizzard’s horse got much closer to Harry Fry’s yard-star – despite being further out of his ground than ideal for much of proceedings.
Connections could have swerved this assignment and gone for the Albert Bartlett where the 7yo would have been a big player. Instead, they’ve foregone that one-time-as-a-novice opportunity to take their chances in the big one.
It’s a bold call but that performance in January suggest it’s not a forlorn one. Maybe the iron is hot. West Approach is a half-brother to Thistlecrack. He’s not as big but he does have the same engine and reports from the yard say he’s been turning it on at home.
It was about this age that Thistlecrack started to put it together on the track. The 16s is a big price about West Approach turning up tomorrow and improving again. If he does, he’s a big player.
David Pipe’s DOCTOR HARPER was a talking-horse for the Festival last term. He had a load of entries.
They wanted him in the novice handicap on day 1. He didn’t get in that. In the end, he went for the Kim Muir – up against the older horses – where he was sent off the 4/1 favourite on a mark of 141.
He hit the first, never really got going, blundered again late on, lost a shoe and finally unseated his rider. Disappointing for the punters who backed him….
But he’s back again for this season’s edition of the Kim Muir (5.10), running off the same mark, in first-time cheekpieces and tongue-tie and available at 4 times last year’s price in places….
David Pipe once again illustrated his ability with staying chasers in handicaps yesterday – saddling Un Temps Pour Tout to win a second Ultima off a mark of 155 and carrying topweight.
If he can do that he can certainly get this horse to win a pot off 141. Reaching for the headgear suggests this is the plan. The horse has been a bit fragile but he showed what he is capable of back in January at the track with a good 2nd in a competitive handicap.
I imagine this has been the plan all season. The good ground will suit and this good jumper could make amends for last season at a much more attractive 16s.
In the Brown Advisory Plate (4.10) I’m going to back the rag UN ACE each-way at prices as big as 40s. But I’m not tilting at windmills.
On the face of it the bottom of the market is where Kim Bailey’s charge deserves to be. The 9yo hasn’t won in 2-years and he’s been well beaten on each of his 3 runs this term. But there are clear and distinct reasons to expect improvement that will see him out-run his big price.
The horse has been running over the wrong trip – at 3 miles and beyond in each of his last 6 races. He simply doesn’t stay. So, tomorrow’s drop back down to the kind of trip where he’s won most of his career earnings is noteworthy.
Particularly because he’s dropped down the ratings from a high of 149 to his current mark of 137. Particularly because he gets to go off on the good ground he absolutely must have. And particularly because Bailey has chosen tomorrow to apply first-time cheekpieces to his charge.
Connections are changing-it-up in a way that could see this horse run a big race at a very attractive quote.
For sure, there’s plenty that must be taken on faith, but the horse is priced up and weighted on what he’s done at an unsuitable trip on unsuitable ground. Back in favoured conditions and circumstances he stands every chance of proving the market wrong.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going on Day 3 at the Festival….
In the Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30 @ Cheltenham)....
In the Kim Muir (5.30 @ Cheltenham)....
In the Brown Advisory Plate (4.10 @ Cheltenham)....
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 today.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my take on the action on Day 4.
Until then. Stay tuned. And be sure to enjoy the racing. It doesn’t get any better.
P.S. On Day 1 our selection Go Conquer (33s) only provided a pay-out for punters who made sure to bet with a bookie offering the extra place. Getting the best deal for every bet you place is a smart move. Check out the best of the bookmakers’ offers here….