Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow....

Last Updated: 21.04.2017

Friday, 21st April 2017

Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow….

ALVARADO is an old friend of this column….

He landed a nice touch for us a few seasons back at Cheltenham….

If you were with us then, you might recall he was a nice price that afternoon. And I’m hopeful he can do another job for us at a big price tomorrow in the Scottish Grand National up at Ayr (3.55).

You can get Fergal O’Brien’s good and faithful servant at 33s this morning – and I think that’s good value….

It’s a nice each-way price in a race where you can expect some of the firms to offer a 1/4 the odds pay-out on the 5th place….

  • An old dog with something to prove?

A 12-year-old may seem like a strange choice. After all, veterans are easy to dismiss. Especially veterans that have been well-beaten on their last two appearances….

Up at Musselburgh in the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase in January, Alvarado was sent off favourite. The market clearly felt there was sufficient life left in the old dog….

On the day, he got beaten into 6th. The money was down and it stayed with the bookies. Disappointing for jolly backers….

But, to be fair, there were always concerns that the track was too sharp for the horse. And that’s how it panned out. He wasn’t beaten that far given he didn’t like the Scottish venue….

Next time out under an amateur rider in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, he wasn’t fancied. He was always behind and got pulled-up after the 18th fence.

You can make the case that he comes into tomorrow’s assignment with something to prove and possibly on the decline.

Fair enough. I see where that argument is coming from. But I don’t concur at this point….

  • Every chance tomorrow….

Last year, Alvarado came into tomorrow’s race on the back of a 66-length beating and produced a runner-up finish behind Vicente off a mark of 135.

In other words, he was a completely different horse at Ayr when the gloves came off.

Tomorrow he gets to go again – in very similar conditions – off a mark of 129.

If he shows up like he did last time, that mark gives him every chance of producing another massive performance in a race that has been his primary target for a while.

And let’s not forget that this horse relishes a stamina test. He’s placed in two Aintree Grand Nationals in addition to last year’s effort at Ayr. At trips of 27-furlongs and beyond on good or good to soft his record reads: 144266. He’s a live outsider tomorrow….

He’s only raced 23 times over fences. He’s hardly had the backside torn out of him. He’s a fresher 12-year-old than most. And the likes of Ryalux, Wayward Prince and Grey Abbey all won the race 20+ runs into their chasing careers….

I believe Alvarado is underestimated tomorrow. I think he’s a big price. I think he’s value. That makes him a bet for this column.

  • Two-against-the-field in the Spring Cup….

We get to mix it up a little tomorrow. We’ve got the big chase handicap up at Ayr. But down at Newbury we’ve got the Spring Cup (3.40) – where the flat handicappers go at it up the straight mile….

It’s still early-doors in the flat season. There’s not much detail in the book. Half of tomorrow’s field haven’t been seen yet this year. Some things we can’t know. Other things might have to be taken on trust. That’s the way of it.

A sensible man might sit out tomorrow’s contest and wait for another day. Buy nobody’s ever accused me of being sensible and I can’t bear to let a big Saturday handicap go off without me….

Plus, if I look at the race and see the difficulties, so too do the rest of the market and the layers. It’s an environment in which mistakes are easily made. Instead of shying away, my attitude is to trust my game and seek to capitalize. It’s an opportunity to be embraced rather than feared….

Luca Cumani has done well with the minimal runners he’s sent into the race in recent times. His last four representatives produced a win and a place.

This time he sends BANKSEA for a crack at the job and it is noteworthy that Jamie Spencer has got off Donncha – 3rd in the Lincoln earlier this month and a fancied-runner here – to take the ride.

The 12s with Coral isn’t massive. But it is a fair enough quote about a 4yo with every right to have improved over the winter and who went well first-time-up in a big-field race last term.

The 12s is not an each-way price for me. So, I’m going to have a second pick….

I want to be with the 4yos. They have the best record in the race and having had another winter to grow into their frames, they’re the ones who can start the new season ahead of the mark the handicapper has them on.

Amanda Perrett’s ZHUI FENG was a little disappointing when selected in the Lincoln at Doncaster. But he wasn’t a million miles away and he has the class to land one of these big handicap pots at some point for Amanda Perrett.

It may have been a little softer than ideal for him at Doncaster. His very best form has come on a quicker surface and he’ll get that at Newbury tomorrow. He’s shown up sufficiently well multiple times in big-field handicaps to suggest that this kind of environment is his metier.

The horse has been dropped a couple of pounds to 100. Jim Crowley resumes service in the saddle. He’s drawn in a high-side stall – which has been preferable to the low numbers in this race over the years. And that run at Doncaster should have served to put a cutting edge on him. The 16s attractive enough.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….

In the Scottish Grand National (3.55 @ Ayr)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ALVARADO each-way (33s generally)

In the Spring Cup (3.40 @ Newbury)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BANKSIE (12s Coral) & ZHUI FENG (16s generally)

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.

  • The last word….

That’s all from me for now.

I’ll be back in your inbox a little later today with ATC Extra.

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd