Where my contrarian money is going this weekend....

Last Updated: 29.09.2017

Friday, 29th September 2017

Where my contrarian money is going this weekend….

Only a stark-raving lunatic would attempt to call a 35-runner handicap up a straight 9f – tomorrow afternoon’s Cambridgeshire at Newmarket (3.35).

But stark-raving lunacy is exactly what we’re all about at ATC. We don’t let our chronic mental afflictions put us off seeking big handicap winners at prices. Where angels fear to tread, we dive in – head first….

Hugo Palmer’s QASSEM ticks a lot of the right boxes for me. He’s been running well this term on the all-weather and turf – without managing to win on the latter surface.

He ran a big race in a 10f handicap on soft ground at York in May. Then won a handicap on the all-weather at Chelmsford in August. Last time out, back at York, in another big handicap – the time over a mile – he found only Flaming Spear too good.

That one is highly-regarded by connections. He was rated 101 and now runs off 107. Qassem has gone up just a pound and he gives every impression that he can score off 99.

He also gives the impression that he’s an in-between horse. Tried at 10f and a mile, he might just find tomorrow’s 9f the perfect trip. On ground that won’t inconvenience him, he’s a decent-enough price at 20s.

I could leave it with him and play for place money. But given the nature of the race, I’d rather have two bites of the cherry and go for broke – backing both selections win only. That’s just my way.

  • Two-against-the-field….

John Gosden’s LINGUISTIC is my second selection at 20s….

I’m taking a little on trust with him because he’s not been seen since running second in a listed race behind Absolute Blast on the all-weather at Kempton back in April.

It had been 10-months since we’d seen a hair on his head before that – and he’d been gelded in the meanwhile….

But he’s an interesting runner here. Once considered a Derby candidate by John Gosden, his future appeared to lie at a mile-and-a-half. He got thrashed when trying that trip for the first time in June 2016 at Ascot – and then came the 10-month break….

At Kempton he was narrowly beaten over the 10f – with a steady pace not aiding his cause. You might have concluded he’d be back up to 12f. But he turns up here at the 9f trip. It’s an interesting move….

A 9f race run at pace on ground with cut might just suit a classy type with the stamina required to be on hand at the death. First time cheekpieces are applied. He’s just an interesting and potentially unexposed runner from an in-form top yard at a handy price.

William Hill are paying 8 places….

I’m going win only on my two Cambridgeshire selections….

But you will have your own plans and if you’re backing selections in the race each-way, you should be aware that William Hill are out on the first 8 places….

That’s four places more than standard. The price you pay is that you get paid out 1/5 the odds rather than 1/4.

No William Hill account? No problem. Open one here….

  • One for the Gold Cup….

A field of 17 goes to post for the 32Red Gold Cup (3.15). Men, tractors and ropes will be on standby to pull horses that stand still too long on the mud.

It’s heavy going. And at Haydock that means a quagmire….

WITHERNSEA is a horse most accustomed to running in big handicaps at 7f and 8f. But tomorrow he has a rare crack at a 6f prize and the heavy ground could be the factor that enables him to make it a winning transition off a career high mark of 99.

He’s one horse sure to relish the underfoot conditions and, if he lacks the early speed of some, the ground will help – blunting the speed of the fireballs and making the race more of a test of stamina.

If they get too far away from him early doors, he might have too much to do. But if he can hang on to their coat tails, then he could be running them down at the death.

Either way, I think he’s a nice each-way price at 14s and he’s the pick.

  • One for the Abbaye on Sunday….

On Sunday the focus turns to France and the Arc card at Chantilly….

The temptation is always to play in the biggest races. But sometimes the shape of the race or the shape of the market leaves you ‘cold’ on a race….

That’s the case this time round for me with the Arc De Triomphe. I just don’t fancy anything enough at the prices to get involved.

This column is not about backing short ones. And I don’t want to be reaching for a price just for the sake of it.

But I do fancy a bet in the Prix de l’Abbaye over the 5f trip on Sunday (4.35).

Marsha, Battaash and Signs of Blessing are taking plenty of percentage out of the book. The market calls it between those three.

Fair enough. They bring proven form into the race. But the soft ground will be a bit of a leveller and it could be more competitive than the shape of the market suggests.

David O’Meara’s FASHION QUEEN produced a much-improved effort last time out over course and distance on soft ground. That race can prove a great primer for this next one and if the filly can go on again then she can certainly hit the frame at a big 25s.

O’Meara has not been in the best of form with his entire string. But it was only a fortnight back that this one produced the Chantilly performance. What ails the rest did not seem to be affecting her.

O’Meara has won the race before. He knows what it takes. And the Chantilly prep race was a clue in in and of itself. Last year Marsha placed in that same race before going one better in the Abbaye next time out. Fashion Queen is an attractive price to pull off the same trick. At least that’s how I see it.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap on where my contrarian money will be going this weekend….

On Saturday….

In the Cambridgeshire (3.35 @ Newmarket)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – QASSEM (20s generally) & LINGUISTIC (20s generally)

In the 32Red Gold Cup (3.15 @ Haydock)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – WITHERNSEA each-way (14s generally)

On Sunday….

In the Prix de l’Abbaye (4.35 @ Chantilly)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – FASHION QUEEN each-way (25s 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 a little later today with ATC Extra.

Until then. Stay tuned.

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Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd