Friday, 20th October 2017
It might be Champions Day at Ascot, but I’m going to stick with the horses I know best this weekend – I’m going to focus my efforts on the best of the handicaps….
There’s always a temptation to take an interest in the races every man and his dog is talking about. And it is the Champions Day G1s that everybody is talking about today….
But one of the benefits of specializing in handicaps is that there’s relatively minimal press coverage and comment. The market isn’t saturated with every detail, every angle, every opinion….
With the handicaps, there’s a fair chance you can light onto something the market is overlooking. That’s the first-step in identifying value. And that’s one reason that I’m more and more handicap oriented these days….
The card at Ascot closes tomorrow with the Balmoral Handicap (4.30) over the straight mile. It’s a class 2 event for horses aged 3yo+. Winning connections walk away with £155k.
That’s attracted the usual big-field – 20 will go to post on ground that might be softer than this morning’s official description of good. Rain is forecast tomorrow morning and into the afternoon.
It’s an interesting market with not just one but two horses being backed into short prices (in the big-field-handicap context).
Zabeel Prince and Lord Glitters are 10/3 and 9/2 respectively. Both have hugely progressive profiles. Both are expected to build again on recent performances that suggest they might still have some in hand on the handicapper on marks of 102 and 103.
It would be easy to make a case for both. Personally, my preference would be for Lord Glitters.
He’s already shown he can do it in this kind of company. Zabeel Prince – whilst looking impressive in his two performances this autumn – has been doing against horses of lower order. Tomorrow’s race is a hotter kitchen than he’s been to before….
The Grape Escape is another fancied horse who has looked impressive on his last two. But it’s a similar case with him too. He’s been up against lesser opposition than he competes with tomorrow.
All that said, the job of this column is to identify the live contenders the market is underestimating at the prices….
I’ve backed Hugo Palmer’s QASSEM a couple of times this term and I’m yet to collect. But I’m not ready to give up on him just yet and I’m hoping he can make it third time lucky tomorrow….
He was well beaten in the Cambridgeshire last time. Maybe the trip was too far. Maybe he did too much early doors. Whatever, he didn’t figure at the business end of the race….
But he’s been a progressive horse for connections all season and they’ve campaigned him like a horse they expect to take a big prize.
I think the mile is probably the best trip for him right now. That trip has produced his two best efforts this term and he gets that trip again tomorrow.
He also gets the assistance of Frankie Dettori in the saddle – who replaced 3lb claimer Josephine Gordon. And Hugo Palmer has chosen this assignment for the application of first-time cheekpieces. Maybe there is a concentration issue.
Whatever, the headgear can pull out some improvement and, if that’s the case, he can go close and this morning’s 20s will look big.
I’m going two-against-the-field and foregoing the opportunity to play for place money – backing both horses win only.
My second pick is Richard Hannon’s OH THIS IS US at 20s….
He began this season on Britain getting touched off in the Lincoln at Doncaster off a mark of 105. It was a reminder that this horse takes well to big-field handicap conditions.
He hasn’t encountered that kind of field since – taking in smaller-field handicaps, Listed and lower Group races and even showing up in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot in June – and he’s won a couple of nice races along the way....
They pulled him out of an intended big-field handicap assignment at York in August because of the ground. They’ve been looking for one....
And tomorrow he gets one – his first big-field handicap over a mile since April. And it might well be prescient that he is partnered by Ryan Moore for the first time since that Doncaster race too....
Maybe this is unfinished business. Maybe Hannon and Moore want to put right at the end of the season what they very nearly got right at the start. I expect the horse has been put spot-on for this.
He runs off 107. That’s no issue to him at his best. He’s not giving mounds away to anything. The worst horses in the field are only 2lbs shy of a 3-figure mark. 107 is a perfectly winnable mark in this.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Balmoral Handicap (4.30 @ 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 today.
I’ll be back later today with ATC Extra....
Until then. Stay tuned.