Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow....

Last Updated: 18.11.2017

Saturday, 18th November 2017

Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow….

When not too busy announcing non-runners in big races via his bookmaker-sponsored blog, Nicky Henderson is one of those trainers who spends a lot of time bellyaching about how badly handicapped his horses are....

He’s quite charming in the way he goes about it. But he’s serious in his intent. He puts as much pressure as he can on the official handicapper to clip the ratings of his horses....

But where Jenkins is concerned – the favourite for tomorrow’s Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham (3.00), I’m with the under-fire master of Seven Barrows....

On a mark of 137 the 5yo appears to be rated on the reputation he established as a bumper horse. In his first season hurdling he was expected to head to the Cheltenham Festival as a short-priced hotpot. It didn’t happen. He didn’t go.

This season is one of redemption-seeking for him. Tomorrow is his seasonal reappearance – a first step toward it. I find it easy to oppose him at this morning’s 5s. 

  • Putting my faith in the Old Guard....

OLD GUARD is much more my idea of a bet at this morning’s 25s with Stan James and BetVictor....

He’s plenty experienced at 6yo and with 18 hurdle races already in the formbook. He was considered good enough as a youngster to be contesting G1 races. But then he kind of lost his way.

He hadn’t won in ten races since December 2015. In most races run since then he has struggled to get properly competitive. He has not been in with a shout at the business end of his races....

You might take the view that he had plateaued on a mark in the low 150s and needed a helping hand from the handicapper. Or you might have wondered if there was something amiss....

I think connections wondered. Over the summer they’ had a look at his breathing and he’s had a small procedure.

On his return at Kempton he produced a very encouraging performance to beat a 150-rated stable-mate a good 4.5 lengths. For the first time in a while he finished his race off full of running. He was strongly in command at the end....

He runs tomorrow off the same mark of 149 – some 8lb below the level he was at when considered at the peak of his powers....

Bryony Frost, fresh from the biggest success of her career-win to date at Wincanton and full of confidence, takes 5lb off.

In short, Old Guard will effectively be carrying 10-7. He hasn’t gone into a race carrying so little weight since he was running on the flat as a 3yo. He’s going to feel like he’s carrying a big sack of feathers tomorrow.

He’s not your typical winner of this race. But he is very sweetly-weighted, probably under-estimated, better than he’s shown for a while – and there’s a lot to like about him at a big each-way price.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (3.00 @ Cheltenham)

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – OLD GUARD 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 today.

I’ll be back next week.

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd