The contrarian word on the weekend action....

Last Updated: 26.01.2018

Friday, 26th January 2018

The contrarian word on the weekend action….

I’m two-against-the-field at nice prices in tomorrow afternoon’s Sky Bet Handicap Chase up at Doncaster (3.15).

First-up is Emma Lavelle’s VIBRATO VALTAT at the general 14s....

When this horse was with Paul Nicholls, he did the largest part of his racing up at G1 and G2 level over 2m and 2m4f without proving quite good enough to make an indelible mark....

He’s since passed into the care of Emma Lavelle and is ploughing the handicap furrow....

His first two outings for her had the look of watch-and-learn exercises and are largely uninformative....

But the last outing in mid-December over tomorrow’s course and distance suggests that his new connections are finding their way with the 9yo....

They stepped him up to 3-miles for the first time and he stayed every yard – with just the winner out-staying him on the day....

He’s now got options. He’s unexposed at this new trip and at this stage of his career the extra yardage might just be the factor that brings him back to his previous level.

Connections clearly feel that’s the case. The first race seems to have acted as a sighter. They’re back again – with an in-form Gavin Sheehan rebooked – and they will have learnt something last time.

On my figures, that last-time-out effort was the 9yo’s best performance in the last year and if he can improve again, then he’s well in the mix tomorrow.

He’s up 4lbs to 149 but that mark is still short of what this horse has achieved in the past and at 3-miles he might well prove to be sweetly treated.

Soft ground is not bother for this horse. I expect a big run.

In case you missed it....

The European Pattern Committee met last week and agreed on some changes to the flat pattern for next season – upgrading some races, downgrading others and adding new races to the mix.  

York's May meeting gets a new G3 in the shape of the Bronte Cup – a race for 4yo+ fillies over 14f.

The Lillie Langtry Stakes – contested over 14f by fillies aged 3yo+ at the Glorious Goodwood meeting in August – has been upgraded from G3 to G2....

Review all the changes here....

  • My second selection....

I’m going to forego the opportunity to play for place money....

Instead, I’m going to couple-up Vibrato Valtat with Charlie Longsdon’s COOLOGUE – available at a general 20s this morning....

I’ll be backing both horses to win....

Longsdon’s charge was runner-up in this race 2-years ago off a mark of 139. Tomorrow he gets to go again off a mark of 137 – a mark 3lbs shy of his last winning mark....

He can go very close, if he’s primed to run up to his best – and I expect him to be....

With some horses a 91-day layoff might be a concern. But not with this one. He goes well fresh and you can rely on Longsdon having been able to get him ready at home.

Longsdon sees his 9yo as a Grand National type. He’d like him to run this year. If that’s to happen then the horse will need to be rated higher. That means winning something....

Longsdon knows the score. Earlier in the season he outlined that as the plan. In October he said this: ‘I want to carefully map out his route and try to find a nice handicap to win.’

It didn’t pan out at Cheltenham in October. Longsdon has held his fire since and waited for tomorrow’s race. Again, I expect a big run at a price.

I’m taking a chance on the ground. I think connections would prefer better ground to softer. But it is drying out at Doncaster and there’s not much forecast in the way of rain....

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Sky Bet Handicap Chase (3.15 @ Doncaster)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – VIBRATO VALTAT (14s generally) & COOLOGUE (20s 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 with ATC Extra....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

P.S. Be sure to tune in on Monday. Most of the Festival clues will be in the formbook once Saturday’s Trials meeting at Cheltenham is over. For those of you that like to do your own digging, I’ve got a FREE report designed to help you take an informed early-doors view of the big G1s. More on Monday....