The contrarian word on Day 3 at Cheltenham....

Last Updated: 14.03.2018

Wednesday, 14th March 2018

The contrarian word on Day 3 at Cheltenham….

After a quiet opening couple of days at the Cheltenham Festival, things hot up for the handicap fans on Thursday and Friday with half a dozen big-field handicap events spread across the two days....

It was dry yesterday. It is forecast dry today. And the ground at the track has changed from heavy to soft....

They switch racing to the New track on Day 3 – so the ground will be fresher than that they’re running on today. But measured against that is the rain forecast for the early hours of tomorrow morning....

The Met Office reckon up to 9mm of rain will fall between midnight and noon on Thursday....

The upshot of that is conditions are going to remain testing tomorrow....

Horses that require proper spring ground – the type that might ordinarily be expected to do well at the Festival – are not going to get the type of surface they want....

  • In the Pertemps....

Nicky Henderson pops 3lb claimer James Bowen onto top-weight Thomas Campbell for the Pertemps Network Final at 2.10. And that’s a qualifier on one of our KISS angles for the meeting.

Rated 155 and carrying a burden of 11-12, the 6yo is up against it. But such is the Henderson record with claimers on his Festival handicappers, the 25s holds each-way appeal....

For me, it’s about finding a well-handicapped participant at a decent price and Jonjo O’Neill’s FORZA MILAN fits the bill at the general 14s....

In a qualifier up at Aintree in November he had subsequent G2 winner Beer Goggles 7-lengths in arrears (albeit in receipt of weight) and was only 2.25 lengths behind Louis Vac Pouch who he meets on 4lbs better terms tomorrow and at a 6-point bigger price in the market....

The lightly-raced 6yo is fresher than most of tomorrow’s opponents. He’s had just one race since Aintree and has the look of a horse saved for a job by his trainer.

His mark is a handy 138, he carries less than 11-00, his rider takes off another 3lb and the tongue-tie is applied for the first time – which might well assist the horse in squeezing out more improvement.

The 14s is not an each-way price for me, so I’m going two-against-the-field with Gordon Elliot’s DELTA WORK12s – my second selection....

Everything Elliott throws into a handicap is worthy of interest. And when Davy Russell is back-up for the ride I take that as a significant indication that a performance is anticipated....

The 5yo has only won one of his 7 hurdling assignments to date but he’s got some reasonable form in the book – and you wouldn’t expect Elliott to want to show his hand in advance of the big day....

He’ll go nicely on the ground, he’s got one of the very top Festival men in the plate and he won’t be here to make up the numbers....

  • In the Brown Plate....

WILLIE BOY is an interesting contender at a general 20s for the Brown Advisory Plate at 4.10.

He had looked like a seriously progressive sort when winning last March at Uttoxeter and then again first-time-up this term at Newbury – a performance that you might mark-up because he did it all from the front despite being harassed deep into the race a horse that finally wilted....

Next time out – again at Newbury – he was expected to build on that performance and a revised mark of 138.

He was backed into favouritism but, in the event, he flopped and produced a performance that resulted in the stewards calling trainer Venetia Williams in to explain the run....

The horse hasn’t been seen since and the presumption is that whatever ailed that day has been worked on and cleared-up....

The upshot is that he turns up here a potentially very well-handicapped horse who has gone well fresh in the past and who represents a yard with a track record of producing winners and placers in this race....

He remains progressive and could very well bounce back tomorrow. At the prices, I’m prepared to back him to do so. The 20s is an each-way price for me....

  • In the Kim Muir....

Tom George’s WILD WEST WIND was travelling very nicely when turning for home in the Grand National Trial at Haydock and might have been called the winner at that point....

But his stamina faded swiftly at the 3m4f trip on desperate ground and he was pulled-up....

The time before that he was still travelling very sweetly in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow when he fell on the back straight on the final circuit....

He looks capable of winning off his current mark of 144 when everything falls into place. And stepping back to 3m2f tomorrow on ground that will suit and with Noel George taking off a useful 5lbs, he has plenty to help him....

He was back into the top 3 in the market on each of those previous two assignments at Chepstow and Haydock. Tomorrow, with an F and an R to the left of his name, he can be backed at 20s – despite having gone nowhere on the rating scale....

I wouldn’t put you off just backing that one each-way at the price, if that’s the way you want to play....

But I want to back Nicky Henderson’s SUGAR BARON at 10s with Kate Walsh up – and go two against the field....

This horse has some serious talent and if he could just travel a bit better, he’s got a massive race in him....

He was 6th in this race last year off 135 – finishing off as strong as an ox. This season at Cheltenham and Sandown he performed the same trick – storming home late in the day and just missing out on the honours....

You could make the case that he might have won two races this term. As it is, he gets to race off a mark of 137. And he can win off that perch – no problem....

He’s dropping back in trip, but the testing ground and the uphill finish will make it feel like much further than 3m2f and he could come ratting onto the scene late to pounce. Sooner or later he’s going to nail it – and it’s all setup for that to happen tomorrow....

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Pertemps Network Final Handicap (2.10 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – FORZA MILAN (14s generally) & DELTA WORK (12s generally)

In the Brown Advisory Plate (4.10 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – WILLIE BOY each-way (20s generally)

In the Kim Muir Challenge Cup (5.30 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – WILD WEST WIND (20s generally) & SUGAR BARON (10s 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.

Get the latest odds here >>

  • The last word….

Getting the best value on every bet at the Festival is part of the game.

The little extras – free bets, bonus prices, money back on losers, enhanced place terms and all those other little cherries – can make the difference between winning and losing. They can all add up to a big result....

Each day of the Festival we’re highlighting the best offers, bonuses and concessions we can find....

Before you place any bet this week, check that info out....

You might find something that helps turn a good bet into a great bet. 

That’s all from me for today....

I’ll be back tomorrow with the contrarian word on Day 4 at the Festival....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd