The contrarian word on Day 4 at Cheltenham....

Last Updated: 15.03.2018

Thursday, 15th March 2018

The contrarian word on Day 4 at Cheltenham….

It’s not going to dry up down at Cheltenham. There’s rain about today and again tomorrow....

They’re referring to the ground as soft (heavy in places) right now. It looks heavy enough to me....

Whatever they call it, it’s going to be testing. The spring horses aren’t getting what they need most and what their connections might have expected....

In the big Grade races, the classier animals can do it anytime, anyplace and anywhere – and they can overcome underfoot conditions – just as Altior did in yesterday’s Champion Chase. What a horse!

But in handicap events, where the horses are closely matched, it is the little margins that make the difference and confer an advantage....

In Friday’s handicaps, the horses that can best handle the extreme ease underfoot are the ones that are most advantaged. And if you can get such horses at a price – then all the better....

  • In the County Hurdle....

Jenkins qualifies on our KISS angle in the County Hurdle at 2.10 – the angle which is based Nicky Henderson’s stats when putting claimers on Festival handicappers.

He’s got to bounce back from a very poor effort last time but 25s will make each-way appeal to punters with faith in the gospel that is the stats....

Willie Mullins did the business for me yesterday. And he’s frequently done good business in the County Hurdle – winning the race 4 times since 2010.

I’m going two-against-the-field with two of his five race entries – LAGOSTOVEGAS (generally available at 20s, 18s and 16s) and SANDSEND at the 14s....

There’s little in the way of creativity or imagination at work here. But you don’t get any prizes for making things more complicated than they need to be....

Mullins likes to win this race. This pair look to have been primed for the job – with light winter campaigns but a relatively recent run to help put them spot-on.

And, crucially, both will handle the underfoot conditions better than most of their opponents. The yard is going well again this week and there’s no reason not to expect a bold showing from at least one of these two horses....

The prices are fair-enough in my book....

  • In the Martin Pipe....

I’m doing my usual big-field handicap trick and going two-against-the-field in the Martin Pipe at 4.50....

First a word to advice that Brave Eagle carries a claimer for Nicky Henderson and counts a KISS angle bets if you’re following the stats this week....

First up is Joseph Patrick O’Brien’s EARLY DOORS. At a general 12s, the price is a bit skinnier than usual for this column – but it is fair enough about a horse I expect a big run from tomorrow....

He was disappointing last time, but I can forgive that. He’d been off for 60-odd days and he might well have needed it....

What I’m more interested in is the company he’s been keeping – he’s been running in top novice events – and the fact that this is his first time going in a handicap. A mark of 142 appears plenty workable and the step-up in trip tomorrow could see him leave that assessment in his wake....

The other thing I like is the ground. I reckon he’ll handle the conditions tomorrow better than most – including one or two perched above him in the betting. A double-figure prices is handy enough....

The other one I want onside is Dan Skelton’s TOMMY RAPPER. I think he’s over-priced at a general 25s....

He’s done nothing but progress this term – winning his last 3 over trips ranging from 2m5f to 2m7f.

I don’t think tomorrow’s step back to 2m4f will bother him toom much and he will certainly handle the underfoot conditions. He’s been doing all his winning on soft and heavy – so thing shave come up right for him and wrong for quite a few of his opponents....

  • In the Grand Annual....

The Grand Annual brings the curtain down on the meeting at 5.30 and offers us one last chance to give the bookies a good kicking before they go home....

Gordon Elliott’s THE GAME CHANGER was well-fancied for this race last year – backed into an SP of 9s. But backers were disappointed – he finished well down the field....

I think there was something wrong. Look at his next three runs. He was pulled-up in each race....

After a break, he reappeared in August and his first run at Galway was another disappointment....

Elliot lowered his sights – perhaps as an attempt to restore the horse’s confidence – and put him in a few egg and spoon races. He won a couple. But I’m not sure what connections would have learnt. He was retried in better race at the end of last year and the start of this – but came unstuck again.

He turns up tomorrow rated 8lbs lower than last year and having had a wind-op since his last run. He’s Elliott’s only entry in the race and if the horse’s breathing was the issue and the operation has worked some magic, then the 9yo is plenty capable of springing a surprise off his current mark on ground that will suit him better than most....

It’s speculative for sure, but that’s often where the value is to be found – where the market is overlooking or ignoring something that could prove significant....

Give the run the horse has been on, I don’t think Elliott would go to the trouble of shipping him over unless he felt the tide might have turned for the horse. What would be the point?

At 33s, we can back this one each-way and stick with the one horse....

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the County Hurdle (2.10 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – LAGOSTOVEGAS (20s, 18s & 16s generally) & SANDSEND (14s generally)

In the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (4.50 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – EARLY DOORS (12s generally) & TOMMY RAPPER (25s generally)

In the Grand Annual (5.30 @ Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – THE GAME CHANGER each-way (33s 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 ATC Extra – we’ll be targeting the Midlands Grand National up at Uttoxeter....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd

P.S

To access my advice for today’s races (Day 3) click here.