The contrarian word on the weekend action....

Last Updated: 23.03.2018

Friday, 23rd March 2018

The contrarian word on the weekend action….

There’s nothing like a big flat handicap. At least that’s how I see it....

I like the jumps. But as times goes by, the flat is more and more where the game is at for me. And the big handicaps – especially those run up a straight track – are what I like to work with....

If I was forced to specialize on one type of race only, it would be straight track handicaps up to a mile…

The big flat handicaps are not easy puzzles to solve. Many punters and pros simply won’t play in them. They say they’re the hardest races to call on the programme….

But that’s the point. If it’s hard for me, then it’s hard for the bookies and the other people in the market that I’m effectively betting against….

In an environment where things are complex and difficult, mistakes are likely. Some horses can be over-bet. Others can be easily overlooked or under-estimated....

I trust my game and my objective is to spot and to capitalise on those pricing mistakes….

My objective is to get on the right kind of horse at the wrong price. My objective is to oppose the crowd and focus on good bets at value prices.

  • Informed projections….

All big-field handicaps are tough to call.

With so many closely-matched horses charging hell-for-leather up a straight track, it can sometimes seem like an impossible job….

Tomorrow’s Lincoln at Doncaster (3.35) is harder than most. It comes on Day 1 of the season when there’s little horse or trainer form in the book and much must be taken on faith or chance….

There’s an element of reading between the lines at work. Only people closely connected to a horse can know how tuned it is to go first-time-up.

The rest of us can do no more than consider the data we have at hand and use it to make informed projections….

I think the ground is going to be key. We’re getting started on the flat a week earlier than is usually the case, we’ve had plenty of rain in the build-up and underfoot conditions look set to be quite testing....

  • Off the dial....

One who will appreciate the surface is William Knight’s BALLARD DOWN who can be backed at 14s this morning....

He’s inexperienced with just three runs on the turf to his name, but he’s had a few more goes on the all-weather and he’s no mug....

He won in decent fashion on soft ground at Newmarket last July. Master The World – the horse he beat 3.5 lengths that day – has gone on to earn an official rating of 108 on both turf and the all-weather. So, Ballard Down’s revised mark of 102 looks entirely feasible....

The 5yo hasn’t been seen since that Newmarket performance – and is probably slightly off the dial for most punters. But he has been prepared specifically for tomorrow’s race, he’s done plenty of work in the build-up and he is considered fit and ready to roll....

He’s a real soft-ground specialist, the flat-track will suit him, and he can run a big race at a handy-enough price....

  • Two-against-the-field....

I want two running for me tomorrow afternoon and the other one I’m going with is Martyn Meade’s DOLPHIN VISTA at 33s....

He was 5th in last year’s renewal of the race off a mark of 99. Since then he’s switched from the yard of Richard Fahey to Meade’s care, tuned-out a surprise big-priced winner of last season’s Cambridgeshire off 96 and risen to tomorrow’s mark of 102 – a career high....

Three pounds higher than his mark in last term’s renewal is certainly not insurmountable – especially with smart 7lb claimer Jason Watson booked for the ride and taking weight off....

And I’m mindful that the 5yo might well have been improved by Meade....

That Cambridgeshire win shocked the market, but it was only his second of four runs for Meade and the Newmarket man (who moves his operation to Manton on Sunday) might well have found the key that eluded Fahey....

The soft ground will certainly help his cause. He’s been kept on his toes with a run on the all-weather and another over the hurdles – and he’s reported to be enjoying life.

I think he’s a big price for a horse that went close-enough last year and will like the ground more this time round.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Lincoln (3.35 @ Doncaster)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BALLARD DOWN (14s generally) & DOLPHIN VISTA (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….

That’s all from me for now....

I’ll be back in your inbox a little later today with ATC Extra – where we’ll be targeting tomorrow’s Spring Mile at Doncaster....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd