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

Last Updated: 24.08.2018

Friday, 24th August 2018

The contrarian word on Day 4 at York….

Few races are easy to win. The Ebor (3.40) – tomorrow’s showpiece handicap at York – would have to be considered one of the most difficult. Simply because it so competitive....

That boils down to the fact that the race is the most valuable handicap of the season for middle distance/staying horse and as such it attracts an ultra-strong field more years than not....

I’ve been busy re-watching and studying the last few renewals of the race and it led me to make a few conclusions....

It difficult to win this race from a single figure draw....

Just one horse has managed it since 2004....

I think they often go too quick and the horses drawn low get swept along in the tide. The closers drawn high can drop in, bide their time and come late

It’s difficult to win with weight....

That makes sense. Toi win a valuable handicap pot of this nature you absolutely must be quite a bit in front of the handicapper....

The higher rated you are, the less likely that is. The horses in the bottom half of the weights have done best in the last 7 renewals....

That’s how I saw it anyway. Onto the bets....

  • The Irish raider at 20s....

The one I really like at the prices is the Irish-raider SEA THE LION at 20s....

Jarlath Fahey’s 7-year-old has had a good season. He’s unbeaten in three handicap runs over the 12f trip and I really don’t think the extra 2-furlongs is going to trouble him....

I reckon connections are confident of that too. They have been patient and they haven’t overworked the horse this summer – despite his purple patch of form....

They were talking about coming on a pot-hunting expedition to Britain as early as May. The Ebor was first mentioned as a serious intention as early as June. You can be sure he’s been prepared to the minute for this race an that no stone will have been left unturned....

He’s up to 104 now but in Ebor terms that means he’s on a nice weight and running from stall 17 his rider can avoid all the hustle and bustle on the inside, take his time and put his horse where he wants it to be....

Watching brief....

All week it has been Stratum this and Stratum that....

Will Stratum make the cut for the Ebor? Will enough horses come out for Stratum to get a run? Won’t it be dreadful if Tony Bloom’s star-turn doesn’t get into the race....

Well, panic over. The horse got into the bottom of the weights and he takes his chance. But it won’t be plain sailing because the horse will be coming out of stall 4....

Just one winner since 2004 has defied a single-figure stall in this race and in the last 7-years only another two have managed to come out of the low stalls and finish 2nd....

So the 5yo is going to have to overcome some adversity and do something that hasn’t been done very often to justify all the hand-wringing in the press this week....

If you’re the kind of viewer – like me – who likes to watch one horse during a race, then Stratum might be the one.

It will be interesting to see how Robert Winston rides him from that berth. And if he does it right, then you’re going to see something special unfold....

  • Two-against-the-field....

Andrew Balding has been in cracking for this month – sending out 19 winners at 20% and delivering a level stakes profit for punters of 63-points....

It would be a brave man who would write ay of his off at a price right now and I reckon his MONTALY is under-estimated at prices as big as 33s and 40s – and I can’t resist going in each way at those prices

He’s not had the best season to date. He hasn’t quite fired. But he is down to 105 after rising as high in the rankings as 113 after winning the G2 Lonsdale Cup at this meeting 12-months ago....

He’s been plying his trade in Pattern race for some time. In fact, the 7yo hasn’t been seen in a handicap since winning the Chester Cup last May off a mark of 99....

He usually runs over further. But the pace they go in this will make it feel like a 2-mile test and it is one that he could relish....

One thing he will certainly appreciate is the heavy rain forecast to fall on the track later today. That will take the sting out of the surface and that’s ideal for Andrew Balding’s horse.

This is a speculative play for sure. The horse must come right to hit the frame. But this is a high-class animal dropping back into handicap company, the yard is in great heart, the track suits and conditions could fall right....

I also like to see yards repeating winning formulas. P J McDonald had never sat on the horse prior to winning the Lonsdale Cup on it last year. He hasn’t sat on him since. But he’s back on the job tomorrow. I like that kind of thing....

  • Down at Goodwood....

It’s not just about York tomorrow. They’ve got a big handicap down at Goodwood too where 20-runners go to post for the Ladbrokes Bet £5 Get £20 Handicap (3.15) over the right-handed 7f trip....

I want to be with Mark Johnston’s VALE OF KENT at the 10s. He loves Goodwood. He’s already produced a win over 7f there this term and a close-up 2nd the time before that....

He’s up to 100 now on the back of that win. But I don’t think that puts the lid on him. His last two runs at the track over the distance have come from wider stalls than he runs out of tomorrow.

I think eh can do better still out of stall 4 tomorrow. You’d expect Joe Fanning to be handy on him – up-front and out of trouble – and you’d expect this Johnston horse to still be scrapping like a demon at the end....

I’m also going to take a flier on another Balding horse in tomorrow’s race – ABSOLUTELY SO at a big 25s....

He’s getting on now, but his trainer reckons he has retains his ability. So much so that his trainer was earmarking him as one for the G2 Lennox Stakes – run over course and distance at the Glorious Goodwood meeting....

He obviously wasn’t ready for that assignment, but this race is a worthy substitute for a horse that likes the track and has already won there at the trip. I think it’s Plan B.

He will need to step-up on what he showed earlier this term. But he’s had a good rest and he has run well off breaks before. And, as I said earlier, his team is in good shape right now. 

He’s got a nice draw in stall 7. The ground isn’t too quick for him. I think he can go well from a mark of 102. Certainly better than his price suggests.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Ebor (3.40 @ York).

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – SEA THE LION (20s generally) & MONTALY each-way (33s & 40s generally)

In the Ladbrokes Bet £5 Get £20 Handicap (3.15 @ Goodwood).

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – VALE OF KENT (10s generally) & ABSOLUTELY SO (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.

Win, lose or draw – enjoy the racing....

I’ll be back a little later today with ATC Extra....

And then I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday – with all the fallout and lessons learnt from this week’s action at York....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd