The contrarian perspective this weekend....

Last Updated: 01.02.2019

Friday, 1st February 2019

The contrarian perspective this weekend….

Winter has arrived and the cold snap is doing its best to disrupt as much of the racing programme as it can....

We’ve lost this Saturday’s meeting at Musselburgh – where I expected to be playing in at least one race....

But the omens remain good for Sandown. Clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, posted an upbeat assessment on Twitter this morning....

‘3cm snow overnight @Sandown Park. No frost in ground. Snow seems wet in nature and looks to be shifting. Will monitor improvement and update accordingly. No inspection currently planned for Friday.’

No promises. But we’re still in business as of right now and we will treat it as though the feature handicap at 3.00 – the Heroes Handicap Hurdle – will be going ahead....

  • An improving race....

They upped the money for this race last year. The winner got £56k as opposed to £28k in previous years....

The extra money is in play again this year. It makes a difference. More money up for grabs attracts bigger fields of better horses – 7 of tomorrow’s 18 starters are rated 140 and it looks a competitive edition of an improving race....

I can’t argue with the market’s assessment of the race and the horses at the top of the market.

Ballymoy is a fast-improving type – having won 3 of 4 this term and risen the best part of a stone in the weights....

Lord Napier (a horse on our Watch List) has been showing up well in good races off this kind of mark and the step up in trip is liable to improve him....

The Paul Nicholls trained Casko D’Airy – Harry Cobden’s choice of ride – is the potential springer. He’s the inexperienced but unexposed runner in the field and if there’s one with the scope to take a major step forward tomorrow then it is him....

But this column does not make its living following the market and its money. Our job is to seek out the runner the market might be overlooking or under-estimating at a nice price. So, let’s get onto that....

  • Off a long lay-off....

You’re always taking something of a risk when you pin your colours (and your money) to a horse that hasn’t been seen on a track for well over a year....

But where BRIO CONTI is concerned, his record of going well fresh helps to mitigate the inherent danger. And we’ve seen a few times already this term that horses coming into big handicap races off big lay-offs can be dangerous and plenty-competitive propositions....

Where this horse is concerned, he hasn’t been seen since winning a novice chase (his debut over fences) at Carlisle in November 2017....

But he wouldn’t be at Sandown tomorrow if he weren’t recovered from whatever was ailing him and prior to going chasing he was running in a G1 hurdle at Aintree.

Prior to that he won a decent handicap hurdle in good style at Kempton off 134.  And there can still be more to come off a mark of 143 tomorrow – with the first-time step-up to 3-miles standing every chance of improving....

Nicholls has a good record in this race with his last dozen runners producing 4 winners and 2 places. Another two runners finished 5th. He doesn’t send horses into this willy-nilly and I reckon Brio Conti will be primed to produce a big run for Bryony Frost.

The general 16s is a fair price....

  • Two-against-the-field....

I want to be two-against-the-field with the numbers involved and my second selection is FLEMCARA at 12s….

The way both Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman have been performing – both in tandem and in isolation – over recent weekends demands that the ones they combine on come onto the radar….

Ahead of last season’s renewal the 7yo was progressive having won his previous three over hurdles and climbed up the ratings to the tune of 2-stone….

In the race itself he put in a disappointing performance off a mark of 139. He’s been chasing in the meantime – without setting the world alight – and returns to timber rated 132….

Regular rider – claiming 7lb and then 5lb – has been jettisoned in favor of Coleman. The reduced mark may have something to do with that. And Coleman might just have the extra nous required to get a tune out of the horse. He’s certainly riding with confidence right now….

The ground will suit, and this horse is well-weighted again….

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.00 @ Sandown).

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BRIO CONTI (16s generally) & FLEMCARA (12s 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 today with ATC Extra....

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

Until next time. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd