Our contrarian picks for the weekend...

Last Updated: 19.02.2016

Friday, 19th February 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • Factors driving the consensus money….
  • Taking a contrarian view….
  • He’s got the knack at the track….

Factors driving the consensus money….

The Ascot Chase (Ascot, Saturday 3.35) is our primary big-race target this weekend.

Just 8 runners head to post but it’s an interesting little contest for which two-time King George winner, Silviniaco Conti – who will be fitted with first-time blinkers – heads the betting. 

Take a look at the Indicator in the Next Race section of the Against the Crowd website and you’ll see some of the factors that are driving the market money onto Paul Nicholls’s horse.

It is very much a case of the market taking a view of the historical record and latching onto the horse who has been the best of this bunch.

  • The official handicapper rates Silviniaco Conti the best horse in the race
  • Silviniaco Conti has registered the best Racing Post rating of tomorrow’s runners
  • He has also logged close to the best Topspeed figure
  • It is only Ma Filleule’s 7lb allowance that ensures Silviniaco Conti doesn’t come out on top of the adjusted RPR and TS figures
  • He has the most experience at the top level
  • He has won more times than any of his opponents at the top level
  • Nothing has won a more valuable race over the last 12 month period
  • And over the last fortnight his trainer has been banging in the winners

There’s an argument that says the best horse wins any race. Nobody can argue with the central logic of that perspective. But there’s an important proviso. It’s about right now. Which is the best horse today? Or, more specifically, which is the horse in the best place today?

Silviniaco Conti might well prove that he is the best horse. And good luck to him. But at the prices, based on the arguments I put forward in yesterday’s column, I wouldn’t want to be betting on it.

Taking a contrarian view….

As a value-seeking contrarian my default attitude is to go against the crowd – and I think there are good enough reasons to justify that stance tomorrow.

Silviniaco Conti has plenty of positives going for him. Of course he has. That tends to be the case with any favourite. But there are negatives too if you were thinking of supporting the horse at the price. I outlined the key issues yesterday….

  • The horse is being worked towards spring targets and I wonder how match-sharp he is going to be tomorrow.
  • The trip is on the sharp side for a horse Paul Nicholls has always described as an out-and-out 3 mile chaser.
  • He’s had physical problems – skin tumours. These are reported to have cleared up. But he is working his way back and his season has not been straightforward – which is not ideal prep for a G1 assignment.
  • He folded tamely last time out and his trainer reported him to have ‘gone a bit soft’. First time blinkers might serve to sharpen him up. But it might also be a sign that connections know they have to find a bit of something from somewhere.

Dynaste is interesting back at this trip for the first time since his last win and he arrives off the back of a wind-op that might work the oracle. But he’s short enough.

The one that interests me most at an each-way price is FLEMENSTAR at a general 10s.

He had looked very much like his career was on the slide. He’d had more than his fair share of injury problems before being shipped to Anthony Curran’s yard but the move appears to have revitalised him.

He registered some classy form as a younger horse and, whilst he is highly unlikely to get back to those peaks as an 11yo, he has shown more than enough this term to suggest it isn’t all over for him quite yet.

He was lucky to win a G1 at Leopardstown over Christmas. Had Un De Sceaux stayed on his feet it would have been a different story. But next time up that performance was backed-up with a solid 2nd in the G2 Tied Cottage Chase – where he was beaten just under two lengths by the smart Felix Yonger.

He ran with plenty of exuberance that day – maybe a little too much – jumped well and was still trying to reel the winner in at the finish. It was his third improved effort on the bounce and a performance that indicated he is enjoying his work at the moment. He arrives on an upward curve and can continue on that trajectory on ground that will suit.

Some very classy horses have won this race in the past. This year’s renewal doesn’t look the strongest though. The principal market fancies have clouds hanging over them and this in-form and fit horse is a good value each-way pick at the prices.

He’s got the knack at the track….

The Grand National Trial (Haydock, Saturday 2.40) is sure to be a rigorous test of stamina on heavy ground. Just 8 runners go to post and RIGADIN DE BEAUCHENE looks to be reasonably priced-up by the layers at a general 7s.

He’s won the race before back in 2014 off a mark of 131. He was 2nd in 2013 off the same mark. And he has a cracking record at Haydock generally. He won there in December – when he jumped superbly apart from one mistake at the 3rd fence – and he looked very much back in sorts after a series of disappointing efforts.

Next time at Warwick in the Classic Chase he exited at the 15th fence having been hampered by a loose horse. He was going well at the time. On a mark of 133 tomorrow at a track he loves on ground he handles the 7s is a decent enough price to get involved with.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap where the value is today….

In the Ascot Chase (3.35)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – FLEMENSTAR each-way (10s generally) bet365 are currently offering the 10s and enhanced place terms of 1/4 1-2-3.

In the Grand National Trial (2.40)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – RIGADIN DE BEAUCHENE (7s generally)

That is my take on tomorrow’s target races. You will no doubt have your own ideas – and that’s exactly as it should be. You can watch the action unfold live on C4 & RUK.


That’s all from me for today. Stay tuned for more contrarian big-race insight & analysis next week.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd