A big one in tomorrow's Imperial Cup....

Last Updated: 11.03.2016

Friday, 11th March 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • A Fair bet at 33s in the Imperial Cup….
  • An 8/1 steal on Willie Mullins…

A Fair bet at 33s in the Imperial Cup….

Tomorrow’s Imperial Cup (Sandown, 3.10) offers punters a final big-race opportunity to load up the war chest ahead of next week’s Festival at Cheltenham – and we’ll be looking to get the job done by finding the value….

A field of 15 runners goes to post on ground described on Friday morning as heavy.

No doubt about the best horse in the race on known form. That’s Rayvin Black, last season’s runner-up behind Ebony Express – who also has another go tomorrow – and that’s why he’ll be conceding a stone and more to the opposition.

Oliver Sherwood’s horse is tough and arrives on the back of a career-best effort in the G2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. There’s a case for saying he is a bit better than his current rating of 149 – but the weight on heavy ground is an issue for me and I’m looking elsewhere.

The market hasn’t been slow to latch onto Affaire D’ Honneur. He put in an eye-catching effort to finish 4th in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury after being slow to get into gear from the standing start.

He’s got an entry in the County Hurdle at the Festival and connections will be looking for a win tomorrow – which will earn him a penalty and get him in. They’ll be trying for sure – but there’s not much juice in the market-topping 7/2.

Three of the last 4 renewals of this race were won by horses sent off at prices ranging from 20s to 33s and my fancy for tomorrow would make it a quartet of big surprises. I’m going with SPICE FAIR at a big 33s – a very nice each-way price.

Mark Usher’s horse is 9 now and experienced – having been plenty busy on the flat. But over hurdles he’s only had 10 runs and is still progressing. He’s been doing his business at a lower level than tomorrow’s opposition but last Saturday at Newbury he put in a career-best in defeat.

I liked the way he travelled into that race from the rear under Wayne Hutchinson. And I liked the way he issued his challenge despite making a slight mistake at the third hurdle from home and despite getting slightly hampered by a faller – which necessitated him having to regain his momentum and forge on again at a crucial stage of the race.

Usher has taken the decision to turn the horse around quickly – he’s clearly in good heart right now so why not – and took the precaution of booking Hutchinson very early in the week.

For sure tomorrow’s race is over 2 miles rather than the 2 and a half mile trip at Newbury – but I’m not concerned about that. The horse wants dropping-in and settling off a fast-pace – which he should get tomorrow with plenty of horses opposing that like to lead or be prominent – and on heavy ground and with the uphill finish, circumstances could well play out to Spice Fair’s advantage.

The uphill finish should prove particularly suitable. The horse has decent enough flat form at the track and kept on well over tomorrow’s trip when finishing 2nd in a novice handicap hurdle in December.

At the prices I see enough positives to get involved on an each-way basis. It’s a handicap hurdle and there’s plenty of shorter ones with chances. But the Usher horse is big for a horse in form – and he’s the pick.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap where the value is in tomorrow’s Imperial Cup….

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – SPICE FAIR each-way (33s 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. I will be back in your email box on Monday morning with a run-down of what you can expect from next week’s Festival service, what we expect of ourselves and how the whole thing will work throughout the week….

Stay tuned. Enjoy your weekend.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd



An 8/1 steal on Willie Mullins...

No ATR Extra race for us this weekend. The Imperial Cup is the only race worth targeting tomorrow afternoon. Not to worry though. We’ll be looking for value bets in plenty of next week’s Festival handicaps. It won’t hurt to keep our powder dry until then….

And talking of the Festival...

Willie Mullins is nailed on to bag at least one winner next week. So the massive 8/1 that Coral are offering about him to do so amounts to a licence to print money. You – or some accommodating friend – will need to be opening a new account to qualify for the price. But it seems to me like an easy way to get a bit of easy money in the war chest…. Just a thought. Qualify for the 8/1 about Mullins right here.