Contrarian Picks for Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival....

Last Updated: 16.03.2016

Wednesday, 16th March 2016

Good morning, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • Day 2 at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival….
  • The RSA Chase (2.10)….
  • The Coral Cup (2.50)….
  • The Champion Chase (3.30)….
  • The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap (4.50)….

Day 2 at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival….

It was a tough start to the 2016 Festival for this contrarian…..

The short horses strutted their stuff and that’s never a good thing for me. In the Supreme the first 3 in the market filled the frame. Douvan did what his price said he would in the Arkle. Annie Power made it a win for the jolly in the Champion Hurdle.

Nichols Canyon ran a belter in the Champion Hurdle to make the frame. But it wasn’t good enough. Morning Assembly hit the frame for me in the handicap – but, again, didn’t deliver as much as was needed.

Of course, there were out-and-out let downs too. That’s the nature of the contrarian game. The bottom line is that I head into Day 2 in a state of arrears. But I’m not tailed off. The week is long, the opportunities are frequent and a couple of decent results will put a very different complexion on things.

Again, that’s the nature of the contrarian game. We move on.

The Cross Country Chase and the Bumper are not my game. I don’t like the NIM Hurdle as a betting proposition this year. I’m playing this afternoon in the RSA Chase, the Coral Cup, the Champion Chase and the Fred Winter….

Blaklion in the RSA Chase….

Commentators as illustrious as A P McCoy have gone on record saying they can’t see More Of That getting beat in the RSA Chase (2.10).

Fair enough. The market concurs. He loves the track. He’ll like the ground. But, having raced just twice over fences, he wouldn’t be a typical winner of a race where any lack of experience in the jumping department is likely to express itself in errors at some point.

No More Heroes is a short price too. That’s plenty understandable. Gordon Elliott’s 7-year-old is undefeated in his three goes over fences. But all that work has been done on ground containing the word soft. And on better ground over hurdles he proved distinctly vulnerable.

BLAKLION’S numbers aren’t far short of what those two have achieved, but he trades at a much more attractive 10s in the overnight market and he’s my pick with the bookies paying out 1/4 1-2-3 on each-way bets.

He’s been busier this term than the other two – but the upside of that is he’s received more on-the-job education. He too has to prove his winter form will translate to genuine spring ground. But, all things considered, I’d rather take that chance at 10s than at the 5/2 No More Heroes trades at. 

He’s a neat jumper, this race has been a target for some considerable time, the track and trip will suit and if he puts it together on the day there is no reason why he can’t be in the shake-up.

Hunters Hoof in the Coral Cup….

Nicky Henderson showcased his talents in more ways than one yesterday. His Altior was very impressive landing the Supreme. Just 2 hours later in the Champion Hurdle My Tent Or Yours ran a blinder to finish 2nd off a 704 day break.

The Coral Cup field is not quite up to those dizzy heights but it is Henderson’s HUNTERS HOOF who interests me at general quotes of 20s.

Connections have been waiting for decent ground for him and after getting his mark up to 139 early in the season they have kept him packed away.

Henderson has put a claimer on the top-weight but assuming Nico De Boinville had the choice of which to ride from the other four Henderson representatives, it is significant that he sided with the progressive 7-year-old.

I’m not concerned about the horse arriving off the back of a 103 day break. He goes well fresh, all of his wins have come on the back of a break and, in any case, we can trust Henderson to have him spot on first-time-up. The good ground, and the progression I expect him to find on it, is the key to the bet. 

Felix Yonger for the Champion Chase….

The front two for the Champion Chase (3.30) tick the most boxes on our Indicator – which you can access on the Against the Crowd website.

Sprinter Sacre (a bit like My Tent Or Yours in yesterday’s Champion Hurdle) scores highly on stats related to past glories. The boxes ticked by Un De Sceaux relate more to recent events. The market clearly prefers the new to the old and the latter trades at odds-on overnight.

Given yesterday’s outcomes the market will be keen to get stuck into another Mullins-trained hotpot. I will stick to my guns and take the short horse on.

But if you’re thinking of backing Un De Sceaux, don’t let me put you off – especially at the enhanced price of 10s you can get with Coral if you open a new account with them this morning….

When it comes to the race itself, I’ll be interested to see how things pan out between Un De Sceaux and Special Tiara. Both horses like to serve it up to the opposition, at pace, from the front-end. Taking one another on early doors, they might only succeed in cutting one another’s throats – or producing errors at the fences. Un De Sceaux has come unstuck in the past.

I’ll also be interested to see how Un De Sceaux handles the drying ground – something connections have expressed a few concerns about….

The yard’s second-string, FELIX YONGER, certainly won’t mind the ground – race times yesterday suggested the ground was good – and at 16s he makes each-way appeal in the overnight markets.

He might be 10-years-old now but the figures – and Ruby Walsh – suggest he is improving. He likes the 2-mile trip, he stays further and, off the anticipated fast pace, he could be the one staying on strongest going up the hill. 

Romain De Senam for the Fred Winter….

Paul Nicholls said in the run-up to Cheltenham that his team of 4-year-olds for this meeting is the best he’s ever sent to the Festival. That’s some statement when you look at what he’s achieved with that specific group in Festivals gone by….

He’s been very bullish about Diego Du Charmil in preview evenings leading up to the Festival. And the market has paid heed – backing that one into overnight favouritism.

But the French import hasn’t been seen on a track since November – and that was in France. He’s never even raced in Britain and will have to do it first-time-up on the job this side of the channel. It seems to me that punters are backing him on the basis of what they’ve been told rather than anything they’ve actually seen.

Of more interest to me at general quotes of 25s is the yard’s second-string ROMAIN DE SENAM. He’s been a bit keen in the past and the fast-pace of tomorrow’s race should improve him. The drying ground will certainly help.

He won at Wincanton on good ground back in October and whilst he hasn’t won since he has performed with credit when conceding weight to rivals or running on unsuitable ground.

The last 36 4-year-olds sent to the Festival by Nicholls produced 16 top-4 finishes (including 4 wins). 22 of that 36 made the top 6 – in big-field events. You underestimate the Nicholls juveniles at the Festival at your peril. I’m not letting this one go off unbacked at the price.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap where the value is today….

In the RSA Chase....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BLAKLION each-way (10s generally)

In the Coral Cup....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – HUNTERS HOOF each-way (20s generally)

In the Champion Chase...

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – FELIX YONGER each-way (16s Betfair Sportsbook)

In the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap….

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ROMAIN DE SENAM each-way (25s Betfair Sportsbook)

That is my take on the value in this afternoon’s races at Cheltenham. 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. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy the racing because it doesn’t get any better. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with my contrarian take on tomorrow’s Festival action….

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd