Friday, 8th April 2016
Good morning, contrarians,
On the menu today….
The Melling Chase doesn’t make much appeal to me as a betting contest this afternoon. Nor do the novice events. The handicaps are where it’s at for me on Day 2.
The handicaps are tough events for sure – with no shortage of runners going to post in the opening handicap hurdle and the Topham Chase later in the day. But fortune favours the brave (at least that’s the way I look at it) and these kinds of events are where the competitive horses trading at big prices are to be found.
You will have your own ideas, of course. If you’re following me in, glad to be with you. If you’re going your own way, all the best to you.
Let’s crack on….
STARCHITECT has made a pretty decent start to his career with David Pipe – and is very back-able at 9sin the handicap hurdle that opens this afternoon’s card (1.40)….
In his two runs for the yard to date he’s finished 2nd in the Betfair Hurdle (not having run for the previous 10 months) and then 5th in the County Hurdle at the Festival.
Previous to that, when trained by Donald McCain, he’d finished 4th in the 2015 edition of the Fred Winter. A big field and a fast pace, like he’ll encounter today, should be perfect.
He gets to race this afternoon off the same mark he ran off in that Festival race and I expect the step-up in trip to bring about yet another career-best effort. He stayed on very well last time at the end of the 2 mile trip suggesting he’d be seen to better effect over further.
Plenty of this afternoon’s opponents have had a long hard season whilst the 5yo should be relatively fresh and raring to go having been seen just twice in 12 months. In 3 of his last 4 races he’s looked like a horse destined to land a decent pot. Today is the day to deliver on that promise.
RATHLIN is an attractive-enough price at 16s generally in the Topham Chase (4.05). He was 3rd in last season’s renewal off a mark of 147 carrying 11-06 – running for Mouse Morris.
This time round he runs for Micky Hammond off a mark of 138 carrying just 10-07. He’ll also be carrying Davy Russell – whose services Hammond has gone to the trouble of securing for the ride.
Horse and jockey have form. They’ve gone to war together before when the horse was owned by Gigginstown Stud. Russell won 5 times and placed 6 times from his 16 rides on the horse.
Of course, past performance is no guarantee of success and the horse is 11 now, but the booking of Russell does suggests that connections want to give the horse every edge and every chance to improve on last season’s effort. He found some form last time out – dropping back to 2 miles. The cheekpieces stay on. On that performance he could prove well-handicapped.
Dr Richard Newlands knows a bit about what it takes to win a big race over the National fences – having won the Grand National with Pineau De Re in 2014.
Sam Whaley-Cohen knows a thing or two about those fences too. He has a cracking record over them having got round safely 20 times from 32 rides over them – producing 6 wins and 7 placed-finishes in the process.
Newlands and Whaley-Cohen team up this afternoon with TOP CAT HENRY and he seems over-priced to me at 25s.
As far back as October Newlands was talking about this horse as a candidate for this race – reckoning he’d take to the fences. He was given a sight of them in this season’s Grand Sefton – getting round albeit without troubling the principals.
His form over the winter looks patchy. But he’s a good ground horse who was running on winter ground. It isn’t typical spring ground at Aintree but, at the price, I am prepared to take the chance that the ground is better than soft winter ground.
If it is, he will improve for it. Last time at Wetherby the first-time visor (on again today) worked the magic – and that was on good to soft. The Met Office forecast is for dry weather between late Thursday afternoon and the off and that will help dry things out.
Top Cat Henry is out of the handicap. That’s a bit of a negative for sure – but Whaley-Cohen and the 3lb claim he qualifies for are compensatory positive. He’s potentially a big improver trading at a big price.
I’ll be backing both horses each-way. Be sure to look out for bookies paying out on the first 5 places….
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap where the value is today….
In the Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle (1.40)....
In the Topham Chase (4.05)....
That is where my money will be going this afternoon. 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.
Stay tuned for more contrarian big-race insight & analysis later this afternoon - including my contrarian picks for the Grand National.