Friday, 22nd April 2016
Good afternoon, contrarians,
On the menu today….
Tomorrow’s Celebration Chase (Sandown 3.35) presents punters with a small-field of 6 – half of them provided by in-form Paul Nicholls.
But it’s a competitive little heat with which to round off the G1 jumps action for the 2015/2016 jumps season – at least on paper with 4 of the 6 runners having produced 20 wins at the top-level between them….
Willie Mullins has decided not to send Vautour over and depends instead on Un De Sceaux to aide his late-season attempt to run down Paul Nicholls for the Trainers Championship. No Ruby Walsh though. Un De Sceaux will be partnered by Paul Townend for the first time.
Sprinter Sacre raised the roof at Cheltenham with his win in the Champion Chase. He beat Un De Sceaux that day – fair and square. After that race Willie Mullins suggested softer ground might have suited his horse better. He won’t get that tomorrow.
On the other side of that coin, Nicky Henderson’s lack of current form would have to be of some concern to punters banking on Sprinter Sacre to back-up that last time out win at even money.
Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets were both well-beaten in that Festival race. Solar Impulse steps up to G1 from handicap level. As does Ulck Du Lin. There is prize money on offer to all 6 runners. Something tells me Nicholls is keen to mop up as much as he can tomorrow. Every penny might count….
Paul Nicholls is the man in form. But the market says it’s between Sprinter Sacre and Un de Sceaux. So too do our Indicator stats. They say that pair will fill the first two places. And it’s difficult to argue with that assessment.
I don’t want to reach for a horse at the price in the hope it can get into 2nd place. I’m sitting this one out….
The feature handicap at Sandown is the bet365 Gold Cup (4.10) – a test of stamina over the 3 mile and 5 furlong trip and Neil Mulholland’s CAROLE’S DESTRIER appeals at this afternoon’s generally available 12s.
The 8yo second-season chaser advertised his credentials for this specific challenge in early December when winning the London National over course and distance.
He stuck on very strongly that afternoon – giving plenty of weight to everything that finished within 10 lengths of him (including Mountainous who went on to win a second Welsh Grand National later that month).
He was pulled up in the Ultima Handicap Chase next time out at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The horse made a mistake early on and never really figured after that.
On the face of it that was a disappointing performance. He will have to turn up ready to play a sweeter tune tomorrow. And I expect him to do so.
His whole season has been designed around tomorrow’s race. Mulholland had nominated the Sandown end-of-season showpiece as his principal target for the season well before Christmas. The intention was always to keep him fresh and to have him spot on for tomorrow.
Plenty of tomorrow’s opponents have harder seasons. Plenty more are running out of yards where the largest proportion of runners appear to have gone over the top. Few proven stayers in the field are quite as unexposed at this kind of trip. And some of those that are unexposed/untried at this kind of distance have to be looked at as potential non-stayers.
The other one I’ll bae backing against the field is MEASUREOFMYDREAMS at 14s.
He ran a cracker at the Festival – finishing 3rd in the National Hunt Chase – before heading to Ayr last weekend for the Scottish Grand National in which he was a well-fancied co-favourite.
He never got into any kind of rhythm, hit the first fence and then crashed out at the third and had no kind of race.
Willie Mullins has turned the inexperienced horse round quickly. He wants prize money tomorrow and you might take a cynical view that this is a simple case of every fresh horse speculatively sent to the pumps to get it.
But trainers don’t tend to be flip with quality horses and that’s exactly what Measureofmydreams is. He was heavily fancied last week and fluffed his lines. He’s here this week because he has a big pot in him and the race represents a genuine alternative opportunity.
The 8yo is twice the price he was last week. But I doubt he’s half the horse. And I’m going to chance him at the quote to get it right this Saturday.
Up at Ripon in the class 2 handicap over 6f (3.50) KIMBERELLA is weighted to go well if he’s ready to rock-and roll first-time-up.
That’s a big if, of course. At this stage of the season there’s always some guesswork involved as to how much a horse might need its first run. But David Nicholls’s horses have been going well and if the 6yo is forward enough to get competitive then circumstances are certainly in his favour.
It’s been a while since the horse won – and even then he’s only won once in 21 racecourse appearances. But by far his best performance last season came over tomorrow’s course and distance on soft ground in August – when 2nd behind Don’t Touch in the Great St Wilfrid.
The handicapper reacted by raising the horse to 97. And that might explain the subsequent drop-off in performances posted between August and October.
Another possible cause is Nicholls’s policy of really working his horses. Kimberella appeared another 8 times after Ripon before stumps were pulled for the season. That was some workload for a horse who’d already appeared 9 times before heading to north Yorkshire….
The upside is that the horse has dropped to its current mark of 88 – 3lbs below its last winning mark. There’s no doubt in my mind that with that figure Kimberella’s time is fast-approaching and if I can get a double-figure price then I’m an interested each-way player on a track, over a trip and on ground that will suit.
The problem is that the bookies haven’t yet posted prices and I have go to press and get this to you. The tissue has Kimberella in at 10s. I’m hopeful of getting that or better. But the tissue is no guarantee.
Keep an eye on the prices and take a view….
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the bet365 Gold Cup (Sandown 4.10)....
In the Visit attheraces.com Handicap (Ripon 3.50)....
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.
That’s all from me for today. Stay tuned for more contrarian big-race insight & analysis on Monday.