Where my contrarian money is going at Royal Ascot - Day 1....

Last Updated: 13.06.2016

Monday, 13th June 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • The rains turn the tables….
  • French raider to go one better in the Queen Anne (2.30)….
  • One for the Coventry at a double-figure quote (3.05)….
  • Two against the field in the King’s Stand (3.40)….

The rains turn the tables….

The rains have come over the weekend at Ascot. And they are set to continue throughout the next few days. We are looking at a bit of a rarity – ground well on the soft side of good at the Royal meeting….

It throws a bit of a spanner in the works for connections of horses that will have been prepared for their target races at the meeting in anticipation of the ground being good at worst. We will see plenty of those pull out.

Just this morning Mark Johnston is talking about Buratino as a likely non-runner in Friday’s Commonwealth Cup on account of the soft ground. Time Test has been pulled from the Princes of Wales’s Stakes. Lots of trainers will be monitoring the surface and the skies above Berkshire as the week goes on.

Connections of other horses – like those of Meccas Angel who goes in tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes – will be clapping their hands in delight that conditions have turned very much in favour of their horse.

In truth, the poor weather is a bit of a spoiler. It means that fields will cut up. Top horses will be kept back for future targets. The quality of the racing will diminish. The form will be less likely to hold up. The rain is good news for some but disappointing for more.

But as punters we must work with what is put in front of us. All we can do with the rain is factor it into our deliberations….

French raider to go one better in the Queen Anne….

The Queen Anne Stakes (2.30) has a very open look with no really stand-out presence in the division this term….

Ervedya is a multiple G1 winner and she has form on soft ground. The rain has come at the right time too for this season’s Lockinge Stakes winner Belardo. But the market is on to that pair. It is no surprise to see those two towards the top of the betting.

The American-raider Tepin is also up towards the top-end of the market. Connections are making bullish noises about the mare. But I have no compunction about opposing her at the prices.

The straight mile is an unknown, the ground the jockey has no experience of the track and she’ll be running a long way from home without the aid of either the Lasix or the nasal strips she is accustomed to using.

ESOTERIQUE is the one I like at the prices. Last year’s runner-up was the only one to give highly-regarded winner Solow anything to think about in the final furlong and she improved again after Ascot – winning and showing up well in G1 contests against her own sex and the males.

She’s won races on very quick ground but also has plenty of very smart form on soft ground and tomorrow’s conditions shouldn’t be an issue for her. Like last year she turns up having had a single run to put her straight and should be cherry ripe for an excellent opportunity to go one better than last term.

She’s one of a quartet of female runners tomorrow who get 3lbs from the colts and at this afternoon’s general 8s I think she’s a solid bet in conditions that certainly won’t suit all her opponents.

One for the Coventry at a double-figure quote….

You take your chances in the Coventry Stakes (3.05). The race is contested by juveniles, all are lightly raced and all are open to levels of progression it is impossible to guess-at pre-race. All have the potential to throw in a clunker too….

All that said and as difficult as the race is, I can’t resist MOKARRIS at a sporting 10s this afternoon.

Simon Crisford’s charge was very impressive on good to soft on his one run to date at Haydock and he can build on that. He won by 2 lengths from Richard Hannon’s Tafaakhor that afternoon and had the remainder of the field well strung-out behind.

Others in tomorrow’s field have produced on ground with cut – but they are shorter in the betting and have had the advantage of an extra race to show what they can do. The son of More Than Ready should come on a bundle for his debut, he’s well thought of at home and more is expected going forward. He’s a fair enough bet at double figure prices.

Two against the field in the King’s Stand….

The top pair of sprinters in the race based on seasonal performance – Meccas Angel and Profitable – will both appreciate the cut in the ground in the King’s Stand Stakes (3.40).

Both will no doubt be there or thereabouts if they turn up in rude health and run their respective races – but in a 5f sprint I’m not the kind of punter who can countenance taking 2s or 5s about a horse. I’ll leave that to the betting-shop cannon fodder.

I’d much rather look for competitive horses at prices – happy to hit the frame and absolutely delighted if it all falls into place and I finish in front….

PEARL SECRET at 16s fits the bill. Seen in the past as a mud-lark his actual best performance have come on quicker ground – including 4th in this last term. But softer ground is something he can certainly handle with aplomb.

What he really needs is for the big field to go hard which suits his strong-finishing style. He’s sure to get what he needs tomorrow, he’s shown he’s in good heart and there’s no reason why he can’t repeat and improve on last season’s effort under Oisin Murphy.

I’m also going to have a little dabble on Kevin Ryan’s GOKEN at 50s. That’s a massive price about a smart horse with form on soft ground going up the Ascot straight with Jamie Spencer on his back.

He was impressive last season after arriving from France. And he was unlucky on AW Championship Day where he managed to finish 3rd in the sprint final despite banging his head on the stalls.

His two subsequent appearance on turf have been disappointing. That account for his big price. But Kevin Ryan reported last week that his charge has perked up and is showing the right signs at home.

There’s an element of reading between the lines with this bet. That’s for sure. But Goken is a very good horse when things come together and he’s a massive price in a wide-open spring on ground that should suit him better than most. I think there’s some value in the 50s and that’s the way I play.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow at Ascot….

In the Queen Anne Stakes (2.30)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ESOTERIQUE (8s generally)

In the Coventry Stakes (3.05)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – MOKARRIS (10s generally)

In the King’s Stand Stakes (3.40)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – PEARL SECRET each-way (16s generally) & GOKEN each-way (50s generally)

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. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with my take on Wednesday’s action.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd