Friday, 24th June 2016
Good morning, contrarians,
On the menu today….
Newcastle hosts the Northumberland Plate tomorrow (4.15) for the first time since converting to an all-weather surface – and that’s the one race this weekend that appeals as a betting heat to me….
A field of 20 runners turn out for the 2-mile test and one that catches my eye at the prices is Hughie Morrison’s NEARLY CAUGHT who can be backed at quotes as big as 20s in the ante-post market this morning.
In last season’s renewal he ran a big race in 3rd on ground that was a little quicker than he would have liked. He ran off a mark of 102 that day – the same AW mark he gets to run off again tomorrow (he’s rated 105 on the turf) and he was only beaten (less than two lengths) by two quality horses in Quest For More and Max Dynamite.
That pair are now rated 109 and 114 respectively and have been regular features in Group races since. Their rise up the scale since pays something of an additional compliment to Nearly Caught’s effort last year.
Subsequent to Newcastle Nearly Caught ran a big race in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket – finishing 5th after maybe hitting the front a little too soon. He clearly appreciates a test and is comfortable performing in a big field.
The all-weather surface should be more to his taste tomorrow than last year’s fast ground. The 6yo is not over-accustomed to racing on a synthetic surface but, in the 3 runs he has had, a return of form figures reading 122 say it is not an issue.
The big bugbear might be the draw – and that’s maybe one reason why the horse is twice the price he was sent off at last year. He’s drawn widest of all.
In a race over 2 miles the draw might not appear to have a lot of significance. But being drawn wide means either sticking to the outside of the field and travelling further or expending energy early doors to get an inside position. George Baker, in the saddle, will have decisions to make.
All that’s said, a wide draw can have its compensations. Baker was onboard Quest For More last season. He ran out of stall 3 and after winning the race Baker made the point that he’d been lucky in so much as the gaps opened up when he needed them. From a low-numbered stall a horse can struggle to get out. Horses drawn wide – and ridden intelligently – shouldn’t have that issue to contend with.
It is fair to say that the last three renewals were won by horses drawn low. But high-drawn horses have won and run big races across the last decade. At the prices I’m prepared to back Baker and his mount to go well from his high stall tomorrow.
The other one I’ll be backing is Richard Fahey’s GABRIAL THE HERO at a general 14s this morning.
He’s only been seen once this term – when finishing 4th in the Chester Cup. Things didn’t go his way that afternoon. He didn’t get the fast pace he needs. And the tight track wouldn’t have been ideal. So finishing 4th of 18 – staying on strongly at the end – represented a commendable seasonal debut that he’s entitled to improve for.
The 7yo has decent form on the all-weather and a decent draw in stall 8. Tony Hamilton takes the ride. He looks the yard’s main hope and I expect a big run.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow….
In the Northumberland Plate (4.15 Newcastle)....
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 on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.