Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow....

Last Updated: 01.07.2016

Friday, 1st July 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • Taking on the Eclipse favourite….
  • A young improver at a price in the Coral Challenge….
  • Another improver in a handy stall for the Coral Charge….

Taking on the Eclipse favourite….

There’s a cracking card at Sandown tomorrow – the G1 Eclipse Stakes, the G3 Coral Charge and a big mile handicap in the shape of the Coral Challenge. And up at Haydock the Old Newton Cup provides another big betting heat worth shooting at. There is plenty to play for in the markets this weekend. 

Aidan O’Brien’s The Gurkha (one of a trio of 3yos in the 7-runner field) is the market fancy for the Eclipse Stakes (3.45 Sandown) – the first race of the season where the classic generation get to take on the older horses at the top level.

He bids to win the race for a record-equalling sixth time for O’Brien and he’s done nothing wrong in his career to date. He didn’t make his debut on the track until this season – since which time he’s won the G1 Poule D’Essai Des Poulains (the French version of the 2000 Guineas and form that has worked out well).

Next time out he was then beaten into 2nd in the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot – where he got too far back and couldn’t quite make up the deficit with Galileo Gold who got first run.

He’s still got  a little to find with one or two of the older horses – as you’d expect at this stage of his development – but his is a star considered to be on a steep upwards trajectory and the weight-for-age concession will no doubt assist his cause. So too Ryan Moore in the saddle.

He is stepping up to the 10f trip for the first time. He is thought likely to thrive for it. But there are no givens and it has to be noted that he is up against horses with proven form at the trip.

He’s even money in the market this morning. The largest part of market is betting on his potential at a skinny price. And that’s fair enough. But the role of this column is to find the pick at the prices and, on that basis, the one I’ll be supporting is Charlie Appleby’s HAWKBILL at 8s.

He’s another of the 3yos in the field. He hasn’t yet produced form of the level produced by The Gurkha and has more to find. But did improve for both runs this term – winning performances at Listed and G3 level – and the manner of those performances suggests there is still plenty to come.

Both those winning efforts came over the 10f trip and both Appleby and jockey William Buick have made the case that he will stay 12f. He can be ridden aggressively tomorrow to make it a real test of stamina in the closing stages.

He does need pace on. In the past he’s made his own running. That’s not an ideal scenario tomorrow. But Countermeasure is there to ensure a gallop for Time Test and that will suit Hawkbill too. The cut in the surface at Sandown will suit too. 

He’s got plenty going for him and that probably encouraged connections to pay the £30,000 required to supplement him earlier this week. He’s got it to prove but at 8s I see him as a decent bet at a decent price.

A young improver at a price in the Coral Challenge….

A field of 16 runners go to post for the Coral Challenge (2.35 Sandown) and Mark Johnston’s WHITMAN is an each-way play for me at the general 16s.

For sure, he’s the youngest participant in the field at 3 but that age group have a reasonable return over the last 15 years from not too many participants. And Johnston has placed with 3 of the runners from that age group he’s put into the race over that period. A couple of his other such representatives ran with credit.

Whitman has only had 9 runs to date. Eight of those were at sprint trips. Last time out in his first race up at the mile he ran with credit – beaten just a head up at Ayr – and connections will have learnt a bit more about him.

He’s certainly a Johnston type – gritty with a never-say-die attitude. When headed at Ayr he refused to give up, rallied and came again to have every chance in the final furlong. That kind of attitude will serve him well up Sandown’s stiff finish tomorrow.

He is very much unexposed at tomorrow’s trip and can be expected to come on again pitched into this better-grade company.

He is drawn okay in stall 9 – not too far wide and in around the bulk of the pace in the field. The drying ground is also to his advantage. So too the fact he carries just 8-00. The 16s is a nice price about a fit, in-form and improving young horse.

Another improver in a handy stall for the Charge….

Over the last dozen years it has paid to be backing a low drawn horse in the Coral Charge (2.00 Sandown). Nine of the last 12 winners exited stalls 1 to 4 prior to victory.

The 3yo horses haven’t been a bad place to look for a bet either. Seven of the last 11 winners were that age.

William Muir’s WILLYTHECONQUEROR ticks both boxes but more than that he arrives at Sandown having lodged decent performance on 3 of his 4 starts this term. He is on a progressive curve – rising a stone up the weight since the end of April – and it is not unreasonable to expect another step forward tomorrow. At the general 16s he is a nice each-way price.

He certainly won’t mind the cut on the sprint course. And Sandown is the track where he has done his best work for connections – winning and hitting the frame on his two visits. Including last time out where he was beaten 2.25 lengths by Easton Angel – giving the higher-rated horse and strong favourite weight on ground that might have been a bit too quick for him.

He can go well. Better than the prices suggest. The 16s is a bit of value.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Eclipse Stakes (3.45 Sandown)....

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

In the Coral Challenge (2.35 Sandown)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – WHITMAN each-way (16s generally)

In the Coral Charge (Sandown 2.00)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – WILLYTHECONQUEROR each-way (16s 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 a little later today with my picks for the Old Newton Cup at Haydock in ATC Extra. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd