My contrarian plays on day 1 at York....

Last Updated: 16.08.2016

Tuesday, 16th August 2016

Good morning, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • Back the Duke in the Symphony (1.55)….
  • Go with the Haggas improver in the International (3.40)….

Back the Duke in the Symphony….

The 20-runner class 2 Symphony Group Stakes (1.55) – a handicap event over the 5f trip – gets the Ebor meeting off with a bang tomorrow afternoon…..

We like a big handicap here at ATC. You need things to fall your way over the sprint trips and a mistake or a problem in-running can blow the gig, but there’s generally competitive horses to be bet at prices in such races – and that’s what we like to shoot at. We’re nothing if not adventurous….

DUKE OF FIRENZE is having a good season and he’s my bet in the race at the general 12s.

On the downside he’s racing off a mark he’s never managed to score off. But a very solid effort in 5th place in Goodwood’s Stewards’ Cup – over a 6f that isn’t his optimum trip – suggests that it is not outside his compass to score off 99. 

His racing style always requires a bit of good fortune. He likes to come from the rear and is always doing his best work at the death. But in David Allan he has the preferred rider in the saddle.

Four races with Allan onboard this term have produced form figures of 1335. He knows the horse, knows how to ride him and if the from-the-rear tactics are going to pay then Allan is the man to get the job done.

Fast ground at York – one of the fastest strips around – will hold no fear. He won a handicap over 5f on good to firm back at the May meeting. That got him hiked to 95. He placed in the Dash at Epsom earning a rise in rating to 100. Then he placed again in the Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh.

Two clunkers followed under the guidance of Andrea Atzeni and Jimmy Fortune, before the 7yo showed up well once again at Goodwood. He’s in decent heart this term, running fast and I can see him going well again tomorrow. Watch for him arriving late….

There are plenty of obvious dangers. Boom The Groom and Bowson Fred made my final three. But at the prices David Griffiths’s charge gets the nod as an each-way pick.

Go with the Haggas improver in the International….

The feature race on Day 1 is the G1 International Stakes (3.40) over the 10f trip….

Six of the 13 runners that go to post have already logged a victory at the top level – with Postponed, Highland Reel and The Grey Gatsby having pulled off that particular trick more than once.

The Grey Gatsby is the odd one out in that group. He hasn’t won a G1 since September 2014 whilst the other two have been doing top-level winning this term.

Predictably that trio fill the top 3 slots in the market….

Postponed comes out top of whatever rating system you care to look at. The form book says he will take the beating. If he’s on-song that is sure to be the case.

But Roger Varian’s star performer is dropping back to the 10f trip and I am mindful that his best performances – including 6 of his 8 wins and all his G1 successes – have been produced over a mile and a half.

The ground will be lightning-fast and I wonder if it might just unfold a little too rapidly for him – which will make him vulnerable. At 6/4 I am happy to oppose him.

Highland Reel will relish the fast ground but he won’t have the services of Ryan Moore tomorrow. For a horse who benefitted from a tactical masterclass under Moore last time – winning a substandard King George at Ascot – that has to represent a blow.

There is much to like about the veteran The Grey Gatsby but he hasn’t been producing the kind of performances you’d want to see coming into this type of event.

The one I like at the prices is William Haggas’s MUTAKAYYEF at 14s.

We know how much Haggas likes to target this meeting and the success he has enjoyed over the years. That’s a plus – but it only partially informs this bet.

The 4yo has been slow to come to hand for the yard but has come to life this term running over the mile and after being gelded – winning a G2 at Ascot last time and beating subsequent G2 winner Dutch Connection in the process.

That was a very clear career-best effort, he won readily and in command, and I can see this step-back up to the 10f trip enabling him to improve again. Should he do so – and on the bare figures he isn’t that far away from the level he needs to reach – then he will be in the mix at a nice price.

Haggas has always seen this horse as a 10f campaigner. He’s by Sea The Stars and that would tend to underpin Haggas’s suspicions. He will like the fast-ground and, of course, the yard is in a good place right now.

I see a big performance at a big price and I’ll be supporting Mutakayyef on an each-way basis.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Symphony Group Stakes (1.55 York)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – DUKE OF FIRENZE each-way (12s generally)

In the International Stakes (3.40 York)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – MUTAKAYYEF each-way (14s 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 the value on Day 2’s card at York’s Ebor meeting….

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd