Where my contrarian money is going on Champions Day....

Last Updated: 14.10.2016

Friday, 14th October 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • The value in the Champions Sprint Stakes (2.00)….
  • The pick of the prices in the Fillies & Mares (2.35)….
  • Out on a limb in the Champion Stakes (3.45)….

The value in the Champions Sprint Stakes….

The G1 Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot tomorrow afternoon (2.00) is fiercely competitive – even allowing for the defection of Limato who will now head to the Breeders Cup meeting in search for the better ground he needs.

Quiet Reflection is the rightful favourite in my book – having put in a series of quality performances at G1 level over the summer (including 2 wins). Meccas Angel has scored at G1 level this term too – but with her I’m mindful that she was trained this season with the Nunthorpe specifically in mind.

Shalaa has only run once this term. He produced an effort not far off his best form on my figures at Ascot at the start of the month. On one hand he is more than entitled to go on again which would put him right in the mix – as the market anticipates – but I wonder if he is a candidate for the bounce on the back of that effort. If he runs his race he will go close, but at 11/2 I’m not minded to back him.

The Tin Man and Twilight Son are additional obvious candidates. And Librisa Breeze is interesting – but his eye-catching work this term has been done at 7f and 8f. This drop in trip to 6f is an experiment. He’s been leaving it late at the longer trips and I wonder if things might happen just a bit too quick for him tomorrow.

At the prices the one I’m drawn to as an each-way bet is Kevin Ryan’s BRANDO at 14s.

For sure he’s stepping up out of handicaps after winning the Ayr Gold Cup last time out carrying top-weight. But it takes a good horse to win an Ayr Gold Cup from the top of the handicap and he’s clearly a Group-class sprinter. This has been the target for him since the Ayr win.

He ran down the field the only time he’s been tried at G1 level – in the Nunthorpe at York. But that was over 5f. The step back up to 6f last time saw him improve and the trip will play to his strengths again tomorrow.

Quiet Reflection, Shalaa and Twilight Son are drawn in stalls 9, 10 and 11. In stall 7 Brando is going to be in and around that group of horses – horses you’d expect to take him a long way into the race. 

He will have to produce another personal best to take this. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s every chance he’ll oblige. He’s been running consistently well over the summer. And a 2nd place finish in the Wokingham in June suggests he is well-suited to the combination of track and trip.

The market is heavily invested in the big names – the household names of the division. That’s fair enough. But the value lies in siding with a horse who hasn’t yet broken through to that level but whose form suggests it is only a matter of time before he does so.

The pick of the prices in the Fillies & Mares….

ARCHITECTURE looks over-priced at 22s for the Fillies & Mares Stakes – and she makes appeal as an each-way bet.

These things soon get forgotten but back at the start of June Hugo Palmer’s charge was the only runner in the Oaks who made a race of it with the winner, Minding – who has since proved herself to be top-drawer.

She was beaten 1.75 lengths at the post but she was well clear of the rest and she’d been the one to serve it up to the O’Brien filly in the straight. It was a fine effort – and it took a high-quality filly to beat her.

She also put in another good effort in defeat in the Irish Oaks where Seventh Heaven got the better of her. That one reopposes tomorrow – and heads the market – and Architecture will need to prove good enough to overturn that form.

Noises from the Palmer yard are encouraging. Architecture has been freshened up since her last appearance in the German Oaks and is reported to have improved physically in the meantime.

If that strengthening-up enables her to finish off the 12f trip just a little better than she had been – and squeezes out a little more improvement – then, on her best form, she’s entitled to be there or thereabouts.

Stall 4 is good enough on the turning track. Ryan Moore is stuck out wide on the favourite and might not find it as easy as he’d like from there. Journey and Speedy Boarding – also well-shorter in the market than Architecture – must also start out wide in stalls 11 and 12.

Of course, races aren’t necessarily won down at the start, but Architecture certainly begins the race at an advantage to more-fancied horses.

Out on a limb in the Champion Stakes….

Saeed Bin Suroor won the 2013 Champion Stakes with Farhh – off a break of 154 days. Previous to that he’d won a Lockinge with him off a break of 244 days.

Tomorrow afternoon Bin Suroor turns up for this with Farhh’s half-brother RACING HISTORY who hasn’t been seen on the track for 364 days. His last time out performance came in this race last term when he finished a very creditable 4th.

Farhh improved with age and I’d take Racing History to go the same way. If he shows up ready to rock and roll, he will undoubtedly be a better horse than last year. Any improvement on his best form to date will see him on the premises.

Of course, it’s a big ask for the horse to come and win this race first time up. And it’s a big call on my part to put the horse up – even at the 25s you can get about him this morning.

But Bin Suroor clearly knows this fragile but talented line very well. He effectively nursed Farhh in kid gloves to get the very best return out of him and he’s been equally patient with Racing History.

For the last few weeks Bin Suroor has repeatedly made it clear that Racing History would only take up tomorrow’s engagement if connections were 100% happy with him – both in terms of fitness and with what he’s showing at home on the gallops.

I take Bin Suroor at his word. I don’t think they’d be showing up here half-cocked. Racing History is only 4-years-old. Farhh didn’t produce his best until he was 5. If it boiled down to a choice between putting the horse at risk by running him under a cloud or giving him time and waiting until next term, I think they’d go for the latter option. That course of action would make most sense?

But the fact is that he’s slated to run tomorrow and connections must believe he is fit and able to give a good account of himself. It’s also worth noting that Bin Suroor has chosen this specific ride to reconnect with Silvester De Sousa.

The in-form jockey will be riding for Bin Suroor for the first time since 2014 – a clear sign that Bin Suroor is serious when he says he will be looking to book the best riders for the job on his horses going forward – whoever they are.

And let’s not forget that De Sousa was onboard Farhh when he won his Lockinge and his Champion Stakes off long-breaks….

I don’t know how much of a climb-down it represents for Bin Suroor to book De Sousa. But he’s clearly putting the horse first. Like Bin Suroor, De Sousa knows a little about the Farhh/Racing History family. That experience can only be a bonus.

There is a little rain forecast at Ascot tonight and early tomorrow afternoon. That will do Racing History no harm at all.

I’m out on a limb with this one. But that’s the way I like to play.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the Champions Sprint Stakes (2.00 Ascot)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BRANDO each-way (14s generally)

In the Fillies & Mares Stakes (2.35 Ascot)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ARCHITECTURE each-way (22s generally)

In the Champion Stakes (3.45 Ascot)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – RACING HISTORY each-way (25s 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 now. I’ll be back a little later today with ATC Extra – we’ll be targeting the value in tomorrow’s Balmoral Handicap which closes the Ascot card.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd