Where my contrarian money is going tomorrow....

Last Updated: 11.11.2016

Friday, 11th November 2016

Good afternoon, contrarians,

On the menu today….

  • A Vintage renewal….
  • Spank the bookie….
  • Two against-the-field in Sunday’s Greatwood….

A Vintage renewal?

The showpiece race on tomorrow’s Cheltenham card is the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (2.25) – contested over the 20f trip.

A field of 19 runners goes to post on ground currently described as good (good to soft in places). There’s rain forecast for tomorrow – from the early hours to mid-afternoon. They’re expecting between 6mm and 8mm to fall and by the time they go to post it could be good to soft all round.

It’s a competitive renewal with 9 horses rated 150+ in the field – and plenty running out of in-form yards. You can make a case for any number….

Jonjo O’Neill field More Of That. If he’s the Gold Cup horse O’Neill thinks he is then he could be well-in on 154. But the O’Neill yard hasn’t produced a single winner from its last 30 runners and that would be the worry at a short price. That said, you can get 18s about the horse (see our Spank the Bookie box below).

Paul Nicholls – who has won two of the last four renewals – turns up mob-handed with four runners. Frodon is the shortest in the betting and turns up carrying a 5lb penalty and on a streak of 3 wins from 3 runs since mid-September. His relative inexperience is what would worry me in a hot big-field contest.

You can make a case for any of the other three Nicholls runners. As De Mee has already been out, won and should strip fitter. The same is true of Art Mauresque. He was 6th in the race last year. He will be another year stronger – but is 9lb higher in the weights. Bouvreuil has been specifically prepared for the race (Gavin Sheehan takes the ride).

Sizing Granite runs for Colin Tizzard for the first time. And the in-form Tom George runs Double Shuffle. And there are plenty of battle-hardened sorts turning out.

Here at Against the Crowd our self-imposed role is to oppose the market and to ferret out the horses that could prove competitive on the day but which have been overlooked by the market. VINTAGE VINNIE is the one that appeals as an each-way bet at this morning’s prices.

This 7-year-old – once described by connections as a ‘lunatic’ – is steadily maturing and putting the craziness behind him. He’s already been out three times this term and should certainly be fit enough to run his race.

He had a confidence booster over hurdles at Worcester at the start of September before being sent to Market Rasen where he scooped a decent handicap pot – winning with real authority.

Next time out at Newton Abbot in a 4-horse affair he got beaten 15 lengths. That might be why he’s been ignored in the market for tomorrow’s race. But I’m drawing a line through that race….

It was an Intermediate Chase and the conditions meant that Vintage Vinnie gave plenty of weight to horses he would have been receiving plenty of weight from in handicap. He was up against it and ran a decent enough race given the circumstances.

He’s had 5 weeks to recover from that string of races, his yard is sending out plenty of winners at the moment and, with the rain set to fall, the ground should be right up his street tomorrow.

He’s towards the bottom of the weights, Johnathan Moore’s claim takes off another 3lbs and I think the 28s with Betway (25s generally) is a nice each-price about a progressive horse with plenty going for him tomorrow afternoon.

Spank the bookie….

It is the fashion for bookies to ‘buy’ new customers by offering big enhanced prices on fancied horses. They consider new customers worth the cost if the horse wins.

Take advantage by opening new accounts and taking the big prices if you genuinely want to back the horse concerned. You don’t owe the bookmaker any loyalty or any additional business subsequently. It’s mercenary but this is war – and mother didn’t raise no choir boys….

This week MORE OF THAT in the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase is the focus of 888Sport’s generosity. Jonjo O’Neill’s one-time World Hurdle winner is 9/2 generally. But new account holders can get on at 18s to the tune of £10.00.

Fancy the horse? Get the big value price here.

Two against the field in Sunday’s Greatwood….

In Sunday’s Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham (2.30) last month’s William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot could have a big bearing on the outcome.

Sternrubin – a horse who is all heart – made all that day, clinging on at the end like a true gladiator.

You can’t knock the horse but he was probably given a little too much rope. On the lightening quick ground he never came back to the chasing pack and those behind were left with a bit too much to do – more than they could cope with on the day.

Modus ran a cracker that day – coming from the back and hitting the frame. As the race panned out there was never going to be enough track for him to get up. But it was a real return to form and it’s no surprise that market has found him for Sunday’s contest. I can see the case for him. But at 7s he’s just a bit too short to justify a bet.

I like Dan Skelton’s CH’TIBELLO who was back in 5th at Ascot – beaten just 1.75 lengths. He was sent off at 6s that afternoon – but drifted in the market before the off. He put in an honest effort but looked like he just lacked match fitness on the day – he certainly had no extra to give at the close.

The one time Scottish Champion Hurdle winner should strip fitter for Sunday’s assignment and his handler has developed quite a knack for winning the big handicap hurdle events. I think the 11s is a fair price.

If there’s a downside it is Harry Skelton’s decision to ride the other Skelton runner, NORTH HILL HARVEY (currently trading at 10s) – with Paddy Brennan coming in for the ride on Ch’Tibello.

North Hill Harvey hasn’t yet been seen this term and must do the job at the first time of asking against several horses that have already shown up well this term. But the riding arrangements suggest connections are confident he can surmount that challenge and put in a big run.

As I say, I like Skelton in these big handicap hurdle events and the one-time pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls comes into Sunday’s race in a vein of good form.

The bottom line is that I can’t split the horses. Harry Skelton can only ride one – and there’s no knowing how tough a choice that was. Choosing one over the other in no way suggests the one he doesn’t ride can’t win.

At the prices I’m going to back both horses against the field – win only – and forego shooting at the place money.

The Contrarian Bet Box….

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

In the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Saturday 2.25 Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – VINTAGE VINNIE each-way (28s Betway & 25s generally)

In the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (Sunday 2.30 Cheltenham)....

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – CH’TIBELLO (11s generally) & NORTH HILL HARVEY (10s 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.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd