A speculative ante-post bet and my thoughts on the weekend....

Last Updated: 10.01.2020

Friday, 10th January 2020

A speculative ante-post bet and my thoughts on the weekend….

Long term readers will now that I like to speculate on big-upside-low-downside bets. And that I like to be first-up and best-dressed....

And the first thing I must tell you this morning is that I have had a few coins on David Bridgwater’s The Conditional for the Gold Cup (Cheltenham) at 390.0 (389/1) and 380.0 (379/1) on the Betfair Exchange....

On ratings, the 8yo’s got to improve a country mile to even figure in that race. But he’s a fast-improving young chaser – he placed 2nd this year in the Ladbrokes Trophy (although in an admittedly lower-then-par year) – and Bridgwater isn’t some fresh-faced novice with just a head full of silly dreams inspiring his actions....

The man has form. And he’s been here before. Don’t forget that Bridgwater trained the apparent no-hoper The Giant Bolster to finish 2nd in the Gold Cup in 2012 and 3rd in 2014....

Bridgwater says that ‘right now’ The Conditional is ‘not quite as good’ as ‘The Bolster’....

Fair enough. But the fact he even has a Gold Cup entry at all on an official rating of 142 says to me that there’s more than a possibility he’s a damn sight closer to hitting ‘The Bolster’s’ level (and maybe even exceeding it) than the 390.0 on Betfair Exchange suggests....

I’ve not gone mad. If I lose the stake, I won’t be sleeping rough. But if the horse gets to the race, he won’t be 390.0 and I will be looking to lay off, protect my stake and have a big free bet to nothing running for me....

There you have it. There wasn’t much to be had at the price I got on Betfair Exchange. But what there was to be had, I have mopped up. This morning, the horse is generally 100s with the firms. If you have a spare couple of pounds lying about in a betting account, you could do a sight worse....

  • This weekend’s watching brief....

This weekend we’re at Warwick for the Classic Chase (we had a look at the race earlier in the week) and at Kempton for the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle....

The Saturday racing is not all about betting, of course....

It’s also an opportunity to gather information and to monitor events and situations that frequently elude the attention of a mainstream racing media that is fixated on the Pattern....

Here are some of the features, points, issues and themes that my antenna will be tuned to tomorrow afternoon....

Going forward – The Classic at Warwick has proved to be a seedbed race in recent years. It supplied two of the last seven Grand National winners and it has also proved a decent trial for staying chases at the Cheltenham Festival, the Eider at Newcastle, the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. In other words, the race tends to be a transit point for decent staying chasers and is worth studying very closely....

Same with the Kempton race – The Lanzarote has a similar profile. Recent winners have subsequently produced big runs in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. Horses that produce big runs on Saturday are worth having a good look at with that last-named race in mind....

Next week – I’ll be having a very close look at both the Classic Chase and the Lanzarote as part of our ATC coverage next week. Be sure to tune in....

The Conditional – We’ve already mentioned him in connection with the Gold Cup. But tomorrow he continues his progress at Warwick where he is favourite for the race. And nobody can argue that he doesn’t deserve to be. I don’t back favourites in handicaps as a matter of principal. So, I will be opposing on a price basis. But I won’t mind too much if he justifies market sentiment because it will impact positively on his Gold Cup price. I’ll have one eye – at least – on his passage through the race....

The top man – Dan Skelton is the top man when it comes to chases run at Warwick over the last 5-years. I made some comments about his record on Monday. I’m not sure his Captain Chaos offers the best chance of improving on that record. But Skelton runners at this track cannot be easily dismissed.

  • A fit and firing horse at Warwick....

Several horses in the Classic Chase at Warwick (3.00) will need to find or regain a bit of form if they are going to figure....

Unless I can come up with a strong reason to the contrary, I prefer to side with something that has shown a bit of fitness and form and BOBO MAC fits the bill for me at a general 8s & 17/2....

I don’t know what they’ve been doing with the horse at home, but the 9yo has discovered his mojo over fences this term after a stuttering start last year....

He won at Ludlow back in November before bumping into one next time at the same track – one trained by Venetia Williams (previously with Wille Mullins) that might turn out to have been very well handicapped on the day....

He’s up 15lbs on the back of those two performances and will need to improve again. But why not? He’s going the right way and a mark of 135 is one he might very well leave behind – and this step up in trip might well be the factor to draw that additional improvement out....

His mark certainly It entitles him to a nice racing weight tomorrow and in a race where the horses at big prices don’t fill me with confidence, Tom Symonds fit and firing horse represents a fair bet....

  • Down at Kempton....

My read of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ ECHIQUIER is that the 6yo didn’t stay the trip in the G3 Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock in November....

He was going as well as anything in the race on the turn for home but simply didn’t last out the extended 3-mile trip – ultimately finishing 6th of 17 and beaten 12.5 lengths....

Next time – back at 2m4f at Southwell in a lesser contest – he was expected to provide compensation and went off at a short price. But he flopped and got smashed out of sight....

His trainer had no explanation for the performance. You can look at the heavy ground and say that was a factor. Fair enough. But the horse has produced on very soft ground and heavy in the past, so it seems there is more to the sub-standard showing than underfoot conditions....

All I know is that the performance was an aberration. It was not the horse’s true showing. And I reckon that 16s is a big price about a horse that showed up well in that valuable Haydock race and is back to a more suitable trip tomorrow....

He will need to put that Southwell run behind him but it would be no surprise to me – on that Haydock evidence – if he did so....

All the ifs, buts and maybes are factored into the quote. And in a race where few make appeal at the prices, this one strikes as one who could turn out to be a more competitive animal tomorrow afternoon than the market believes....

Nick’s contrarian picks….

To recap on where my idea of the value lies tomorrow afternoon….

In the Classic Chase (3.00 @ Warwick).

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – BOBO MAC (8s & 17/2 generally)

In the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (2.40 @ Kempton).

  • Nick’s Contrarian Picks – ECHIQUIER (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.

  • The final word….

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back in your inbox on Monday with more handicap-focused insight and analysis....

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd