A head-scratcher in the feature handicap....

Last Updated: 09.01.2017

Monday, 17th January 2017

A head-scratcher in the feature handicap….

Well done to anybody who managed to find the winner of Saturday’s Veterans’ Handicap Chase series final at Sandown. You are a better man than me.

I must confess that Pete The Feat never even made it onto my radar pre-race. His win is one of those results that has you scratching your head and wondering how these things come about….

On Saturday afternoon, once the race result was known, I revisited my work sheet to see what it was I’d missed about Charlie Longsdon’s charge….

I had noted that a series of no-show efforts had seen the horse drop to an official rating of 124 – a mark which, measured against his best form, gave him claims. But he’d shown nothing in recent times to suggest he was building up to a winning effort….

I’d also noted that Longsdon had booked Aidan Coleman for a first-time ride. But given the horse’s form profile, the booking looked more of a spare than a plot….

I could find little grounds for optimism about the joint oldest horse in Saturday’s field – even after the race had been run….

  • Beaten out of sight

The horse had been sent off a joint-favourite in an egg-and-spoon 6-runner contest last time out at Fontwell….

I suppose something had been expected of him that day in that race worth just £6k. If it were, he had not delivered. He was beaten 33 lengths.

And getting beaten out of sight was starting to look like a habit. That last defeat meant Pete The Feat been beaten an aggregate distance of 133 lengths in his last three appearances on a race track….

In short, Pete The Feat did not give anybody but a dyed-in-the-wool clairvoyant the impression of a horse on the verge of winning his first race in three years – let alone a competitive handicap worth£60k to winning connections. But win it he did – sent off at 20s.

In instances like this, you might think it instructive to turn to the winning trainer and note his take on the reasons for the horse’s quite miraculous improvement….

More times than not though, you are likely to be disappointed. Just as the Sandown stewards were with Mr. Longsdon on Saturday afternoon….

The trainer was called into their office to explain Pete The Feat’s great turnaround in fortune. Unfortunately, Mr. Longsdon was unable to offer any such explanation.

We must simply put the peculiar transformation down to the time-honoured vagaries of horse-racing. Occasionally, especially in valuable handicaps, horses that had seemed bed-ridden and close to the end are suddenly found to be full of beans having been malingering all the while….

  • Not disgraced – but not good enough either

Saturday might have been a good day for me to take to my own bed….

My selections produced a disappointing mix of no-shows and not-quite-good-enough performances – which ultimately drew a compete blank from a betting perspective….

Aerial was particularly under-whelming in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase. He got away slowly, never got into the race at any stage and was toiling a long way from home.

Jockey Jordan Williams reported post-race that the 11yo had finished lame. Upon examination, the veterinary officer found the horse not to be so. One of them was wrong. We will never know which….

My other selection in the race, Gas Line Boy, finished 4th. Earlier on the Sandown card the well-backed Marcilhac had finished 4th in the 32Red Handicap Chase and Chalonnial was beaten into 3rd by the two short-horses in the G1 Tolworth Hurdle.

The contrarian horses weren’t disgraced on Saturday – but nor were they good enough to deliver on the day as hoped.

Down at Wincanton Some Buckle was pulled-up with trainer Tom George reporting that the ground had been too soft for the horse.

  • The last word….

Not a weekend to remember. But we get our fair share of them at Against the Crowd. It’s an inevitable consequence of the way we play the game – avoiding the consensus horses and choosing to seek out value in the market instead….

I don’t fret about it too much. I arrive at the losers using the exact same methods and approaches I use to find the winners. We are never going to get it right all the time – or even half the time….

Our objective is to back sufficient winners at sufficiently good prices to be in front over the long-haul. And we never suffer from a shortage of opportunities….

At the weekend, we go again. The Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick provides the feature target, but there will be other opportunities too….

Before that we have the week ahead to focus on analysis that will assist our efforts to identify value and winning bets in the weeks ahead. At least that’s the plan – as ever.

That’s all from me for today. More tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd