With a poor meeting on soft ground at Ayr and a poor meeting on good to soft at Lingfield on the Wednesday, we can move swiftly on to Thursday. The opening 6f 2yo maiden at Goodwood saw another promising run 1st time up for a Hannon newcomer in War Whisper. As previously noted, 1st time is no longer ‘the’ time for Hannon 2yo’s and it proved no different in this case. War Whisper travelled really well and was extremely tenderly handled late on by Hughesy. He is in again there on Friday night and could well be another relatively quick-returning 2yo winner for the yard. The highlight on the card was the Listed Height Of Fashion stakes, saw a facile win for Luca Cumani’s Lady Of Dubai. The notable pre-race pointer here was the weakness of John Gosden’s Jellicle Ball which drifted in ‘this-can’t-win’ style for the 30 minutes before the race. Found to be heavily in season before the 1000 Guineas, better was supposedly expected here, but, she was extremely free early and finished a well beaten 8L third here. Her under-performance does nothing for the solidity of the form and it is likely that, impressive as the winner was, this race will once again have little relevance in Pattern races as the year progresses. Later in the day we saw an interesting 5f maiden for 2yo fillies at Sandown, which looked an obvious chance for Mick Channon’s Kassia to break her maiden and uphold the strong look to the form of the ‘Beshara maiden’ from Ascot. She duly got the job done, but only by a short head from the fast finishing Our Joy. The second was a little outpaced early on this her debut run, but fairly flew home to be narrowly denied. Our Joy is a half sister to a previous star 2yo from the Cox yard in Xtension, she is already Group 1 entered and a 6f maiden should be pretty much a formality wherever she turns up, presuming that she misses Royal Ascot. Another for the notebook in this race was David Elsworth’s Justice Angel. She is well regarded at home and showed nice pace here from an unfavourably high draw before it all got a bit ‘too much’. The experience is unlikely to be lost on her. The other race on the card to interest me was the 1m 2f maiden. Far be it from me to criticise Ryan Moore, but his ride on Dark Deed totally confounded me. It is possible that he may not be entirely straightforward (Dark Deeds that is, we already know about Ryan !) as he wore a hood here on only his third start, but after an admittedly slow start I felt Moore made little effort to ‘put him in the race’ until the race was well and truly over. The pace was moderate and he had no chance coming wide down the middle of the track off the fractions set here from the rear. The form of his second to Storm The Stars has really worked out and he is surely better than this. Given the form of the usually excellent James Fanshawe yard this year (1/54 since February at the time of writing), the performance of second placed Star Storm has to be noted, he was another not ideally placed in a moderately run race (as is Tom Queally’s want) and may well be a horse to follow once the yard hits form again.
Friday saw the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, a race which is rarely the Derby trial it is supposed to be in theory. A good front running ride from the in form Pat Cosgrave saw the previously mentioned Storm The Stars win a shade cosily. Cosgrave clearly got the fractions right in front, but it was still a little disappointing that the highly touted Best Of Times couldn’t pick him up late, even though he was giving the winner 3lbs, the slightly easier ground here should have suited ideally and he just appears to lack another ‘gear’ off the bridle. Much more interesting from a point of view of future ‘punting’ was the 1m maiden run across the card at Haydock. Once again Erik The Red was all the rage (he had been backed into favourite last year for the good Doncaster maiden won by Commemorative), but he came up well short of Saeed bin Suroor’s Racing History who is a full brother to the top class Farhh. Like his brother he appears well suited to a cut in the ground as a ‘galloper’ by Pivotal and was most impressive here in a decent time and was really strong at the finish. 1m 2f looks likely to suit equally well and he could be a proper ‘tool’ in what looked a well above average Haydock maiden. Also of interest from the race is the Alan Swinbank trained Lopes Dancer, he ran a nice race here for a long way at a track the trainer’s runners often under perform at (2/45 last 5 years) and will be of interest should a ‘weaker’ northern maiden be on his agenda anytime soon. Not much of interest at Musselburgh, but I do think Mark Johnston’s Mustaqbal (who won the 7f handicap) is likely to follow up if he remains eligible for 0-75 company after reassessment.
Surprisingly little took my interest in the UK on Saturday with the highlight, arguably, being the success of Michael Dods’ Eastern Angel in the Hilary Needler at Beverley. She looks a real 2yo to my eye and did this really nicely, looking sure to be suited by a 6th furlong in time, I doubt however that this is Royal Ascot form. Of much more interest was the Irish 2000 Guineas card at The Curragh. Whilst the big race itself did little but confirm Gleneagles as the benchmark for the 3yo miler colts this year (and that he looks to be getting progressively lazier) there were 2 performances on the card that I thought of particular interest. The first being the comfortable win for the Godolphin/Bolger 2yo Round Two in the Marble Hill Stakes. Dropping back from a debut 6f success he had little problem laying up over this sharper 5f trip and readily dismissed the O’Brien trained Washington DC looking, as you would expect, particularly strong at the finish and the time was good (but obviously not better) when compared to the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes for older horses 30 minutes later. In this race we might just have uncovered a major player in all of the big Group 1 six furlong sprints to come in Dermot Weld’s Mustajeeb. Ever since the days of Ajdal and Chief Singer I have been a fan of horses with top quality 7f and 1m form dropping back to sprinting and Mustajeeb could well be another to take high honours. He will need to improve again on a 1L beating of Maarek, but there is little reason to think that he won’t. It was also interesting to note the post-race comments of jockey Pat Smullen who said ”I feel a bit vindicated as I’ve been saying for a long time that I feel this is a six-furlong horse. He´s got so much pace and he could be a very good sprinter this year”
Sunday saw the ever-pleasing sight of Roger Charlton’s stalwart Al Kazeem battling to another Group 1 success in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but for me the horse for the future from the race remains Luca Cumani’s Postponed. Postponed was a massive improver with each run last year, culminating in an impressive win in the ‘Voltigeur’ and I see this year proving similar. I was at Sandown for his reappearance behind John Gosden’s Western Hymn when he was clearly (even to my untrained eye) in need of the run and would have found the watered ground against him, here, he was forced to make his own running over an inadequate 1m 2 1/2f on ground again on the easy side for him. Given some quick ground at some stage of the season I find it hard to see him not win again over 1m 4f, probably at Group 2 level, but not inconceivably in a group 1.
I was going to comment in depth on the 6f handicap at Leicester on Monday, but for legal reasons it is perhaps best that I don’t…… Suffice to say that I think that Rio Ronaldo (big late drifter under Shane Kelly, anchored in rear, switched very wide, very late) is definitely better than he showed here and that the Godolphin filly Mistrusting will improve for a 7th furlong.
Little of interest on Tuesday apart from an impressive debut win for the William Haggas trained War Department at Leicester. He was slowly away and green until the 2f pole, but once he got the hang of it, he was uber impressive. He’s a smashing mover with a fast ground action and looks worthy of a place against Round Two and the likes in the Coventry, which is not a bad race at all for once raced unbeaten colts.
More next week if time permits.
Be lucky one and all.
Wednesday saw the start of York’s Dante meeting, with the highlight of the opening day being the Musidora. This years renewal went to John Gosden’s Star Of Seville who idled a bit in front, but battled on gamely to hold off Aiden O’Briens Together forever in receipt of 4lbs. It’s form that rarely figures prominently in the placed horses of the Oaks and I see this year as no different. The first two home are obviously high class fillies, but I felt they should have drawn further clear of Charlie Hills’ Doncaster maiden winner Pandora than they did if the form was to be top class. Given how O’Brien’s fillies have improved for a run this year, I would expect Together Forever to end up as the best of these, but races such as the Ribblesdale rather than the Oaks might end up a more realistic target for either/both of the first two.
I will pretty much pass over the Duke Of York Stakes as a pointer to the big Ascot group one sprints, nothing to see here in my opinion. Of more interest was the performance of Areen for Kevin Ryan in the 5f 2yo Novice race. Beating Ravenhoe 1 1/2L in receipt of 10lbs doesn’t mark you down immediately as top class, but he looked a horse of substance and was well backed for his debut at a track where Ryan often introduces his better 2yo’s, he will surely go forward.
Thursday saw the Dante itself, traditionally as good a Derby trial as there is (for the winner at least), won in convincing style by Golden Horn. Run at a solid pace in a good final time, this years race does appear solid form, it also confirmed that at this point in the season, the O’Brien yard have little to offer in the middle distance 3yo colt division barring Hans Holbein whom we saw at Chester. There appeared little in the way of excuses for the beaten runners and I would not seek to make any, the Derby is not a race in which to make excuses for beaten Dante runners. Quite sensibly, the winner has been supplemented for Epsom (there is only ONE Derby), but connections were so keen per race (and for a while afterwards) to favour the French ‘Derby’ over the shorter trip that I have concerns about taking a short price for Epsom. It might just be that there is not ‘much’ about this year in this division, but it should never be underestimated how demanding a task it is to truly stay the 1m 4f at Epsom at Classic race pace. He is clearly a worthy favourite, but I can’t help feeling there will be plenty of ‘better’ 7/4 pokes over the summer months…. The 5f listed sprint for 3yo’s saw a decent performance from John Gosdens Tendu to run second after an extremely sluggish start and a return to 6f will surely suit, but her starts are getting progressively slower and she could not be backed with any confidence at group level until she proves that she isn’t going to give such starts away to her opponents on a regular basis. It was another little boost for the form of the ‘Limato’ race at Ascot which already looks they key form for the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot.
As befits tradition, Friday was Yorkshire Cup day and this years renewal was truly run and fell to Sir Michael Stoute’s Snow Sky who appeared, to my eye at least, to blow up at the distance but battle on bravely to beat Brown Panther (in receipt of 5 lbs). The winner appears very ‘straight’ in front to me and fast ground is likely to be essential to his chances wherever he goes. Any Stoute horse winning first time up this year has to have his performance marked up. Despite only losing by 1/2L carrying a 5lb penalty, I was a little disappointed that Brown Panther could not get past Snow Sky late when the latter appeared to take a blow, perhaps genuine good ground would suit him better, but the fact that 3rd placed Havana Sky was closing on the front pair again late after having been readily left behind leaves me feeling the form is not totally satisfactory.
It has been apparent for the last couple of years that the Hannon stable don’t ‘ready’ their 2yo’s first time out in the way that they used to and 2nd time up is much more the time for theirs. This was never more evident than with the performance of King Of Rooks in division 2 of the 6f 2yo maiden at Newbury. Turned out just 6 days after running a nice 3rd in what looks a good maiden at Ascot, he looked a different proposition here, travelling strongly before quickening right up and drawing clear on the good to soft ground. He looked a proper tool, but his action did suggest the ease in the ground was a help and he was never stronger than at the finish of the 6th furlong. We should find out more if he takes up his engagement in the National stakes at Sandown on Thursday evening, if he can match the 5f speedsters on quicker ground there, he might just be ‘a bit good’.
Most of the interest on Saturday was focused on Newbury’s Lockinge meeting. A smooth galloping performance from Telescope saw him cement his position at the top of the market for the Hardwicke on ground that had dried to good. Ryan Moore received criticism for his ride at HQ which was clearly wrong, like most of Sir Michaels he just blew up, this will have put him spot on and he is very much the one to beat on decent ground next month. Adaay provided another boost for the ‘Limato’ race form in the Listed sprint, but the race that interested me more was the 1m 2f London Gold Cup. This is traditionally a very strong handicap for improving 3yo’s (check out last years result if you doubt that) and this years renewal went to Roger Charlton’s highly regarded and well backed Time Test. It would appear unlikely though that handicaps will remain an option for him as he would appear to be Listed/Group race bound, so perhaps the performance of 2nd placed Dissolution is of more interest. Let’s be honest, he is not 100% straightforward, doesn’t do anything in a great hurry and appeared to benefit from the refitting of the visor which saw him break his maiden at Goodwood last year, that being said….. he did ‘walk into one’ here and was never stronger than at the finish, a step up to 1m 4f wouldn’t worry me or a big field 1m 2f handicap run at a strong pace with a stiff finish. He is definitely on the radar for Royal Ascot and Newmarket’s July meeting. Night Of Thunder did no more or less than he should with a narrow win in the Lockinge, but it’s form that leaves me totally cold with regard to future group 1 mile races. Personally I thought the performance of 4th placed Integral much more interesting on her seasonal debut, she will continue to be the one to beat when back against her own sex. It is to the credit of the placed horses in the 1m 2f listed 3yo fillies race that they were all able to come from off the pace in a steadily run race and the trouble in running for favourite Pamona leaves the result a little unsatisfactory, but there was no denying the tremendous impression made by Crystal Zvezda, a half sister to Crystal Capella and Hillstar she looks out of the same top drawer and it has to be significant that even the normally reserved Sir Michael was talking of her in the highest regard immediately post race. Wherever she goes, you wouldn’t want to be opposing in a hurry. Over at Newmarket, the King Charles II stakes looked a fair renewal and is often a good guide to the Jersey Stakes at Ascot, neither of Tupi and Latharnach would look out of place in the line up.
Monday saw some nice fast ground at Windsor and once again Clive Cox’s Soapy Aitken took the eye with how he traveled. He still looks green as grass, but has absolute bundles of pace to burn, he dismissed solid yardstick Silver Wings with ease whilst spending most of his time having a good old look around. I’d be all over him in a race like the Windsor Castle, he’s speed, speed, speed.
Tuesday was Tuesday…. little of much interest apart from Sir Michael Stoutes Grand Inquisitor who ;landed the 1m 1/2f maiden at Nottingham in great style. A note of caution is required as market rival Maybe Definitely clearly under performed, but he looked a different animal to the one seen previously at Newbury. He was very straightforward this time and did everything right, the time was good and he falls into the proverbial ‘could be anything category’.
At last the flat season is in full swing (despite days with more jump than flat racing), so it’s time to start keeping track of what has been going on and where better to start than with the Chester May meeting.
The meeting started, as ever, with some decent 2yo’s in the Lily Agnes and, even though this is rarely a race that is a great guide to Pattern races later in the season, this year’s race seemed a decent renewal. It looked a match between David Evans’ Silver Wings and Mark Johnston’s filly Rah Rah, from the ‘plot’ draws in traps one and two, with the dash to lead at the first turn likely to be crucial. A slower break than on his Windsor debut for Silver Wings handed a comfortable lead to Rah Rah and the die looked cast, however he showed great tenacity to come from around 4L behind at the 2f pole to take a narrow lead around 100 yards from home, only for those efforts to take their toll as Rah Rah re-rallied to win, with the pair drawing 5L clear. The time of the race was less than a length slower than the older-horse handicap later on the card (admittedly the rain had set in before that race), and it seems solid, if unspectacular form.
The Cheshire Oaks looked, in terms of overall quality, to be the poor heat it usually is, that said, when Aiden O’Brien bothers to send one over for it, it is usually ‘the one’ and so it proved again this year with Diamondsandrubies providing him with his 4th win in 8 years. With 2 solid prep runs behind her the early 2/1 and 7/4 looked too big and it certainly was. I don’t think there is much point dwelling on the form, other than to note that the winner is beautifully bred and sprinted clear on ground that was probably a touch softer than ideal. She could end up an Oaks player if taking up her engagement there, such was her superiority here she looked an above average winner and with stamina assured she may well be the best winner of the race since Sir Henry’s Light Shift, who did ‘the double’ in 2007.
The Chester Cup form looks solid, despite a moderate overall gallop with all the ‘right horses’ coming to the fore at the finish. There appeared few excuses for the 3rd to 6th place finishers with all of them having the run-of-the-race up front and the best performances were, unsurprisingly from the 1st two home. Second placed Quick Jack ran his usual gallant race in a big handicap having raced a little wider than ideal all the way round as mounts of Richard Hughes are oft asked to here, but winner Trip To Paris was given a peach of a ride by Graham Lee. He quickly found the rail from his 11 draw and hugged the rail for most of the way round, quickening up well from moderate overall fractions to win nicely. He is clearly a progressive stayer, but, my concern for him would be quick summer ground (should it be allowed to happen), despite being by Champs Elysee, as he clearly relished the ease in the ground here and his Ripon win (officially good to firm) was on good ground. He has some quality Ascot form, but has disappointed there twice on genuine good to firm.
By Thursday the ground was genuinely soft and the most interesting race of the day for me was the five runner Huxley Stakes. With less than 2L covering the first four home it would be easy to dismiss the race as below standard and the form as inconclusive, but I think that would be unfair. Winner Maverick Wave did have a relatively uncontested lead, but he made it an honest gallop and battled back courageously when headed at the furlong pole. The move up to 1m 2f has been the making of him and he remains progressive. I was at Sandown when second placed Cannock Chase made his debut this season on easy ground, paddock inspection showed that he clearly wasn’t ready that day, but I fear it was the soft ground that was his undoing here, he did little wrong, it appeared simply that he could not sustain his run in the conditions, compensation awaits on quicker ground. Third placed Air Pilot appeared, on paper, to be best suited by conditions and was duly backed as such, but he is a ‘big unit’ and never seemed totally happy in the tight track. He stayed on nicely to the line under fairly tender handling from Kingscote and looks a major player in this type of race for the rest of the season whenever he gets his conditions.
Having saddled 5 of the previous 8 winners, it was a little surprising to see Aiden O’Briens Hans Holbein so easy to back. O’Briens runners in this tend to turn up and win or run a shocker, but as the figures show, it’s more often the former. This may have been due to the inference by Tom Segal in his Pricewise piece that Hans Holbein was the 5th choice of connections to run in the race (I wish I could tell their preferred order from the 5 day decs !!). The cheekpieces applied at Leopardstown seem to have really helped his concentration and under an aggressive ride from the gate, Ryan Moore was able to dictate matters and kick clear from the home turn. He looks all about stamina and has plenty on either side of his pedigree. The Queens Vase at Royal Ascot would be the race for him if he was mine as I doubt that beating maiden winner Storm The Stars is Derby winning form. Time will tell…
On Friday the ground at Chester had turned to what I like to call ‘proper soft’, the forecast rain had arrived ahead of schedule and conditions were thoroughly testing. Attempting to unravel the 4 runner Dee Stakes looked a waste of time and attentions were focused firmly on the Ormonde stakes. The only thing in my mind that stopped Tac De Boistron from being an odds on poke was his 7lb penalty and even with that I couldn’t make him much more than an 11/10 shot. The early 11/4 and 5/2 available shows just how poor the odds compilers of today are (yes I am aware it got beat ! Just because it got beat doesn’t mean these were good prices !) Bets were struck and all was well as he breezed 3L clear into the straight. The 1.1 hedge was cancelled and I had the pleasure of watching him trade 1.03 before getting kippered by Clever Cookie, he will still be the horse to beat in all the top staying races this season when the ground is soft. The winner deserves much credit too as this was, in my eyes at least, as good as his Doncaster form last year. Given cut in the ground, he could have his best ever year, even at the age of seven.
By contrast, the ground at Ascot was lovely quick summer flat ground with plenty of fastish times recorded. It is perhaps ironic then that the most eye catching performance of the night came in the slowest run race. The Millgate Maiden Fillies Stakes often throws up some nice types for the future and this year looks no exception, but I thought the performance of winner French Dressing was little short of spectacular. In a race run at little more than a hack canter she was very green at every stage, after ‘jumping’ prominently she immediately pricked her ears and was allowed to drift back through the field, so much so that she turned for home in 7th place and appeared to have plenty to do, especially as she was initially checked when attempting to start her run just over 2f out, but that is when it all changed, it took William Buick about half a furlong to get her organised again, she then grabbed hold of the bridle and quickened clear in the space of a 200 yards, pricking her ears again throughout the final furlong. She has a pedigree to die for and a stride to match. Time may show that all she did was beat ‘trees’, but I very much doubt it.
Fast ground again at Ascot on Saturday, but markedly slower times due to a stiff headwind, a day to ‘mark up’ any performances you noted by runners ‘on the pace’ For me the race to take from the card was the opening 1m 4f handicap won by 230k gns purchase Penhill for legendary football punter Tony ‘The Lizard’ Bloom. Penhill, like 3rd horse Oasis fantasy, ran free throughout, a more patient ride in a better race will surely see him to much better effect and the fact that he won by only a short head will hopefully mean that the handicapper will not be too harsh on him, he could win a big prize this year. Oasis Fantasy did not have the excuse that Penhill had for his freshness in that it was not his first run this year, he was equally intractable on his reappearance at Thirsk (off another moderate pace), which was his first run back from a gelding operation. If they can get him to settle he remains feasibly handicapped and has some fair fast ground form at Ascot. Third placed New Year’s Night ran a nice race in 3rd having been given too much to do by Kevin Stott, but he looked very straight in front to me and fast ground may be essential for him.
Despite protestations of good ground at Lingfield, both days of their 2 day meeting were run on ground no better than good to soft. The only race that interested me was the Oaks Trial. It’s rarely much of a ‘trial’ and normally doesn’t take much winning, to that end the Evens on offer about Wedding Vow looked fair to me as either of her previous runs looked good enough to win a standard renewal. I was expecting her usual tardy start, but similarly I was expecting Moore to go forward on her, unfortunately after early crowding he made no effort to improve his position until the home straight and then attempted to make ground up the congested ‘inner’, a rare tactical faux-pas from Moore, but an expensive one for me, I really should know better than to take short prices round that ‘dog track’……
Nice quick ground at Windsor on Monday night saw a return to the winners enclosure for Shifting Power, he traveled well and was well on top at the end, but I found the performance a little underwhelming. He was another that I saw at Sandown who definitely needed the run that day and did nothing wrong here, I suppose someone will want him at a big price in the Queen Anne if he takes up his entry, it just won’t be me.
As for ride of the week, that surely goes to Tom ‘The Stable Lad’ Queally on Stolen Story in the last at Windsor on Monday night. A confirmed hold-up horse he had him running keenly and prominent early and then decided to give up ‘cheap lengths’ by dropping him in as the pace slowed approaching the turn’ he challenged wide in the straight with his whip in his left hand, thus ensuring 3 bumps with 3rd placed Vanishing on his inner, only when all was lost did he switch his whip to his right hand. If this was a ‘stopping ride’ it was almost flawless, if it was a genuine effort to win the race, it just shows the value of ‘the man who almost got Frankel beat’. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions…..
If time permits, I will attempt a similar piece next week (if anyone is interested !!)
The little bit of Christmas in March which is The Cheltenham Festival has now come and gone. It’s a little bit over 50 weeks until we get to do it all again (and about 6 weeks until the hype starts for next year), so it’s time to reflect on what happened and what we can take away for the future. The general consensus seems to be that the betting shop punters all won so much on the first day that the three subsequent days weren’t enough for them to do it all back, my week was summed up in the statement I made to ‘The Laird of Airdrie’ when he asked for the ‘quick version’ of how I had fared : ‘ I didn’t carry much luck, made a couple of poor decisions, didn’t play as heavily as normal for the most part, small to me ‘.
It all kicked off, as ever, with the Supreme Novices’ on Tuesday. To my eye it wasn’t exactly a great renewal with Douvan looking the obvious stand-out for the Irish and L’ami Serge the clear form pick for the home team. I couldn’t have Jollyallan (will make a lovely novice chaser) on the drying ground and found the bits of money for horses like Seedling nothing short of bizarre, so it was time to get the meeting started by going for ‘half a touch’. With the slight doubt (as he was unproven on an undulating track and drying conditions, but not unlikely to be effective on them) surrounding Douvan, a ‘lump’ each-way on L’ami Serge looked the way forward, especially with connections past and present suggesting they thought he would improve for the better ground. Unfortunately a 12 runner field meant that Hills didn’t commit commercial suicide again and offer extra places, but to my eye he looked in a different league to all bar Douvan and was ‘bomb proof’ for the frame. A small 4 figure each-way bet at 7/2 and 4/1 was purloined and a saver on Douvan at 9/4 to cover the win stakes was struck. What could possibly go wrong ? I am afraid this was one of those occasions when I knew I was in trouble from the get-go. Slower away than ideal and further back than I had hoped he never travelled with any fluency, was hampered in rear by the fall of Seedling and again down the hill when running into the rear of the weakening Some Plan. I can’t help but think, even though he never really ‘ran his race’, he would just about have been third without the trouble, the saver on Douvan dulled the pain a little, but it was not the desired start. I am sure L’ami is better than this. Douvan did nothing wrong, won comfortably and clocked a ‘proper’ time, but I can’t help but feel it wasn’t an equivalent performance to that of Vautour (The Monster) 12 months before, time will tell…..
The Arkle brought about another tactical ‘mistake’. It has been apparent for years that quality hurdlers (145+) are the call in the Arkle (with the exception of the aberration that is Western Warhorse, how did that happen ?), but I was seduced by the shape of the race and with some proper ‘muck’ lining up, I felt compelled to play the ‘snide’ each way on Vibrato Valtat. I did manage to get a few ‘buttons’ on Un De Sceaux at Evs, but surely with most of the field lacking experience and/or a recent run the place part of the bet looked massive and it was always possible that the jolly might tip-up, right ? Alas, once again it was not to be, coming down the hill it was all going to plan, but in attempting to go-and-get Un De Sceaux, Vibrato left his finishing effort behind, another decent each-way poke one place out of the frame and my position ‘behind the eight-ball’ was well and truly secured just 2 races in. As far as the race goes. The winner looks a proper tool, destined to take high rank in what is, at the moment, a far from vintage 2 mile chasing division. He will always be free-going in front, but does it within himself and proved he can go-again from the front up the hill. I doubt W. Mullins will be losing any sleep at the prospect of taking on Dodging Bullets and Somersby in the future.
The Champion Hurdle was all about 2 things: Was Faugheen as good as he had looked in every run he had ever had ? ; and what was going to fill the places in one of the outstanding each-way thieving races of the season ? The answer to the first question was a resounding yes. We all know Ruby rode them all to sleep from the front and the race was won in a substantially slower time than the Supreme, but he was quite clearly in a different league. It transpires that a ‘kissing spine’ was the excuse for The New One, but it’s hard to envisage the circumstances under which any of those who finished behind him could ever reverse the placings. It was also another plus for the Neptune Investments hurdle as a pointer to the Champion Hurdle (as opposed to the Supreme). From a punting point of view the race was another disappointment, too little on the winner at 6/4 and too much each-way on Jezki (he had to frame if The New One didn’t, didn’t he ?) We were now not only ‘behind the eight-ball’, but ‘up against the cushion’ as well !
As anyone who read the day 1 preview I did for those lovely people over at Betting Expert will know, I had been doing a rain dance (in vain) for weeks in the run up to The Festival. The reason for this being my strongly held belief that Glens Melody is the second best hurdling mare in Britain and Ireland. They will also know that this opinion was marginal on good ground, but substantial on soft ground. If the hurdles course had ridden ‘Soft’ I would’ve had my biggest bet for years on Glens in the ‘without Annie Power’ market, but it didn’t…. hence Plan B came into operation. I took all the bits of 5/2 that I could with Powers and had a saver on Polly Peachum at 9/2 with Ladbrokes (in the shops of course, imagine getting a bet from them online !!) We all know what transpired, Annie Power was on her way to proving herself head and shoulders above the rest when she appeared to jump the shadow of the final hurdle and came down leaving Glens and Polly to fight out the finish. With the retiral of Glens, any conjecture about who would win a rematch has been removed, but we are left with a few obvious clues to take from the race. Firstly, that Polly Peachum is clear second best on good ground (I doubt she will be asked to run again on proper soft); secondly that The Pirate Queen is better than her mark of 135 on good ground (the going descriptions for her previous two wins are wrong !) and that Bitofapuzzle is going to be a proper 3 mile staying chaser on Soft ground. It’s hard to imagine any of the others of her ‘sex’ living with her next year and, despite the mares chase program not offering quite as many options as the hurdle program, she should run up a sequence when she goes over fences next year. Financially we were still ‘behind the eight-ball’, but we had at least spotted the angle to get out of the snooker.
The National Hunt chase is a race I have always loved and, over the years, had a reasonable amount of success in (if you want to see a piece of ‘magic’ watch J.T McNamara’s ride on Rith Dubh in 2002, it still gives me goose bumps). Once again the wagon-shunters backed a 6yo in to favourite so we had to play in the race. In a moment of genius totally in line with pretty much everything else I had done that day, I decided to abandon the JP/Elliott plot up Cause Of Causes and go all in 4 places on the runner of the other man with a great record in the race, Alan King, and his Sego Success. I am still at a loss as to whether the steady pace meant he got outpaced late, or he didn’t stay the 4 mile trip, either way it was another bet one place out of the frame and another chance missed. Back ‘behind the eight-ball’ we went…..
The novices handicap chase to finish the card had been dominated a couple of years ago by 2 horses who ran in the Timeform race at the January meeting and I decided this was the way to go. I had an each-way swing at Generous Ransom at 10/1 (the winner of that race) and the Phillip Hobbs trained Horizontal Speed at 16/1 (similar profile to his previous winner Copper Bleu). Horizontal traded a shade of odds on going to the last and Generous traded a shade of odds on just after the last, of course neither won, that honour went to Irish Cavalier, who had run third in the Timeform race ! A bit of pace money was had, so it was far from a disaster, even if it did feel like another crossbar rattled….
I won’t spend too long on Day 2 as it was one of the least inspiring Festival cards I have ever seen.
The Neptune was run at a farcical pace, some nice staying novices all finished in a heap after a three furlong dash to the line as no one was prepared to go on. The whole world seemed to know Windsor Park would reverse form with both Nichols Canyon and Outlander, apart from me that is…. Two tiny each-way bets on the latter two named resulted in a small loss on a race in which I had no strong opinion. Form to ‘wipe your arse with’ I fear.
The first bet I struck on The Festival this year was on Don Poli, technically he lacked the experience (and recent run) of a ‘standard’ winner of this race, but, it looked a shocking renewal. His opposition was The Young Master, a handicapper who hadn’t run this calendar year, Southfield Slowboat (Theatre), and Kings (I can beat Sausalito Sunrise if you give me a solo) Palace. With Coneygree looking set to go for the Gold Cup the 3/1 and 5/2 was starting to look good and then it happened…. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but, Richard Birch of the Racing Post is (in my most humble of opinions) the absolute kiss-of-death, any punter who writes regularly about his credit accounts (who the f**k still has them in this day and age ?!) is not someone who’s opinion would reinforce my own. I have made it a habit to bail-out of any position I have if he has tipped the beast in question, or forget about the race if I’m not already involved.This is a tactic which has worked VERY well in recent times. Don Poli was his nap of the meeting….. So there I was, stuck in a quandary, when my mobile rang, it was Davie C (my partner in crime), I told him the dreadful news (having got him involved in the bet initially) and was surprised at his reaction, a massive guffaw !! Not only was it Birchy’s nap, it was our mate George’s. I appreciate this won’t mean much to you, but take it from me, the Birchy/Geo combo can only lead to disaster ! It’s not that George is a bad judge, far from it, but he is (even more than me) the WORLDS UNLUCKIEST MAN, this is a guy who once bet a Lucky 15 and all four horses in it died on the track !! (I swear that’s the truth). Throw in the fact that Brian Cooper needs a map and compass to complete the course at Cheltenham without meeting trouble 6 times and my decision was made for me, BAIL !! Shrewdly I decided to do this at 2/1 (just before he went 13/8) and ended up in the position where, no matter what happened, I got a round of drinks to dull the pain. You know the rest, like total solar eclipses, weird things happen once a century and Birchy and Geo got paid. As for the form of the race, Don Poli won, despite ground on the quick side for him, despite his lack of experience and despite a massive amount of assistance from the saddle. He’ll be a proper 3 mile plus chaser on soft ground and (for stakes race purposes) is the only animal which holds any interest going forward, in general, more form to ‘wipe your arse with’.
I have little to say about The Champion Chase and, without wanting to detract from the achievement of the winner, ask you to consider one thing, is beating Somersby and Special Tiara by 1 1/4L and 1 3/4L ‘Championship’ form ? I fear next year there will be a changing of the guard. Also, if you backed Sprinter Sacre at single figure odds, you really should have a good hard look at yourself, that is, if you can still look yourself in the mirror….
Having missed the early 9/1 Moon Racer in the bumper, the rest of the day held no interest for me other than more minor frustrations.
Thursday arrived and with it the mad scramble to get what I could on ‘The Monster’ (Vautour) at best prices available. Unfortunately it was not as much as I hoped, but still my biggest bet of the week, some 9/4, a bit of 2/1 and a press-up at 2.7 meant I averaged a bit better than 2/1. I had rather hoped to avail myself of a bit of Corals 5/2 at 8.30am that morning as advertised, but as their shop didn’t open until 9am, it proved to be yet another ‘fantasy price’. Those of you who spot my occasional Twitter comments will know that I was threatening to ‘unfollow’ anyone who repeated the nonsense about him having jumped poorly in the past. His ‘massive error’ at Leopardstown was nothing more than a slip and to my mind he had barely touched a twig in three chase starts. He faced 2 solid opponents in Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido (who seemed to run to the pound on their previous meeting) and the useful Ptit Zig, but his marked preference for soft ground meant that I felt he could be easily discounted. More of a problem might be if team tactics were employed and his stablemate Irish Saint was used to get Vautour ‘at it’ a long way from home. The long and the short of it is that they tried and they failed. The race was effectively over after 2 fences, Vautour’s jumping was prodigious, breathtaking and (bar getting in tight at one) flawless. He’s the real deal, a champion in the making, hopefully to be enjoyed for years to come. Almost certain to be at his very best on decent ground, he’s got the pace to drop back in trip and the pedigree to have no problem going up in trip. They will all come and have a go, but, unless it’s a real slog-in-a-bog, they will all come up short. He’s a horse worth travelling to see, personally I hope it’s to Kempton at Christmas (on some nice ground) to watch him win his first King George.
We had now hit the front on the meeting, but the frustrations were far from over. A small and unsuccessful pop at the now seemingly impossible Coral Cup was followed by a decent each-way swing at Ma Filleule at 13/2 and a win saver on Don Cossack at 9/2 in the Ryanair. A mistake at the top of the hill when going well and almost being brought to his knees at the second last when Cooper tried to go between horses (how poor is he here ? Was getting rid of Davy Russell for him not a shocking decision ?) put paid to Don Cossack, but I did think turning in that Ma Filleule would go and get the enigmatic Uxizandre. Alas it was not to be, Uxizandre ran a belter (and a belting time) from the front and kept going strongly, A.P got his winner and the world was a better place, apparently….. This is undoubtedly strong form, but whether the winner will put it in again like that I wouldn’t like to guess. I would definitely be worried if he was asked to do it again quickly at Aintree off the back of such a monstrous effort. Don Cossack looked the best horse in the race to my eyes, but perhaps on a flatter track with a bit more give in the ground. Ma Filleule might be hard to place in top company as I am led to believe she was totally primed for the Ryanair.
The World Hurdle is another race I’ve grown to love over the years. From the days of Galmoy and Trapper John in the 80’s to the glory days of the noughties and Baracouda, Iris’s Gift, Inglis Drever and Big Bucks. Alas no more, what a motley crew went to post this year. It is a race where you just don’t finish out of the first 2 and return to win the next year. To that end I went looking for a young pretender, the pin fell on Lieutenant Colonel (very small as Cooper was involved again) and the race was won by another ‘ex wind-op’ job in Cole Harden, good luck to them, but it’s a medicre division compared to years of old and I doubt I will get involved with any of them any time soon.
Alas,alas, alas, the frustrations were far from finished. The Plate involved a few each-way attempts, the best of which would have been Monetaire and Champion Court. Front running tactics were sensibly re-employed on Champion, but he couldn’t see it out up the hill and Monetaire getting ‘left’ around 8 lengths at the start before getting done a length and a quarter did little for my mood. A fair handicap as ever, but I doubt it’s form to get carried away with.
I had no great view in the Kim Muir and am afraid that by the time I got the message that The Package had ‘worked the place down and was as good as ever’ he was 16/1 into 8/1, no good to man nor beast. When he drifted back to 13 on the machine I threw my smallest bet of the year (not just at Cheltenham, but of the entire year !) at him and then proceeded to boo in running ! If there is such a thing as a ‘sickening 12/1 winner’ this was it. Ho hum.
Friday the 13th and Gold Cup day too, what more could you want from a days racing ? (I love betting on Friday the 13th !). The answer to that is a few opinions. I had nada, zilch, nowt, more than a passing fancy and the uncertainty about the ground with the arrival of the rain meant that the foot was well and truly off-the-pedal.
I couldn’t get the fancy early prices in The Triumph so had a small win bet on Peace and Co and a small each-way Top Notch 4 places. Another ‘cup of tea’ to me, with Top Notch ultimately proving the better result. It didn’t look like ‘Our Conor form’ , but the 3 Henderson horses appear significantly ahead for their contemporaries without looking likely to worry Faugheen and co as 5yos. The Triumph is invariably a good guide to the 4yo race at Aintree these days. If ‘Chemical’ lets any of the 3 take their chance there, they would be the obvious one to beat.
I swerved the County totally and did likewise with the ‘Potato Race’ (how slow did they all look ?) and not being convinced that the ground had quite ‘gone’ enough for Coneygree and Many Clouds in the Gold Cup (could you really bet an Oliver Sherwood horse to win a Gold Cup ?), swerved that too. I did, however, cheer like a madman for Coneygree all the way up the run in like everyone else with a soul. A terrific performance and result for real jump racing people. The kind of result which is nigh on impossible on the flat. Coneygree will of course be a player if he returns next season, but his troubles are well documented and it couldn’t be relied upon. Djakadam ran a corker for a 6yo and will definitely be a force in years to come, but I think they will all be looking over their shoulders next year, if not for ‘The Monster’, then for Don Poli (but probably for The Monster !) The winning time was particularly good, so it would be foolish to underestimate the form.
I missed the early move for Killultagh Vic in the Martin Pipe and refused to take ‘unders’, despite him looking like he might have got in cheaply on his L’ami Serge and stakes race form (yet more frustration) and all that remained was to trade the nice few quid I had on Ned Buntline at 8/1 when the firms stepped in and shortened up A.p McCoy’s final Festival mount, as they surely would, right ? Wrong, 30 mins before the race I could’ve had it all away for a nice little wage at 4.5/4.6, instead I got greedy thinking it could get shorter still. 6.0 and 6.2 were the levels I had to trade at in the end and all that was gained was a slightly larger ‘cup of tea’ than earlier.
All in all, a week of frustrations. Great racing in places, disappointing in others and a load of new champions in the offing. ‘Small to me’ just about summed it up.
As many of you will know, I was lucky enough to ‘serve my time’ at I.G. Sport under the guidance of Ernie (Great One) Burns and Toby Brereton. What tools I have for making a living at the game were honed there. Ernie remains one of my dearest (and shrewdest) friends and I am still able to keep in touch with Toby (The Boss) occasionally. Of all the lessons I learned from them, selecting, pricing and betting on match bets was definitely the most sophisticated. There seems to be a view among bookmakers these days that all that is required in the selection of matches is to put every horse that is the same price as another in a match and go 5/6 each of two, this couldn’t be more wrong if they tried…….
It is true that the following advice will be even more pertinent to spread-match betting than fixed odds matches, but, the spread boys are most unlikely to ever make such basic mistakes. Like most of these ‘extra’ markets, they were invented by the spreads companies and they remain much, much better at pricing them (when did you ever see the fixed odds companies put their favourites and winning distance markets up before the spread companies ? That’s right, never !!).
There are five ‘essentials’ that you have to consider in any racing match bet. I will take it as a given that everyone can spot the one to be with in chase matches where one of the players has form figures FFUF…
1. GROUND Yes, you’ve guessed it’ I’m leading-out with my old favourite ‘ground’. There is no excuse nowadays for not knowing if a horse is proven on a particular type of going or not and the simple maxim is – if you don’t know, don’t put it in a match and if offered the chance to play on one, sit it out. It really is that simple. There are enough betting opportunities these days that taking a chance on the single most important factor of your bet just shouldn’t be on your radar.
2. TRIP It’s all very well ‘taking a chance it will stay’ on a win single when you are getting nice odds against about a horse going up in trip ‘getting it’, it’s another thing altogether to take a chance at match-bet prices, especially if the other is a guaranteed stayer. Bookmakers pay out on who crossed the line first in these bets, not who was cruising at the two furlong pole. It occasionally happened that some of the kids I trained on the racing would say ”I’ve put this one in a match as I’ve bet it ‘coz I think it will stay”, my reply was always the same ”good luck, but take that chance with your own money, not the companies”……
3. RUN STYLE Probably as important as any of these factors. How many times have you seen it, two horses trading at 5.0 on Betfair, yet one is 1.8 for the place and the other is 2.1 ? As often as not this is because one is a prominent racer (especially a front runner) who is likely to drop out of contention if the pace is overly strong or doesn’t get it’s ‘own way’ in front, the other will almost certainly be the hold-up horse who may not get to the leaders if they get their ‘own way’, but is certain to be finishing his race off and unlikely to be beaten out-of-sight. In a reasonably sized field it’s almost impossible for these horses (who may well have equivalent win chances) to have equivalent chances of being in the frame. These are the archetypal matches which just shouldn’t appear. The spread boys will ALWAYS have the strong stayer as clear favourite, or they will avoid the match completely. If the fixed odds boys bet ‘each of two’ you really should be playing….
4. FITNESS It seems so obvious that it barely needs mentioning, but time and time again the fixed odds boys just throw up the front two in the market, even if one of them hasn’t had a recent run. An example of which could be seen only today. In the 3.30 at Plumpton, four major bookmakers seemed happy to put Suzy Smith’s Little Boy Boru up against Warren Greatrex’s Virtuose Du Chenet. Little Boy was having his third run of the season and had won well on similar heavy ground nine days ago, staying on strongly up the Sandown Hill, Virtuose was having his first run in the country having not run since May and changing hands for just 5k Euros soon after. Was betting the match 4/6 and 11/10, when they were 13/8 and 5/2 in the win market, really taking enough care to cover for the potential ‘blow out factor’ ? Which of those two was really least likely to run their race ? I know Warren Greatrex is in good form, but do traders really have to ‘gamble with the companies money’ when they just don’t know ? Surely it’s simpler just to put the first timer in short as a ‘careful’ in the win market and avoid the match ?
5. JOCKEY The same jockeys that you avoid in your placepots are probably the ones you are going to want to avoid in match bets. I won’t attempt to list a whole ream of names here, you probably know every bit as well as me (if not better) who they are, but there is nothing worse than being four lengths clear in a match with a furlong to go only to see your jockey drop his hands because he can’t reach the frame, whilst the jock on your opponent punches it out for 7th place to ‘do’ you on the line. Don’t forget that, no matter how much you might fancy one to win the race, they may end up fighting it out ‘down the field’. Strong jockeys with a reputation for fitness and a ‘grinding’ style will always be preferable to ‘posers’ who give up the ghost when there is no 7.5% to be had.
I hope this little list might help some who rarely play matches or perhaps struggle when they do, but, a word of warning…… The fixed odds boys continue to throw dozens of matches up every day, seemingly with little thought, but they really don’t like it when you play them often and beat them. They are a quick way to have accounts restricted online, so be careful if you play them on accounts that are ‘good’ or, you really need. If you can find a firm that lays them in their shops on the other hand…. crack away !!
Be lucky one and all.
Here we all are on the Monday after Royal Ascot, trawling our way through the bog standard dross which is synonymous with midweek racing in the UK. It’s a massive anti-climax, but clearly it can’t be Ascot every day and we only have to wait until the weekend for some decent fare. Unfortunately, it looks like this will be the last ‘Pitman’s Derby’ meeting to be run in it’s entirety on turf before ARC dig up one of the best (and generally best kept) turf tracks in the country to feed our overwhelming desire for more all weather racing…… ‘Sad, Mad, Bad’ was the headline used by Tony Morris to describe Peter Savill’s decision not to run Celtic Swing in the 1995 Derby, I think it equally pertinent to use it with regard to this decision too. Look out for more 0-60 floodlit handicaps at 8.45 in December, perfect fodder for the shops to justify keeping them open for the FOBT players as, make no mistake, this is the driving force behind much of the fixture list now.
It was terrific to finally have a major flat racing ‘Festival’ run in the UK on genuinely fast racing ground. Top class horses running in their optimum conditions (flat breds generally run to their best on good to firm ground, NOT good as the myth-peddlers would have you believe) and breaking track records as they should. Don’t be fooled though that this was part of some masterplan of racecourse preparation, it happened by accident. The application of 10mm of water by the Clerk on the same day that a 15mm thunderstorm hit the course is actually the ONLY reason we ended up with ‘proper’ flat racing ground, without the thunderstorm he would probably have continued to water on a daily basis and we would’ve ended up with the usual sludge on top which is synonymous with other major meetings like Newmarket’s July meeting and ‘Glorious’ Goodwood. Thankfully, with the words ‘good to soft’ remaining (in part) in the going description right up until the morning of the first day, the possibility of watering in the 96 hours before kick-off was taken from the Clerk’s hands. It should also be pointed out that the fact it would clearly be riding good to firm had been missed, but I will try not to be over critical as in only applying 2 ‘lots’ of 4mm of artificial water he cannot be accused of an exagerated reaction to the position he found himself in. Mr Stickells quite rightly pointed out that evapotranspiration rates would be around 3mm per day, laying to rest the myth perpetuated by other Clerks that 8mm per day to ‘maintain’ is required.
In general the meeting went well for me, mistakes were made and a few were understaked, but I’d have taken what I got ‘out-of-court’ on Tuesday morning, so I really can’t complain.
Tuesday was relatively slow, the Queen Anne is never the strongest Group 1 of the season and the good reports of Toronado’s prep, including the fact that he had been for two racecourse gallops persuaded me to take the bit’s of Evs and 10/11 that I could get and it turned out to be the right decision. This was followed by a fun 20 minutes or so just after 3pm. After the usual confirmation from Willie Power that all was well with Sole Power and he thought he would win (he tends to do that when Willie fancies him) , I sent a text to my old Boss at IG Sport Toby Brereton wishing him well with his last remaining horse in training (Toby has become totally disenfranchised with ownership in this country over the last few years as his horses mostly required fast ground and were rarely allowed it, another good owner lost to the BHA’s watering policy) Orpsie Boy. The old fella is 11 now, but clearly still loves his racing, even if he does take a run or two to get going these days. Apparently he had struggled with the turn at Musselburgh last time out and as long as Thirsk hadn’t been seriously overwatered (it had been slightly) Toby thought if he was ever going to trouble the judge again, it should really be today. Knowing how shrewd Toby is and given that he had already been backed from 14/1 to 8/1, I should probably have ’emptied’ onto him, as it was I had a very, very small each way bet for old time sake and watched him win comfortably. I cheered as loudly as for any bet at Ascot in the week though, it really was one of those occasions when it ‘wasn’t about the money’. 15 minutes later Sole Power got Hughesy out of trouble and did the business (I had saved each way on Hot Streak in the morning in case the was any residual ‘juice’ in the ground) so all was well and I set about the texts of congratulations to both. If I’ve ever had text conversations with cross the card winning connections before, I’ll be damned if I can remember it.
Wednesday turned out to be the best day of the week despite the fact I ‘fell’ for Treve. I had decided 8/11 was the cut off point for betting her and actually managed to get a bit more than I expected at the early 4/5. A lot has been said and written since about her performance. I think the way she moved to post (if only RUK had flagged this up BEFORE the race !!) and the way she moved through it tells you this was not her form. I don’t want to detract from the performance of The Fugue who ran right up to her brilliant best and was beautifully prepared for this by the genius that is Johnny G, but Treve is better than that. Anyone who thinks it was the fast ground should have a look at her Prix Diane win and the time she achieved it in…. Small bets on Mustajeeb and Muwarry got me off to a small but reasonable start. It also helped that when I asked Willie if Anthem Alexander was as good as she had looked at Tipperary he replied ‘Yup’ (U don’t need any more than that….) So a half decent each way bet was landed and the multiples I had placed (I rarely do them except at the big meetings) were both 2 up with 2 to come, exciting times !! Unfortunately my main multiple had I’m Super Too in it (at Hamilton) and a bashed head it the stalls quickly put paid to that dream. The other ‘banker’ on the day was Sir Michael’s Integral in the Windsor Forest. His record in the race, along with that of Cheveley Park is exemplary. 3/1 ew 1/4 the odds looked as close as you could get to a ‘bet to almost nothing’, especially with the lousy records of penalised and Godolphin runners in the race. A saver on Esoterique and a small go at the forecast (on the Newmarket form) came unstuck, but it was still a good race. We also had 3/4 in one multiple and 3/3 with one to come in the other. A serious lack of involvement in this years Hunt Cup meant the race was neither here nor there for me and I’m afraid the dream of 4/4 in the other multiple died in the last when Eddie Lynam’s Oddisea could finish only midfield. All in all a reasonable day, even if I did ‘rattle the crossbar’ for a big payout.
Thursday was one of those days when I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whilst trying to burgle all of the 5/4 The Great War and 6/4 Leading light that I could, I totally forgot to bet Cannock Chase. The long and the short of it is I got way too much on The Great War (I really did like him so no complaints, I just got it totally wrong ). It was poor start, compounded by seeing Cannock smashed into 7/4 which I wouldn’t take. A small bet on Maid In Rio across the card eased the pain slightly but my decision to offload my Leading Light position after the poor run of The Great War (just before Bracelet won !!) was always going to come back and haunt me. It was one of those afternoons when I was constantly chasing my tail and could do nothing right. The only thing left was to jump on the bus to Paddy Powers and have a little go (6 places) at the Britannia. Two very small each ways, with tiny win press-ups on Hor’s De Combat and Born in Bombay actually managed to put me a bit in front (even I don’t need much at 14/1 ew and 23.0 to undo damage). The winnings were then laid at 1.99 on Betfair as the wagon-shunters piled into Engerlund against Uruguay. I’m no football judge, but were they watching the same game as me against Italy on Saturday night ?
Whereas Thursday was the day for wrong decisions early in the card. Friday was the day for ‘getting the value and doing my bollox’. Each way bets on Patience Alexander at 9/2 (money back) and Elite Gardens at 12/1 (sp 6/1) provided a nice loss to start the day, as did my match bet of Elite Gardens to beat Osaila (bf sp 7.2/22.0 !!) Losses were further compounded by deciding to play small on Bold Sniper after having missed the best of the price (well I couldn’t watch him win like Cannock, could I ?) All very frustrating, but not to worry as I’d had a decent each way and Snow Sky at 1/4 the odds and an each way double with Snow Sky and Hartnell and they were both moral certanties for the frame weren’t they ? After having laid Engerlund the night before, the Irony of Snow Sky getting nabbed close home for 3rd place by a horse called Scotland was not lost on me, but with it went a sizeable chunk of place money and all the lovely running-up place money on Hartnell, it was all starting to get a bit ‘nippy’. No particular view on the Coronation Stakes, but a message that Lightning Thunder was supposedly ‘A OK’ after her run in the soft at the Curragh led to me taking a bit of the 9/2 each way and I felt quite smug as she proceeded to be backed into 11/4 fav. Hung out wide in a muddling race and running flat as a pancake, the ‘nip’ continued to grow. Thankfully we had one of my favourite races of the year to come, all was not yet lost, but we did need a result and soon…. The Queens Vase is a punters dream of a race. You look to 3 stables and 3 stables only : Mark Johnston’s record in the race is terrific, he often has more than one runner, but this year relied solely on Hartnell, who stayed 1m2f as a 2 year old and looked to be screaming out for the trip; Sir Michael Stoutes record too is terrific, thankfully he had no runner this year to muddy the waters ; The other man for the job is Aiden O’Brien, but his tend to be well backed if fancied. The story was ‘Michael wasn’t playing’ in the race and although not a drifter, confidence didn’t seem to be that high for Century, so the decision kind of made itself. The 9/2 each way early (with a rule 4 ) was averaged out with a press-up at 7/2 to undo the damage. If Carlsberg did ‘The Queens Vase’ this would have been it, out of jail without a sweat, not just because of the ‘first-past-the-post’ concession, but because as the rules stand, disqualification was nigh on impossible and would have been totally unjust. I had no interest in the Buckingham Palace, the race is a punters nightmare, other than to note another unplaced Sir Michael fav in the race and to laugh hilariously at yet another attempt by Frank Spencer to go from last to first off a moderate pace on fast ground on Horsted Keynes. For a jockey who is so very good from the front, it’s sad to see that he is generally so one dimensional in races, ‘Plan B’ is clearly a phrase he is unfamiliar with, never a truer case of the old adage that ‘ego costs money’.
By the time Saturday came I was a mere husk. Physically and emotionally drained, it was an effort to function, especially as I knew I had to get prepared for and make an early exit in order to get to, the 40th birthday celebrations of ‘The Laird of Airdrie’.
Not much was done early doors, all of the fancy prices on Telescope had gone. Should I take the shorter price on him now, or get stuck into Hillstar each way ?, because, let’s face it, Sir Michael farms the race with ‘types’ just like them. I was too tired to decide and so, did nothing. The only good thing to come from the race was that I had told my Father I couldn’t decide, when he mentioned this to my Mother (who has had 1 bet in the last 25 years) she said ‘Well bet them to be 1st and 2nd then’ and propmptly gave my Father £5 to have a £2.50 reverse forecast !! Abandoning Sir Michael’s Arab Spring for Hamelin (everyone in the world seemed to tell me it was the right move !) did nothing for my mood and the day turned out to be all about the only bet I had struck that morning, Slade Power. 2 years ago when he came over to Haydock for a listed race, I laughingly asked Willie Power if he was better than Sole Power, ‘not yet, but he will be’ was the reply. A fractured pelvis sustained on his first visit to Ascot for the Champions Series Sprint in 2012 seemed to still be remembered when he got fractious in the gate and ran poorly in last years Diamond Jubilee, however those ghosts were well and truly laid to rest on his return to win the Champions race last year, obviously still progressing and off-the-back of a terrific reappearance at the Curragh this year he just looked the stand-out horse to beat. With bits of 5/1 each way (yes 5/1 !!) further win and each way presses at 4/1 and 7/2 were purloined. I did have an each way saver on Aljamaheer to cover some of my stake as the story was he was extremely strongly fancied too, although I did resist the offer to ‘have your house on it’, which was the actual message…. The rest is history, turned out to perfection, he raced up with the pace, kept on strongly and never looked in a moments danger. As a lapsed Catholic Atheist from the West Of Scotland I have never looked forward much to the 12th of July, for obvious reasons, but this year it is July Cup day. I am looking forward to it very much this year and might even get myself up the M11 to HQ to witness another little bit of history for as nice a family as you could wish to meet. Earlier efforts to get the best of the prices available on Pique Sous had proved fruitless and with the East London branch of the Overground being suspended for the weekend a bus journey to Waterloo loomed large, my Royal Ascot was over, all that remained was to watch him get smashed-up even further and win, unbacked.
If i’m still standing, I’m sure I’ll be back to do it all again next year. Roll on The Queen’s Vase !!
A warm hello to all of you who have made kind comments about the last couple of ‘blogs’ and apologies for the delay in writing this. I hope you were directed to the little piece I did for Stephen over at http://www.bettingexpert.com/racing . I was originally a little reticent about it as some pieces like this can seem a little self-indulgent, but I thought the list of questions Stephen set were interesting and relevant, so I gave it a go. I have agreed to write another short piece (I won’t work for nothing forever Stephen !) on the ‘Five things that improved your betting’ too, hopefully this will appear soon and be of some small help to someone…. If you haven’t had a look at http://www.bettingexpert.com/racing yet I would heartily recommend it (I am not affiliated to them, so this is a genuine recommendation), interesting articles and consistent profitable daily selections.
Apart from a couple of short bouts of mediocre health I have no excuse for not posting since January, other than my annual bout of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I find these days that it’s not just the dark mornings and evenings that get me down, it’s the paucity of decent fare between January and April, a relentless stream of low grade, crooked, small field 0-60 all weather handicaps (provided to keep the addicted and educationally sub-normal in the shops to play the FOBT’s day and night, whilst the major bookmakers cry ‘foul’ on a daily basis after demanding it !) allied to a succession of poor quality ‘gaff’ jump meetings from Sunday to Friday each week, is enough to get anyone ‘down’ who’s only income comes from betting on horses.
I won’t bore you all with the long list of ‘ones that got away’ early this year or how I managed to make an arse of the final 2 days of Cheltenham, or how I came up with a short list of 2 for the Grand National (Pineau and Balthazar) and decided to sit the race out !! Suffice to say, it was another poor start to the year, however, the ship has got back on track now and it’s been full-steam ahead (small stakes, but building up steadily) for the last 5 or 6 weeks. I am convinced that this is in no small part due to the fact that, with rain around and watering at a minimum, although the ground has not been predominantly ‘fast’, it has been GENUINE, without the sloppy, sludgy top layer that pervades watered ground. As ever, after the knocks to the confidence that ‘rattling the crossbar’ for months brings, it’s been small stakes to get back on track, but now it’s time to up the stakes and have a go (if only I had more accounts !!). I don’t know how others operate, but for me, I have to get what I’m going to get between now and when the weather ‘breaks’ properly, usually sometime in September these days.
It had looked, for a little while, that I might be doing some part-time work this summer for one of the larger firms who, although ‘botted-up’ due to the large number of markets they cover, were gonna let me come in and ‘do my thing’, deliberately getting a position when I thought it prudent. I was rather looking forward to getting out and about a couple of days a week and getting into a trading room again, there is no finer place to work when the team is good and things are going well, alas, it was not to be. Those in control of the purse-strings were unwilling to pay for experience (believe me, I was viewing it as pocket money and wouldn’t have demanded the Earth), instead, a decision was made to employ another kid at £12 an hour and ‘train’ them to press the ‘refresh’ button on the Betfair link full-time. This (as I have covered before) is the essence of why only a handful of companies (usually larger independents) lay any kind of size now, prices are being thrown-up from minimal liquidity on Betfair, those making them have no confidence in them (and little experience) and are living in a culture of fear where accountants after-time them every time someone bets a winner. The safest thing for them to do to keep their £12 pounds an hour safe is not to lay anyone, you can’t lose it if you don’t lay…. I can’t blame these kids, however, it get’s sickening to hear Odds Compilers of very limited talent and PR reps from major bookmakers on TV and social media ‘give it the biggun” about how clever they think they are, or how much they have laid to historical massive losers on a regular basis. Whatever happened to laying a bit to a shrewd customer and regarding it as a ‘mark’ ? Moving the price on the basis of their business and making a book !! The ridiculous thing these days is that this simple premise seems anathema to the big firms now, the 23 quid available on the jolly on Betfair must be right, the technology has been paid for, we have to use it ! I would have thought after the Stephen Arnold affair (no not the one where the BHA alerted offshore based firms, who pay no levy on that business, that the guy had tweeted he was having a small Lucky 15 on some of his own horses and recommended they may want to suspend betting on those races!), where it was shown that markets could be manipulated for very small mounts in the morning on the exchanges, that someone, somewhere in the bookmaking industry would’ve realised that their business model was flawed and make the break away from it. It appears there is no such insight left… I know Willie Power mooted the idea years ago that, to guarantee the ‘truth’ of exchange prices, all firms should put a monkey at their price up on Betfair (at least at the front of the market). 10 firms going 3/1 would mean a guarnateed 5k on the machine at each price for fancied runners, negating the chance of falsely shortening favourites to knock out other runners at little expense. This idea, I understand, was blocked by the ‘big-boys’, I just can’t fathom the logic…..
Apologies again for the delay. I hope, when time allows over the summer (probably on evenings and Sundays of summer jumping, which are many) to keep commenting on the injustice of it all to any who will listen, who knows, there might even be some good news in there too !
It’s 117 years ago this month that Oscar Wilde started his epic letter to Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas in Reading Gaol, examining his past actions and current spiritual journey whilst incarcerated. That fact has led to this particular entry developing, from what was going to be a simple ‘note’ about the fun I had over the festive period catching up with old workmates from my IG Sport and Ladbrokes days, into an introspective look at the challenges that face me as I approach my 9th year without the use of employment from ‘The Man’ and the state of the industry as a whole for moderate-staking professional punters (and ex odds compilers/traders) such as myself. Perhaps the analogy is only in my head, but alas, I fear not.
Two wonderful nights-out before Xmas meant a really good catch up with a large number of my old mates and workmates, largely those from the ‘glory days’ around the turn of the century when IG Sport ruled the world. It was a very special team, put together by Toby Brereton, strong almost to a man. My role as Deputy Head of racing was overseen by Ernie (Great One) Burns, the man who invented many/most of the racing spread markets that exist today. To these two men (and the Laird of Airdrie) do I owe thanks for nearly every ‘tool’ that has made me a winning punter, apart from being able to ‘read’ a race. After proving my worth I was allowed to get ‘with’ or ‘against’ whenever I felt it appropriate without fear of reprisal for any single event as long as I got it right the majority of the time, not wreckless punting with the companies money, but, taking a view and laying it. Many others on the desk did so too, the company was getting ‘bundles’, we were all ‘chopping it off’ personally (as long as the clients never had to wait because we were punting Toby had no objection to us betting, he said it made salary negotiations easier if none of us was going to waste an hour of his time begging for a 2k pay rise and his view was ”if your clever enough to make money for us, you should be clever enough to take it from other bookmakers”. In short, times were good.
It is with much fondness that I remember these days, perhaps it is because of them that the stir-crazy loneliness of ‘punting from home’ has hit hard over the last year or so and I had begun to entertain thoughts of returning to gainful employ (if anyone still remembered me…), not for the money, not even necessarily full-time, but for the cameraderie and fun generated on a well run trading desk, feeding from the enthusiasm and opinions of good judges and feeling part of a team that was achieving. It had already occured to me that perhaps my ‘job’ did not really exist any more and from what I was able to gather from the boys still involved in the industry I was right. There can’t be a man Jack of us that doesn’t know that pretty much every bookmaker is ‘botted up to the machine’. The prospect of laying a 600/400 when there is 4 pounds being requested at 2.48 is apparently a sacking offence these days, even if it’s the first bet that has been laid. It appears that prices are only allowed to come from the ‘magic machine’. I hear stories of senior odds compilers being asked for ‘their’ price and replying ”my price is the Betfair price’. I hear of companies removing the word ‘trader’ from job descriptions and replacing it with ‘bet market monitor’ because they have no input, other than to ensure that the ‘bot’ updates the ‘machine price’ in real time. Has it really come to this ? Is there no-one out there in the industry with an opinion until they have looked at the machine ? Is there no-one out there ALLOWED to have an opinion out of line with the paltry liquidity on Betfair at 10am ?
I remember when exchange betting started, as a horse racing punter it was GREAT. Reams of clueless wagon-shunters lining up to lay 7/1 about genuine 5/1 pokes just to play bookmaker, the first two years were bliss, even paying the comm’ it was like finding it in the street. Then the bad times started. All the hooky jockeys and connections started to work out that it was easier to lay 20k at 6/4 of their charge (with almost no risk) to get a wage than attempt to win a race worth 1500 quid, pay the expenses and get 12k on it at 7/4 in the morning and still have to win ! It soon became clear that the late-drifters weren’t the value any more, they were ‘dead’ and so the ‘machine’ became the putrid cheats-charter that I still believe it largely to be (personal opinion). In saying that, it was equally clear that the pre-show ‘smash-ups’ were all live as you like and that bookmakers were being manipulated. For this reason, I can understand how the ‘need’ for the ‘bot’ arose, every red cent in the minute before the show all coming for the one that had just gone massively ‘unders’, I’d probably have done the same thing myself. The thing I don’t understand though, is the obsession with being tied to ludicrously small liquidity on the ‘machine’ 24/7. Is there really no-one out there prepared (or allowed) to ignore pennies and just lay a bet ? Did no-one think the price looked fair enough in the first place ? Does no-one have ANY opinion in the industry any more away from the machine ?
We all know that the bookmaking industry has (largely) deliberately moved away from it’s reliance on horseracing and has used every possible legal loophole to avoid paying as much tax and levy as possible in favour of their beloved FOBT’s and football betting priced up in massively strong Far East markets, but, is their ‘Betfair Bot’ trading model really sustainable in the long term ? Do they care ? Is this really just the carefully contrived death of horse race betting in this country ? I know what I think, I will leave you to be the judge…… The only way forward I can see is the abolition of the best price guarantee, so grudgingly offered by many in the need to compete with the big boys, which just results in the minnows betting overbroke by the off, going skint and being gobbled-up by those same big boys. A vicious circle not easily broken.
It used to be straightforward to turnover over a million a year, most of it on your own accounts, and get 10% or more a year for a real nice wage. Everyone bet to a reasonable percentage in their own right, but, the spread of prices available meant that the best price book was pretty much equivalent to what it is now, just with more individual variation. Even before the crazy on-course pitch reforms which led to 95% of on course layers becoming high stakes ‘arbers’ (more of ‘arbers’ later) betting to cutthroat percentages with those electronic boards that all go ridiculous prices like 7/5 and 85/40 in perfect synchronicity when the price dips under on the ‘machine’.
You didn’t have to stake 1000’s a race to do so, just be betting regularly (usually race by race) and not take liberties with ‘bad’ each-way races. Bookmakers rarely tampered with your account until you got a nice few grand in front and you were politely turned away when they knew they were unlikely to ever get it back. Nowadays, however, attempting to play at best prices (and why wouldn’t you if you are looking to win ?) automatically gets you tagged as an ‘arber’, even though there is rarely any liquidity available to play the ‘other side’ even if you wanted to. It seems that playing best price is now synonymous with ‘arbing’. Let me tell you ‘traders’, IT IS NOT !! For your information an ‘arbitrageur’ (for that is the correct term) is someone who does not take risk, they play both sides and move on. There may be a new breed now that actually does play to trade later, but, they are gambling on the movement of the market, they can get it wrong, it is NOT arbing.
As anyone who has been in my position for the last 6 or so years will know, new accounts are treated with near pathological suspicion. It doesn’t matter where you move to around the country or what friendly friend (or friend of a friend) opens you an account to help get on, if your first couple of bets beat the price you are done for. (I had an account in 2012 that lasted for 11 losing bets (not even a place return), 10 beat the price and it was no more….) I am now VERY reliably informed the days of changing IP addresses are behind us to attempt to find some anonymity. At least 2 (probably many more) major bookmakers are able to detect and store the identification numbers of individual machines and handsets and link new accounts to old ones instantly. I’ve tried changing machines on a regular basis, even that doesn’t seem to work. I wonder what the average guy in the street thinks though when he opens a new account, gets lucky with his first few bets, goes out to celebrate, then comes back to find his account closed ! Or, more pertinently, when he bets a few that shorten up, they get chinned and he gets his account closed !
There was a time when the expression ‘in business to do business’ applied to reputable bookmakers, it seems now that bets are only taken if they can offer no immediate reason for NOT taking it. To request a horse racing bet (heaven forfend it should be each-way or at best price !) is to ask a massive favour of almost any bookmaker. On the internet limits will be low and in the shops the lack of any motivation of staff (I don’t blame them on the wages they are paid), or training or bet knowledge since the advent of EPOS and auto-settling, means the whole task leaves you feeling beholden or even, on occassions, a little ‘sordid’. I can honestly say that in the last 5 years the only pleasureable experience I have had, or courtesy shown, in placing a bet has been with 3 firms. Richard Power Bookmakers, Geoff Banks Bet and Star Sports. Not once have I ever been treated with anything other than 1st class service and the feeling my business was welcomed by any of these firms. The big chains could learn much from them in a return to basic customer service and good manners. There is a noticeable disdain from shop managers these days shown towards regular racing punters, it’s as if their job is to try to stop you playing, no matter what the race, as if minimising racing turnover is their priority.
So what does the future hold for me and those like me ? It appears that I am an anachronism, a creature from a bygone age as far as employment is concerned. My opinions can be as good or bad as they are, it doesn’t matter, nobody needs or wants them, the ‘Betfair bot model’ is all that is required. The halcyon days of IG Sport are never to be replicated anywhere else, how could they be amongst a hoard of ‘bet market monitors’ ? The tiresome chore of getting new internet accounts now seems almost pointless, playing race by race without the safety net of best price guaranteed to get rid of the rancid late drifters at the small meetings will obviously impact massively on percentage win (If only they were policed properly rather than the once a year ‘lamb’ thrown to the slaughter in the name of integrity ?).
So what then ? The simple fact of the matter is, you’ve got to ‘turn it over’ if you want to win. 12% of 250k turnover is not a living wage these days, the only option would appear to be playing bigger size, more selectively, with the firms that actually WANT to take a bet, of course percentage win is sure to suffer, but I’d rather get 7% of a million turnover, offered with a ‘thank you’ than 20 % of buttons, offered through gritted teeth. The swings will be bigger and recovery from a bad run potentially longer, so I’d better start gettin’ it right in a hurry !!
So there you have it. I’m sure there was more I wanted to say, but this lot came out more in the style of Joyce’s ‘stream of consciousness’ than that of Wilde’s aestheticism. Perhaps, like Joyce, it will be best read aloud if you find yourself getting bogged down in it…. It might not be the 20 handwritten pages of Oscar’s De Profundis (I think that’s a given !), but it’s where I’ve been and it seems, it’s where I must go.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the reluctance of some people to embrace each-way betting. To some, it’s all about puffing their chests out and declaring ‘winners are what count’. To a certain extent this is true, but, there are scenarios when the place part is actually the ‘value’ play and others when it is woefully bad value.
I am not about to waste anyone’s time extolling the virtues of the ‘snide’ each-way second favourite. You all know the set up, an 8 horse race where the favourite is 2/5, the second fav is 5/1 and it’s 14/1 bar two, the ‘bet to nothing’ as it is generally known….. We all know that the Even money about the second fav being in the first three is bonkers and it’s why bookmakers (fairly in my opinion) close accounts of those who try to sneak these ‘snides’ through and offer-the-door to shop punters who attempt to do likewise. It’s no good crying foul and repeating the hackneyed old cliche that ‘they set the terms, therefore, they should honour them’, it’s never going to happen and nor should it, these races are anomalies and should be treated as such. What I would rather focus on are the scenarios which favour the punter mathematically, without obviously being ‘bad’ each-way races.
On Saturday morning I was flicking through the blog of yet another ‘would be tipster’ (who shall remain nameless), a succession of which have sprung up via Twitter in recent times. His selections were profitable, John Spirit, Creepy each-way (a bit ‘snide’) and Guitar Pete each-way amongst others. The thing that struck me was that he specifically tipped Guitar Pete each-way at 7/1 with the bookmakers and not ‘win and place’ on the exchanges. This was a seven horse race with a short priced favourite, to ‘tip’ taking 7/4 about the place part of this bet (two places) when 5/2 was freely available on the exchanges showed, in my opinion, a naivety quite shocking if you expect others to take your opinions seriously, or, simply a total lack of basic arithmetic. It is no accident that if you compare the place odds on offer on the exchanges to their equivalent with the bookmakers there are numerous occassions where these are above (as with Guitar Pete’s case) ,or below (as with 16 runner handicaps). There is a very simple reason for this, some races favour the punter and some don’t, taking advantage of the races that do should be foremost in any punters mind that is looking to make a profit.
The easiest way to demonstrate this is by looking at the 16 runner handicap (paying four places) and a 15 runner handicap (paying three). If we take an imaginary 16 runner race where all of the runners have an equal chance we can see how the ‘maths’ really do favour the punter. The win chance of each runner in such a race is clearly 15/1, similarly, as they all have an equal chance of finishing in ANY given position, their chance of finishing in the first four is 3/1 (25%), just as it is for finishing 5th -8th, 9th-12th or 13th-16th, all very obvious I’m sure you will agree, but, it is in exactly this scenario that the punter has his greatest ‘edge’ for, as we all know, bookmakers pay 1/4 odds on such races. The place return on a 15/1 chance in such circumstances is 15/4 (3.75/1 or roughly 21%). We are getting 3.75/1 about a GENUINE 3/1 chance. This is the reason that when you look at exchange markets your 16/1 fancy that might be trading at 20.0 in the win market is much more likely to be trading around 4.5 than 5.5 for a place. Compare this to a similar 15 runner handicap. In such circumstances each runner has a 14/1 chance, but, because there are only three places on offer each runner has a 4/1 chance (20%) of finishing in any ‘group’ of three, again, all very obvious, but consider the place terms on offer here of 14/4 (3.5/1 or roughly 22.2%. Instead of 4% (25% – 21%) of value as in the 16 runner race we are acually GIVING UP 2.2% ( 20% – 22.2%) !!
Of course it is possible that 15 runner races can throw up each-way bets, but, these will be reliant on the ‘shape’ of the race . Rare big field hancicaps that throw up a very short priced favourite who takes a disproportionate amount of the place book do happen, but, in general, ‘open’ handicaps (such as those where they bet 5/1 the field) can be seen to offer little in the way of value mathematically.
In general, the closer to the minimum number of runners allowed for those place terms to be in effect, the better it is for punters. Play around with the following scenarios of an 8 runners race compared to an 11 runner race (both paying 1/5th the odds three places) ; a 12 runner handicap and a 15 runner handicap (both paying 1/4 the odds three places and a 16 runner handicap and a 24 runner handicap (both paying 1/4 the odds four places) and you will see that the effect could be the difference between winning and losing long term.
It’s all about ‘getting’ the value, not ‘giving it up’.
Whist flicking through Twitter the other day, I saw the age old question of ‘how do you compile a tissue’ asked of a football odds-compiler. The reply involved lots of tables of goals scored home and away for both teams and various other statistics which appeared to be crucial in ‘pricing up’ a football match. It made me think of the self same question which is oft’ asked of guys like Hugh Taylor and Eddie ‘The Shoe’ Freemantle when they appear on TV, with regards to horseracing. To my mind, the simple answer is, it’s impossible to prescribe a ‘formula’. In horseracing it is impossible to feed previous results and form into a ‘program’ which is going to accurately predict the relative chances of each runner unless you are going to include the dozens (hundreds) of variables that sophisticated computerised ratings do. Even then I don’t think these would reflect the significant factors which are ‘where is the pace’ and ‘how will the race be run’.
Odds compilation is about ‘feel’ and ‘judgement’ and can only be done accurately with a detailed knowledge of the form book and judgement which has, over a period of time, been proven to be profitable. For all that it appears to be a mystical art, requiring gnostic awareness, it is nothing more or less than being able to pin a percentage chance to any horse’s chance reasonably accurately.
The way to compile a tissue (at least the way I do it) is very simple. Sit down with all of the form at hand (including relevant jockey/trainer/course stats), making sure that, whenever possible, you have not seen any formed markets or existing tissues on the race. Work your way steadily through the form of every runner and decide how the race will be run. Having done this, you should have already formed an opinion on which runner has the ‘best’ chance. This, obviously, is your favourite. From here on in, it is simply a case of finding the price at which you could neither back nor lay it. If you would still back it at your own price then obviously you have to shorten it, if you would be tempted to lay, knock it out a bit. It really is that simple. Subsequent horses should be priced in the same manner, but, with direct comparison to the chance of your ‘favourite’. In an ideal world, the sum of these prices, converted to percentages, will be 100%, if not, you need to reevaluate each runner in turn, starting with your favourite, to make the prices ‘fit’. If your original attempt falls short of the 100% mark then you have clearly underestimated the chance of a significant number of runners in the race, if it has gone significantly over, then you have overestimated some and their prices will have to be lenghtened.
When you arrive at a figure around 100% you have accurately reflected your own opinions on the race and can start to look at the prices on offer. It should then be impossible, without further information coming to hand, that you could contemplate betting any runner that is shorter than your tissue price, for example, if you made the favourite a genuine even money (50%) chance and it is 4/6 then, for all you think it the most likely winner in the race, it becomes impossible to bet, lets face it, if someone offered to toss a coin with you and asked you to put up 6 to their 4 I’d hope you would tell them where to go ! Prospective bets should come from those where the available price is greater than ‘yours’. If you are going to trust your judgement it is pointless to deviate from this principle.
Once you have identified any ‘over priced’ horses you have two options : bet all of them combined or bet the one(s) that is/are significantly away from the price you made them.
Many people baulk at the idea of betting more than one horse in a race for win-only purposes, a simple analogy which dispels this myth is to consider the rolling of a single die. Obviously the chances of any given number are 5/1 (16.667%), but, if someone were to offer 4/1 numbers 1,2 and 3 (3 X 20 %) and 13/2 numbers 4,5 and 6 (3 X 13.33%), their ‘book’ still comes to 100%, but, we can clearly see that 3 of the 6 options are the ‘wrong price’. Backing any of 4,5 or 6 individually is a ‘good bet’, each of them are ‘wrong’ by 3.33%, but, wouldn’t you rather bet them all at a combined 40% and get 10 % of ‘value’ every roll as opposed to 3.33% ? Obviously you are going to back 2 losers every roll, but, you have actually trebled the ‘value’ you receive each time. The principle here is exactly the same as with any horse race in which more than one of your prices can be exceeded.
The other mistake is correctly identifying the amount of value you are actually receiving. It is easy to see 9/1 (10%) about a horse that you made 7/1 (12.5%) and say it is 2 points ‘wrong’. The significant amount here is the 2.5% difference between your perceived price and that available. Compare this to being able to obtain even money (50%) about a horse you made a genuine 4/6 (60%) chance, it is ‘only’ 1/3rd of a point ‘wrong’, but your edge is 10%. Over time, if your judgement is accurate, your profit will be 4 times greater from these bets. This is not simply advocating playing short priced favourites for larger stakes than bigger priced selections, but, if a bet is going to return 4 times more profit over time, why not have 4 times more on it ?
In short, there is no magic formula or training regime which can ‘teach’ someone how to compile an accurate, worthwhile tissue, it is all about judgement. It’s an excellent discipline if you have the time and patience to attempt it and should be at the heart of any punters strategy who hopes to make a profit from horseracing betting, but, the simple fact remains, if your judgement is sound you will make a profit, if not, you’ll do your dough !