Matt Tombs / Wednesday 30th January 2013 / 12:40
2pts Sprinter Sacre to start at 4/11 or longer in the Champion Chase @ 3/1 (Paddy Power, NRNB)
The portfolio is filling up nicely with the usual ante-post mix of the good, the bad and the will-he-run-in-this? Of the races I’d usually think of tackling at this stage, I’m waiting on the Neptune, Albert Bartlett and Champion Chase. I want a few more clues on the novice hurdles and I don’t want to take on Sprinter Sacre for the sake of it. I’m interested in the betting without market on the Champion Chase but only Paddy Power have priced up so far and they’re betting to 134% even without quoting Cue Card, Flemenstar or Simonsig of the entries. I’ve got a feeling where I’m going with that but I suspect they’ll be better value once a few other firms get involved.
I’m therefore taking a look at the specials market. They’re a marmite betting medium, you love it or hate it, but given they’re thinly traded and odds compilers are pricing up something they have much less experience of than standard markets, there’s often value.
The standout bet at the moment concerns Sprinter Sacre’s SP, which Paddy Power are pricing up to a more enticing 115%. The bet is void if Sprinter Sacre doesn’t run so there’s no ante-post risk. He’s currently 2/5, so the question is will he shorten or lengthen between now and race day? The main factors at play are:
1. What is the bookmakers’ current approach to laying him ante-post?
2. How likely is he to get to run?
3. Will he have a hitch free preparation?
4. How will the bookies have done at the Festival prior to the Champion Chase?
5. How have the Henderson horses performed (especially Simonsig)?
6. What horses will line up against him?
7. How strong will the SP market be?
Running through the 7 factors above: First, bookmakers have big ante-post liabilities (and in Sportingbet’s case NRNB liabilities) so they’re likely to have him deliberately short now in an attempt to round out their books. Second, he won’t run again so it’s just the possibility of injury at home ruling him out, but getting there should help him shorten. Third, he could have a Kauto Staresque tumble at home or a hold up but still make the race, which would see him drift. My gut feel is that roughly these 3 cancel each other out to nothing.
Fourth and fifth - we can’t tell now, but the chance must be greater that some of Simonsig, Jezki and Quevega get beaten and so the bookies want to get Sprinter Sacre, than they all win and the layers shorten him up. Simonsig is the key horse as he’s the Henderson banker on the first day. If Nicky has 2 or 3 winners on day one, then Sprinter Sacre should shorten. If he draws a blank, especially if the horses are running disappointingly, then he should drift. Again, I think the chances of him drifting or shortening because of this are about equal.
Sixth and most importantly, of the entries, the only ones that can realistically take a decent chunk out of the market are Simonsig, Flemenstar, Sizing Europe, Finian’s Rainbow, William’s Wishes, Cue Card & Sanctuaire. To try and form a hypothetical SP market I’m saying Simonsig definitely doesn’t run and that exactly one of Flemenstar, Finian’s Rainbow and Cue Card runs, that Sanctuaire has an 80% chances of running, Sizing Europe a 70% chance and William’s Wishes a 65% chance. There’s always the possibility something comes from left field and is supplemented but I’m ignoring that for now.
Seventh, the average overround in the past decade is just under 115% so for simplicity I’m using 115% here. Against Sprinter Sacre I’d say Sizing Europe starts 5/1, Sanctuaire & William’s Wishes 12/1 and the runner from my Flemenstar / Finian’s Rainbow / Cue Card combination, 6/1. That’s 46% of a book if they run, and the reduction I need to make for the uncertainty whether they run, takes it down to 37%. You’ve then got Kumbeshwar and Wishfull Thinking who are very likely runners who could start around 25/1 or 33/1 and a couple of rags to bump the field up to around 44%. On that basis Sprinter Sacre would start 2/5.
If you’ve just hacked your way through those guesstimates, (congratulations – let’s hope your Festival selections get up the hill as well as you do,) the conclusion is that unless the race cuts up much more than I think it will, I can’t see Sprinter Sacre starting much shorter than his current 2/5 and he might start around 4/9 or even 1/2 if some big guns oppose him. Yet Paddy Power bet 11/10 he starts at 1/4 or shorter, 13/8 he starts between 1/3 and 2/7, and 3/1 he starts 4/11 or bigger. Unless Sizing Europe misses the race, it really puts a limit on how short Sprinter Sacre can start.
In the less likely event Flemenstar runs, I can’t see him starting much bigger than 3/1 which would stop Sprinter Sacre starting at shorter than 4/11. To put that in context, Flemenstar is only 7/4 to run in the Champion Chase and adjusting for the overround he’d be 2/1. So even if there were no other circumstances under which Sprinter Sacre could start 4/11 or longer, the right price is only 2/1.
If my guesstimates are anywhere near right he should be odds-on to start 4/11 or bigger, (money back if he doesn’t run.) Even if I’ve misjudged it, I need to have misjudged it massively before it stops becoming a good bet.
To get some context, it’s worth considering the history of really short priced favourites. The only horse to run at long odds-on in the Champion Chase in recent times is Master Minded who, a year on from thrashing defending champion Voy Por Ustedes by 19l in this, and having won the Tingle Creek by 10l and the Victor Chandler by 16l, went off at 4/11. He was a general 1/3 shot at this stage so started slightly longer, (Big Buck’s has also often started a bigger SP than ante-post as the layers try and avoid him until race-day.) That all suggests Sprinter Sacre is more likely to drift from the current 2/5 than shorten.
To get real context we need to look back at the make up of the 2009 Champion Chase field. It’s easy to look at Master Minded’s career now and think he never again scaled the heights of his 2008 Champion Chase triumph, but in the run up to the 2009 running he looked invincible over 2m and he faced a weak field. The only realistic challengers were an aging Well Chief who hadn’t run for 2 years, Twist Magic (who didn’t like the course), a then unproven Big Zeb and Petit Robin. He was regarded as a complete certainty and had won the race before – so 4/11 is a decent guide.
When something looks too good to be true, it’s a good idea to imagine the scenario where it could go wrong. If none of Sizing Europe, Flemenstar, Finian’s Rainbow or Cue Card run, then I can see Sanctuaire and William’s Wishes at about 8/1 and Wishfull Thinking and Kumbeshwar at about 14/1. With a couple of 50/1 rags that puts Sprinter Sacre at 1/3 – ie even in that scenario we’d be close to a winning bet.
I think this is a classic case of only one bookmaker pricing up an unusual event and getting it completely wrong. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea as a bet because there are so many unknowns that you’re more at the mercy of events, some of which are nothing to do with this race, than with a standard win bet. However, the market is so far out (I’ve got him a shade of odds-on to start 4/11 or bigger) that it’s worth a good bet.
I’ve been asked why virtually every bet is to 1pt. Unless you’re betting to very small stakes and the horses aren’t big prices, you often can’t get 3, 4 or 5 times your normal stake on. It’s unfair to claim a percentage return that the typical punter couldn’t make so it’s fairer to have virtually all the bets to 1pt. I have the odd each way bet to 0.5pts and where I feel it’s outstanding value the occasional bet to 2pts. Whilst I try and indicate the strength of feeling behind a 1pt bet in the narrative, 2pts means forget your normal maximum bet and have whatever you can afford to lose on. Whether the bet in question wins or not, I’m very confident you’ll make good money by backing all the 2pt bets, (the only one last season won easily at 5/2 and this is the first this season.)