Matt Tombs / Tuesday 11th February 2014 / 14:05
I like speciality bets for the Festival. From a value perspective they often present good opportunities as the odds compilers don’t have much experience to guide them and they’re thinly traded. There’s been a bit of a dearth of innovative new markets this season, but I reckon there is an angle on the top owner.
Boylesports market is: 5/4 McManus, 6/4 Ricci, 7/1 Wylie, 7/1 Gigginstown & 12/1 bar.
The rules for this type of market are crucial. If it was based on prize money then it would be a lottery, but it’s based on number of wins. The crucial element is the count-back rule. In the event of two or more owners having the same number of winners, whoever has had the most 2nd places will be leading owner. If none of them have had a 2nd place or they’ve had the same number of 2nd places, it’ll be whoever had the most 3rd places, and so on.
The importance of this is that it stacks the deck hugely in favour of owners with an army of runners. If there’s a tie, (as there has been in 3 of the last 5 years – see below,) it’s very likely that the ‘bigger’ owner will prevail on count-back.
Recent results are:
2013 – McManus & Wylie (2)
2012 – McManus (5)
2011 – Gigginstown (3)
2010 – Hemmings, Johnson & Hammer and Trowel Syndicate (2)
2009 – McManus & Smith (2)
The total winners in the last 5 years for the front four in the market are – McManus (10), Ricci (3), Wylie (2) & Gigginstown (6).
When JP McManus tied in 2009 and 2013, on both occasions he also had three 2nd places and two 3rd places. The owners he tied with didn’t have another placed horse – so he’d have won this market 3 times in the last 5 years.
Last year McManus had 25 Festival runners, the Riccis had 8, the Wylies 3 & Gigginstown 12. It’s just about odds-on a tie based both on the last 5 years results and the nature of the market, (ie a tie with 2 wins or possibly 3 wins is always a likely result.) The advantage the extra runners give McManus, and to a lesser extent Gigginstown, on count-back, needs factoring in.
Turning from the theory and past results - to assess this year’s market I’ve looked at the 13 races where entries have already been made. They are the 5 open Grade 1s, the 4 level weights novice chases and the 4 Grade 1 novice/juvenile hurdles.
What I’ve done is assumed that each horse will run once and in the race for which its shortest priced. If it’s 9/1 then it has, (assuming for simplicity that the price accurately reflects its chance,) a 10% chance of winning. I’ve then added all those percentages up to give a theoretical number of winners.
The results are that, from those 13 races, you’d expect the following theoretical number of winners:
Before any analysis of those numbers is done, the obvious point is that Gigginstown look to have a much better chance than Boylesports’ market suggests.
The reason the Riccis are such a short price, (and have been backed in from 9/4,) is that they have 5 short priced horses – Faugheen is 7/2 for the Neptune, Annie Power is 7/2 for the World Hurdle, Champagne Fever is 4/1 for the Arkle, Vautour is 9/2 for the Supreme and Ballycasey is 5/1 for the RSA. Those 5 comprise 0.99 of their theoretical 1.40 winners – ie 70%.
By contrast, McManus has 3 horses at single figure prices – My Tent Or Yours is 5/1 for the Champion Hurdle and At Fishers Cross & More Of That are 6/1 and 8/1 respectively for the World Hurdle, (0.42 of his theoretical 1.47 winners – ie 29%). Gigginstown have only 2 horses at a single figure price – Trifolium who is 6/1 for the Arkle and Rule The World who is 8/1 for the World Hurdle, (0.25 of their theoretical 1.25 winners – ie 20%).
My guess is that punters have looked at it on the simplistic basis of who has the short priced horses - and so piled into the Riccis. That doesn’t take into account the relatively small number of runners the Riccis are likely to have compared to McManus and Gigginstown, or the other 14 races. Nor does it factor in the disadvantage the Riccis have under the count-back system.
Looking at numbers of runners - the Riccis have 14 different horses entered in the races I’ve included, McManus 31 & Gigginstown 34. It’s weight of numbers that gives McManus the best theoretical chance in those 13 races and mean Gigginstown’s theoretical chance is not dissimilar to the Riccis. In practice outsiders are often too short in the markets as layers don’t want to risk getting caught out by a ‘live’ one. On that basis, the Ricci’s theoretical 1.40 winners in those 13 races is probably a bit understated compared to McManus’ 1.47 and Gigginstown’s 1.25.
We then need to try to assess the impact of the other 14 races. We clearly don’t know what will be entered yet – so it’s much harder to quantify. Having horses with Willie Mullins means the Riccis have realistic hopes in the Bumper, (Royal Caviar & Tarare,) but they haven’t had any success in handicaps, which form the bulk of the remaining races – and they’ve had very few runners in those handicaps.
By contrast, of JP McManus’ 10 winners in the last 5 years, 7 have come in handicaps. That’s partly due to weight of numbers but his teams are particularly adept at targeting them. 2 of Gigginstown’s 6 winners in the same period have been in handicaps. This isn’t surprising when you consider the Riccis have about 40 horses in training, Gigginstown about 150 and McManus over 250.
Once you factor in the Ricci’s chances in the Bumper against McManus & Gigginstown’s chances in the handicaps, I think Gigginstown have a similar chance to the Riccis. The short price about McManus also becomes much more understandable.
Not only do the theoretical numbers suggest Gigginstown are far too big a price – when you analyse them, it backs that feeling up.
Given how many of the top horses are concentrated in a few owners hands now, it’s really hard to envisage a surprise result – it’s very likely one of McManus, the Riccis and Gigginstown will win. Looking at the only other 2 owners quoted at less than 25/1, the Wylies have 12 horses entered for the 13 races with Felix Yonger (10/1) and Briar Hill (5/1), both having sound chances, (plus they have Shaneshill and Black Hercules for the Bumper.) Their lack of depth of runners makes them rank outsiders for this and there’d be better value in putting their horses in accumulators.
Barry Connell (12/1) has 3 horses with decent chances in Our Conor (5/1), The Tullow Tank (11/1) and Mossey Joe (5/1), but has little else, (7 horses entered for the 13 races.) For him to win it’s likely at least 2 of those 3 would have to win – so, like the Wylies, there’d be more value backing them in doubles and trebles.
I’ve priced it up as:
6/5 – McManus
100/30 – Riccis
7/2 – Gigginstown
22/1 – Wylies
33/1 – Connell
50/1 – any other winner
JP McManus is clearly the most likely winner, but his price is probably about right. Once the handicaps are factored in and with the count-back so much in his favour, it’s arguable he should be shorter, but of his 3 horses at single figure prices, I doubt More Of That will run in the World Hurdle, I don’t fancy At Fishers Cross and My Tent Or Yours has about the chance his odds suggest.
Whilst an initial look at the likes of Vautour, Champagne Fever, Faugheen, Ballycasey and Annie Power suggests the Riccis have a strong hand – the reality is that they probably need at least 3 winners to prevail given the count-back system. Those 5 horses theoretically should produce 0.99 winners and if they continue not to be a factor in the handicaps, their chance isn’t as strong as it first appears.
Gigginstown are about double the price they should be – purely because they lack high profile horses this season. JP McManus won this in 2009 by winning the 3m handicap chase and the cross country – weight of numbers counts for a lot. My guess is that the absence of obvious stars will only make the O’Leary’s more determined to win a handicap or two after last year’s succession of near misses, (no winners and four 2nd places) – in case their big guns like Trifolium, Rule The World, Last Instalment and First Lieutenant don’t fire. Given their investment in the game, two disappointing Festivals in a row is something they’ll be determined to avoid - Michael O’Leary should never be underestimated.
1pt Gigginstown to be Festival top owner at @ 7/1