Matt Tombs / Wednesday 31st December 2014 / 11:30
I love specials bets for the Festival and they’ve been kind to the portfolio over the last 3 years. I’ve put up two such bets for the Festival each year - one has come in each season, yielding an overall 7 point, (116%,) profit. (If the ground had been called accurately at the start of last season’s Festival, it’d have been an 18 point or 300% profit!)
About a decade or so ago, you could pay for Festival week by backing there to be more Irish winners than the market perceived, (in the old 20 race, 3 day meeting, the spread was often for only about 4 or 5 Irish winners.) That lasted for about four years before layers got wise.
The power of the Irish team is on a completely different scale now and they get a far bigger share of the winners these days - last year Irish trained horses won 12 of the 27 races, and in 2013 they won the majority (14) for the first time. Despite that, I think the chances of the Irish team are being underestimated again.
Irish trained horses have therefore won half the races over the last 2 years. All other things being equal you might start by expecting 13-14 Irish winners again. Yet William Hill have priced it up as 3/1 for 8 winners or less, Evens for 9-12 and 7/4 for 13 or more winners. That suggests about 11 is the most likely number – ie that the Irish challenge is weaker this year than the last two years.
Looking at the form and the markets, I’d say the opposite is true. Willie Mullins seems to have an incredible team of novice hurdlers and the Irish novice chasing division is stronger than I can ever recall. I can see the Irish mopping up in the novice level weights races and, given the strength in depth, I can see them having some really well handicapped novices, (handicaps, especially handicap chases, being an area where the Irish have traditionally done much less well.)
When analysing this to see if my gut feel is justified, the first important point is to distinguish between races where the market has a reasonably mature shape and so can be analysed, and those where it can’t. Broadly, that division is between the level weights races and the handicaps.
There are currently 14 races where I think the market is mature enough to be worth analysing. That’s every level weights race except the Triumph, (where the winner usually hasn’t even run yet,) and the Foxhunters, (which looks very open this season.)
To stop it getting too complicated I’ve only looked at horses at shorter than 20/1 in these 14 markets. Plenty of horses are quoted for different races and, given the vast majority will only run once, I’ve guessed which race they will run in and only included them in that race. For example, I’ve assumed Douvan will run in the Supreme, (far from certain as Willie Mullins has been mooting the Neptune), and only included him in that race.
There are also a few horses quoted by the odd bookmaker for a race where they’re highly unlikely to run. For example, Abbyssial hasn’t even made the track yet this season and has never run over fences, so quotes for the Ryanair seem worth ignoring.
For simplicity, I’ve assumed the winner will come from those remaining horses quoted at shorter than 20/1. Having done that the markets are follows, (the Irish horses in bold):
Supreme – 5/1 Douvan; 12/1 Alvisio Ville, L’Ami Serge; 16/1 Shaneshill
Arkle – 5/2 Un De Sceaux; 12/1 Clarcam, Josses Hill
Champion Hurdle – 11/8 Faugheen, 3/1 The New One; 6/1 Jezki; 14/1 Hurricane Fly
Mares – 13/8 Annie Power; 6/1 Aurore D’Estruval; 13/2 Glens Melody; 8/1 Morning Run; 10/1 Carole’s Spirit, Carrigmoorna Rock; 12/1 Polly Peachum; 14/1 Little King Robin; 16/1 Clara Mc Cloud
4 Miler – 5/1 Don Poli; 14/1 Mala Beach; 16/1 Sausalito Sunrise
Neptune – 8/1 Tell Us More; 14/1 Parlour Games; 16/1 Free Expression; Value At Risk; Windsor Park
RSA – 6/1 Kings Palace; 12/1 Valseur Lido; 14/1 Coneygree, Whisper; 16/1 Saphir Du Rheu; The Young Master
Champion Chase – 3 Sprinter Sacre; 5/1 Sire De Grugy; 9/1 Al Ferof; 12/1 Champagne Fever; 14/1 Dodging Bullets; 16/1 Uxizandre
Bumper – 12/1 Vigil, Bordini; 14/1 Moon Racer, Up For Review, Pylonthepressure, Supasundae; 16/1 Lyrical Theatre
JLT – 5/1 Vautour; 8/1 Gilgamboa; 10/1 Ptit Zig; 14/1 Close Touch; 16/1 Gods Own, Irish Saint
Ryanair – 5/1 Dynaste; 8/1 Don Cossack; 14/1 Balder Succes, Johns Spirit
World Hurdle – 4/1 More Of That; 7/1 Beat That; 12/1 Zarkandar; 14/1 Lieutenant Colonel; 16/1 Briar Hill
Albert Bartlett – 7/1 No More Heroes; 10/1 Black Hercules, Blaklion; 16/1 Milsean
Gold Cup – 3/1 Silviniaco Conti; 10/1 Road To Riches; 14/1 Holywell, 16/1 Lord Windermere, Many Clouds
I’ve then just compared the theoretical chances of all the Irish runners with the theoretical chances of all the British runners – and split the 14 races between them accordingly. On this basis you’d expect the Irish trained horses to win 7.64 and British trained horses to win 6.36 of these 14 races.
The second part of the analysis is the remaining races, mainly handicaps. In the absence of meaningful markets, one simple way to consider them is to look at the results of the last 2 years. Last season the British won 8 and the Irish 5, in 2013 it was 7 for Britain and 6 for Ireland. So you could estimate 5.5 Irish winners from those 13 races.
It’s obviously only a rough analysis but that suggests the likely number of Irish winners at this stage is 13-14.
The 7/4 for 13 or more Irish winners looks good value on this basis, but I’m looking for something with a bigger payoff and William Hill are also offering 9/1 for there to be 15 or more Irish trained winners, (the record is the 14 in 2013.)
My gut feeling is that by the time of the declarations, the odds on the Irish horses will have shortened more than the British horses, and that the theoretical number of Irish trained winners will be close to 14. I also think that the markets are failing to price in the transfer of power across the Irish Sea and so the likely number of Irish trained winners will be higher than the market suggests at that stage.
I have it about a 3/1 chance that the Irish will break the record and train 15 or more winners this time and so 9/1 is a must bet.
1pt 15+ Irish trained winners at the Festival @ 9/1