Matt Tombs / Tuesday 14th January 2014 / 13:55
I’m constantly looking for new angles or ideas for Festival betting. Whilst understanding the form and the type of horse that’s needed for the different races often leads to a profit, new angles and ideas can certainly bump up that profit.
They often result from change and one of the biggest changes in the last few years is that there are now more level weights, all age novice races, (4 chases rather than 2, and 3 hurdles rather than 2.) When combined with fewer horses in training, and a huge concentration of the top horses with a few owners / trainers – that means smaller fields and more of the best horses avoiding each other.
There’s another factor that’s specific to this season – there have been very few novices capturing the imagination. Usually by now several of the novice races have a short priced favourite. This season in those 7 races, only 9 different horses are quoted at a single figure price. Given that there are considerably fewer runners per race than a decade ago, all that implies that working out which horse will run in which race, should provide a source of overpriced horses.
I’m therefore trying something new. I’m looking at every horse quoted at 25/1 or less and guesstimating which race, (if any,) each will run in – and forming my own shadow market. Only if I think a horse has a better than 50% chance of lining up in a specific race have I included it. They’ll obviously be lots of other runners on the day, but few, if any, are ante-post propositions now. (There are few horses quoted for the 4 miler so I’m not compiling a shadow market for that, although I have excluded horses from my RSA market that I think will run in the 4 miler.)
The idea is to get a very rough idea how the races might shape up and to see if anything therefore jumps out as being fantastic value. To do that, I’ve added in some longer shots that I’m potentially interested in backing, (though researching the races in more detail should produce others). I’ve set out the results below.
7 Dodging Bullets
8 Felix Yonger
10 Defy Logic
12 Rock On Ruby, Hinterland
JLT (formerly Jewson):
7 Wonderful Charm, Champagne Fever
9 Oscar Whisky
12 Taquin Du Seuil, Vukovar
16 Don Cossack
20 Uxizandre, Fox Appeal, Rebel Fitz
25 Caid Du Berlais, Sizing Gold
12 Carlingford Lough
14 Smad Place, Morning Assembly
16 Corrin Wood, Le Bec
25 O’Faolains Boy, Many Clouds
NQ Road To Riches
20 Josses Hill, Western Boy
25 Valseur Lido, Moyle Park
33 Arctic Fire, Stand To Reason
40 Gilt Shadow
12 The Tullow Tank
16 Vautour, Apache Stronghold, Royal Boy
20 Red Sherlock, Ballyalton, Rathvinden
25 The Liquidator
33 The Skyfarmer
9/2 Kings Palace
6 Briar Hill
12 Captain Cutter
16 Deputy Dan
In order to compile this shadow market I’ve made some guesstimates. The first is to look at the mega-yards (Mullins, Henderson & Nicholls) and mega-owners, (Gigginstown, McManus, Ricci etc) and guesstimate how they’ll shuffle their packs.
The key is Willie Mullins who holds so much firepower in the novice divisions, and who likes to have an A team to spread between the novice races. He’ll ideally want to run at least 2 in each race. Last season his tally was Arkle (1), JLT (2), RSA (2), Supreme (3), Neptune (1), Albert Bartlett (2, although one of them was scratched on the morning of the race). This season he looks even stronger.
I’m guesstimating that his ‘A’ Team at this stage is Felix Yonger (Arkle), Champagne Fever (JLT), Ballycasey (RSA), Valseur Lido (Supreme), Vautour (Neptune), Faugheen (Albert Bartlett.) That leads to a surprising conclusion – that Briar Hill isn’t in the A team and would probably take on Faugheen. I’m far from sure that’ll be the case even if they all get to the Festival, but it’s a realistic scenario and enough to stop me backing Faugheen for the Neptune ante-post. Part of the logic for this is that Rich Ricci owns Vautour and Faugheen and will want to keep them apart.
When you start factoring other owners in, there’s another interesting conclusion. Gigginstown don’t have a stand out novice chaser at this stage but my best guess is that they’ll end up with Trifolium (Arkle), Don Cossack, (JLT) and Mozoltov (RSA.) I think many are assuming that Don Cossack and Mozoltov will go for the opposite races but I’m not so sure. I don’t think Don Cossack’s a stayer and Mullins thinks Mozoltov will be, (both are entered in a 3m novice chase at Naas on Saturday.)
Also, I think Mullins rates Mozoltov and so he’d rather put him up against Ballycasey who might be the weakest of his 3 A team novice chasers, rather than have Mozoltov take on Champagne Fever. Noel Meade has been trying Road To Riches, (not yet quoted for the RSA,) at 2–2½m, but he was a 3 miler over hurdles last season and might step back up in trip now. How he fits into the mix will impact Mozoltov and Don Cossack.
Take a look at the shadow markets I’ve put together, amend them as you see fit – eg if you’re convinced Faugheen will go for the Neptune – and then see what, if anything, you think jumps out, before reading on.
In the novice hurdle division, what jumps out at me is that in my shadow market, its 20/1 bar one in the Supreme, with 33/1 bar five. That might mean Irving is good value, equally it might be that the Supreme is the sort of market where there’s value in long shots that have either only raced in calm waters so far or have had excuses for being beaten.
Whilst some recent Supreme winners had shown smart form by this stage of the season, (Noland had won the Tolworth and Champagne Fever, Go Native and Al Ferof had Grade 1 placed form), plenty hadn’t. Brave Inca had won two handicaps off 95 and 106, Menorah, Captain Cee Bee and Cinders And Ashes had been contesting small races and Ebaziyan didn’t even make his hurdling debut until 21st January. Arctic Fire and perhaps Gilt Shadow are two that come to mind that might well have excuses for their defeats and Stand To Reason is one that appeals as a lightly raced type who might progress to Grade 1 level. Some in-depth research should reveal others.
The obvious bet though is in the novice chasing division, where the market that jumps out as being ripe for exploiting is the JLT, with the form of the 4 British horses at shorter than 16/1 looking ordinary. Wonderful Charm, Oscar Whisky & Taquin Du Seuil have been beating each other and none has produced a performance that shouts out that they’re going to win this race, for all they look good, solid novices. Vukovar is something of an unknown quantity but has no form over fences that puts him in the mix for this and will get only 1lb rather than the huge weight for age allowance he’s had the advantage of so far.
Whilst plans will remain flexible until close to the Festival, (depending on which of the Mullins horses get there), it’s looking more and more likely that the JLT is Champagne Fever’s target. He’s 7/1 for what’s shaping into a pretty ordinary race at the moment. The trip looks ideal for him at this stage of his career and he’s the novice chaser Ruby Walsh has been most excited about – he’s seen as a Gold Cup horse for next season.
I can see him going off 2/1 or shorter on the day so, whilst he still has to get to the Festival and run in this race not the Arkle or RSA, it’s well worth that risk. My guess is he’ll run next in the Moriarty at the start of next month and if he wins easily there, I think he’ll be very short for the JLT.
Many talked him up before Christmas as the outstanding novice chaser of the season. Whilst he hasn’t proved that yet, he’s the one with superstar potential. He’d enjoy going that stride slower in the JLT, than when forced into a mistake when trapping along with specialist 2 miler Defy Logic last time. With his Festival record, anyone backing him will be able to lay it off at much shorter than 7/1 on the day, assuming he lines up.
1pt Champagne Fever to win the JLT (formerly Jewson) Novices Chase @ 7/1