Matt Tombs / Friday 12th December 2014 / 17:45
One of the most difficult issues for punters is what to do about horses you’ve backed before. If that horse has won you money, it’s natural to see it’s winning performance in the most positive light possible and find reasons to back it again. You hear even professional tipsters say “I’ll be backing it until its beaten” – suggesting they’d back it regardless of the odds, which is obviously not a great betting strategy.
By contrast, if the horse you’ve backed is beaten, its natural to find excuses for it, in order to justify the judgment you made. We’ve all had horses we’ve followed off a cliff, terrified to leave them un-backed in case they then win. My current one is Ma Filleule. In my heart, I’m pretty sure she’s just not as good as I thought, but my brain keeps saying that she was clearly unfit at Down Royal and then ran in what effectively became a flat race at Aintree etc.
The opposite problem is talking yourself out of backing a horse again because you don’t want to think you’re emotionally attached to it, just because it won for you before. My worst example was the 2011 Festival. The previous Festival I’d backed Alberta’s Run at 66/1 for the Ryanair and Sizing Europe at all prices from 25/1 down for the Arkle. I managed to talk myself out of backing both again the following year despite liking their chances - and they won at SPs of 6/1 and 10/1, leaving me feeling I was trying to be too clever for my own good.
Equally, I can be guilty of being so determined not to follow a horse off a cliff like a mug punter, that I don’t back a horse for a second time, despite it having good credentials. For example, if you took every horse I put up in races last season before the Festival, (that was beaten), and backed it next time – you’d have made a 135% profit. The only one of those 27 losers I stayed faithful to was Lord Windermere – tipping him for the Irish Hennessy after his Lexus defeat. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t keep the faith for the Gold Cup.
Keeping objective about horses you’ve backed before is a perennial challenge. It’s particularly important this weekend given the 2 horses I want to back at Cheltenham. One was a 16/1 winner last time for the column, the other I’ve put up twice, firstly as an ante-post bet, (it didn’t run,) and it was a comfortably beaten 2nd the second time.
It’s actually an easy decision to back Caid Du Berlais (7/2) again in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. This is invariably a less strong race than the Paddy Power and he’s only gone up 5lb for winning that off 143. Everything was wrong for him there. The ground was much too soft, (by contrast the ground on Friday looked to be riding the good to soft advertised and there’s no more rain forecast.) He was having only his 4th chase start and was ridden as if inexperience was an issue – right round the outside to get a good view of his fences. He was also held up and in a slowly run race that was a significant disadvantage.
To win what’s just about the most hotly contested handicap chase of the season after just 3 chase starts requires a special horse. The other two really inexperienced Paddy Power winners this century were Imperial Commander, (who’d also had 3 chases,) who won off 139 and won the Ryanair that season, and Exotic Dancer, (4 chases,) who also won off 139 and followed up in this off 10lb higher, before finishing 2nd in the King George and Gold Cup that season. They ended their seasons 26lb and 33lb higher than their marks for winning the Paddy Power. I’m hoping that Caid Du Berlais makes a similar progression but he only needs to make a fraction of it to win this off just 5lb higher.
The normal concern about these Cheltenham handicap chases is that in a big field you need plenty of luck in running – which introduces a big element of chance, so there’s rarely much margin in taking a shortish price. However, this won’t be like the 24 runner Festival handicap chases as there are only 12 runners.
The other big plus is that the horse I feared, Monetaire, was taken out at the five-day stage. The opposition doesn’t look that strong and whilst he has to carry 11-11, only outsider Workbench has less than 10-12 so it’s effectively a limited handicap. The other market leaders Barrakilla, No Buts and Attaglance all have decent chances, but none look like stars. The fly in the ointment is Ericht (10/1), who was heavily backed into favouritism for the novice handicap chase at the Festival. He didn’t fire there but was running a good race in the Paddy Power when losing momentum with a mistake 2 out. He should also be suited by the better ground – if he’s on a going day, he could be the one to give Caid Du Berlais most to do.
If there’s ever a good time to be taking a short price in one of these handicaps, this must surely be it. I think he’s a potentially top class horse in what looks an ordinary handicap for the grade, so even at 7/2 I think he’s good value.
1pt Caid Du Berlais to win the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Cheltenham 2:00) @ 7/2
In the Bula (International) Hurdle, The New One (4/7) will be very difficult to beat. He’s a top class horse, won this last year and despite having to carry the full 8lb penalty, he really ought to be too good for these. Some judges weren’t impressed with his jumping at Haydock. He did go a little to his right but he was quick and I thought it was an improved round. The yard, (which can be streaky and sometimes goes out of form at this time of year,) is still having winners - so he should take all the beating.
Vaniteux (5/2) looked to be getting the kid gloves treatment from Nicky Henderson as an immature novice hurdler last season. He was a late addition to their Festival team and ran a blinder to be 3rd in the Supreme. Plenty of Nicky’s have been badly needing the run, and he raced on the worst of the ground when a good 2nd in the Greatwood off 147. The handicapper thought that was worth a mark of 154 and he gets 8lb so, if he does come on a lot for the run, he has a decent chance. The stiffer test of 2m1f round the new course should suit him well. That hasn’t escaped the bookmakers though and the other side of the coin is that he’s a horse beaten off 147 last time taking on a top class horse – and he’s only 5/2.
So here are my reasons for giving Zamdy Man (12/1) another chance -despite his being beaten an easy 2¾l by The New One at Haydock. The New One was race fit there and Zamdy Man was having his first run for 10 months. Very fresh, he shot off into a big lead, wasting a fair bit of energy in the first half mile. Haydock is one of the sharpest tracks in the country now and an extra 1f at Cheltenham may well suit better, (Liam Tredwell suggested he might benefit from a stiffer test.)
Zamdy Man was very weak as a juvenile and since he’s strengthened up, he’s run in 4 races on ground ranging between good to soft and heavy. As so often happens, the fact that he’s shown massively improved form on such ground, has led to a consensus that he needs testing going. However, he hasn’t yet had a chance to show what he can do on better ground, (since those juvenile days.) Two of his half siblings, Ladino and Linnett, won 9 races between them, all on good or good to firm ground. I doubt good to soft going will be a problem.
He has a 4lb pull with The New One and at the prices I’m giving him another chance. Given the number of no-hopers in the field, and the presence of The New One, it has to make sense to back him each-way.
1pt e/w Zamdy Man in the International Hurdle (Cheltenham 3:10) @ 12/1