The Punting Confessional, 4th April 2012

The Punting Confessional was at Leopardstown this week

The Punting Confessional was at Leopardstown

The Punting Confessional 

Curragh, March 25th

Lincoln day at the Curragh is always decent though I rarely seem to make any money; it is however the start of the flat turf season which means I’m moving up a gear in terms of punting as I’m primarily flat racing. I do some of the bigger jumps meetings over the winter but rarely play seriously away from Dundalk but from here on in I’ll be looking at every flat meeting in detail.

The standout feature of the last two Lincoln cards was the dominance of the Tommy Stack yard; he was 4 from 4 in 2010 and 2 from 2 last year. His runners this year, of which there were five, were understandably well-fancied but none troubled the judge and the best they could manage was a well-beaten third in the Lincoln with Sikara who I backed though more because of her impressive final start last year than her trainer.

I wrote last week about recency bias and while the market overreaction to the Stack runners is not the most common form of recency bias in racing it was certainly an example of how the market privileges the current events (in this case, outcomes at the same meeting in the two previous years) and ignores wider issues (the fact that Stack only trains about 20 winners in a good year and his stock is simply inferior to the likes of Oxx, Weld and Kevin Prendergast, all amongst the winners on the card).

Stack may well have his horses ready early – he did have a double at Limerick last Thursday – but in most cases they simply aren’t good enough to beat runners from the big five yards in Ireland. Four of the five Stack runners at the Curragh were returned at 6/1 or shorter on the back of a very small sample size of successful runners at previous Lincoln meetings and it would have paid to be contrary and oppose the hype.

This example of over-valuing the recent is an unusual one as the relevant events took place 12 months apart but there can be little doubt that the dominant factor in framing horse racing markets is recent happenings; what a horse did in its last outing governs the price it is today in the vast majority of cases and is much more influential than considerations of ground, race distance, pace or overall class.

I am not for a second going to suggest that what happened recently is not of importance – of course it is. But it is not quite so important as the market suggests – and if you can find some angle whereby you can see a horse leaving behind a poor recent run (a change in ground, say, or a different pace scenario) then you are on the road to betting value.

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Leopardstown, March 28th

Interesting feature of the week goes to Trading Post in the Racing Post last Wednesday when the author pointed out Aidan O’Brien’s record with runners in Irish races in the month of March since 2009 to this day was just 3 from 56. There was nothing ground-breaking in the idea that the O’Brien horses tend to need their first runs but it was good to be able to put a number on how less likely they are to win relative to the rest of the season; O’Brien typically operates at a 20% strikerate for the season as a whole versus the 5% in March in the recent years.

Another interesting aspect to the article was how many of the Ballydoyle runners trade short in-running – they are in most cases starting from a short price but the idea that the ‘blow up’ seems to hold – and Furner’s Green was one that got beaten at 1.21 at this meeting. This means I would find it very hard to back an O’Brien horse at this stage of the year.


Limerick, March 29th

This proved a disappointing meeting as large bet on Norah Starr went south but thankfully justice was done with that mare and connections were penalised for her lack of effort. I also lost a decent bet on Beart in the earlier 7f handicap who couldn’t build on a seemingly impressive handicap win at Dundalk earlier in the month and was a well beaten eighth behind Bankroll.

With hindsight, I probably should have seen this one coming as while the racing at Dundalk has been excellent this winter series (indeed, I would encourage any punter to take betting at the venue seriously as it is a very fair track with a good level of competition where the form seems to work out well) it is simply a grade or three below what we can expect to see on turf.

The horses that have been running at Dundalk may have fitness on their side but they aren’t as good as the turf horses just starting back in March and April and flip-side of their fitness edge is the fact that they have risen in the handicap and may simply be ‘run out’ or over-raced at this stage. Beart wasn’t the first Dundalk horse I’d got stuck into this turf season – I did the same with My Girl Anna at the Curragh on Sunday – but hopefully I will be a little more sceptical of them in future.

I must however point out at this stage that while this is broad idea I would like to work off, there are no hand-and-fast rules in betting, only general principles and sometimes they have to be cast to the wind when price dictates and ultimately price is all that matters. So there may well have been a recent eye-catcher at Dundalk who shaped 10lbs better than the bare form which will help negate the extra poundage he needs to find when switching to turf.


Dundalk, March 30th

As a punter, I don’t really like reading between the lines but there are times when raw form and video simply aren’t enough and you have to look at the human element of trainer intentions. One such case was Exhortation in the 7f maiden here who I didn’t like at 6/4 because of where he was running and the first time blinkers.

His trainer Dermot Weld uses blinkers better than anyone but I felt the application of headgear first time out as a 3yo was a negative even for this yard as was his appearance at Dundalk as I thought a horse that had finished a good third to the Derby second favourite Akeed Mofeed would surely have been making his seasonal return back on turf at one of the big tracks.

I’m not sure whether I called the horse right as Exhortation was only narrowly beaten but I did manage to have a small play on the winner Suehail who looks one to follow.

Of course, reading between the lines can be done positively as well as negatively and one could have inferred that Princess Highway from the same yard was a lot better than her debut effort prior to her win at Leopardstown on Wednesday; she had been heavily punted both in the morning and on track ahead of her first start but the soft ground was never likely to suit the Street Cry filly and she duly put up an improved effort (again after strong support) on Wednesday.

– Tony Keenan

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