The Punting Confessional – Thursday, August 8th 2013
After five losing days out of six, I drew stumps on Galway before Sunday’s all jumps card and if I’m being honest I called just one race at the meeting meaningfully right, the mile and a half premier handicap on Friday in which my main play Curley Bill just held on from my saver and place bet Bayan.
Clearly I got plenty wrong over the week, notably backing Trikala ahead of Hidden Oasis when keen to oppose the favourite Backdrop in the opening maiden on Friday and only having a token bet on Dark Crusader at a massive price in the 3yo handicap on Monday despite her being an impressive last time out winner for an in-form yard.
There are always lessons to be learned from such events however and let’s survey the car wreckage to see where the damage was done.
Though it is not easy at the time, the sensible punter has to allow for the fact that a bad period of losses can often be the result of randomness; if you are backing horses away from the front end of the market – as I prefer to do – long losing runs are inevitable and simply a consequence of your approach.
During a Festival week, when there is a sharp concentration of racing and strong opinions are often held, a losing streak could be more likely as there is simply more betting going on. There is little point feeling gutted about this but equally this should not be taken as carte blanche to continue punting foolishly; there is a time for self-examination but rarely is it the time itself.
In gambling, it is very easy to get things wrong, even calling a race right does not mean one gets paid, as I mentioned above in the Backdrop race. With this, it is also worth noting what one is doing right and I certainly backed a lot of horses that the early market called wrong at Galway, Usa at 11/1 (SP 6/1), Quinine at 8/1 (SP 9/2), Elegant Statesman at 9/2 (SP 9/4), Cairdiuil at 12/1 (SP 13/2) amongst others.
None of that quartet won and most never came close but if you’re backing horses at odds well in advance of starting price you have to be doing something right; as my whole approach is based on backing horses at bigger odds than their true value, one expects to see money come for them at some point as the market corrects itself.
Despite rain that was biblical at times, notably on Ladies’ Day, form held up well at Galway; at one point in the meeting, 12 of the last 16 favourites had won between Tuesday and Thursday. Of course, you then have the hacks saying that the professionals must be winning which is a misnomer, if anything it means that the mugs are winning.
Too many punters revert to the security blanket of the favourite when things are going against them; I have a couple of friends that like a punt without being seriously into it and if they chance upon a decent price winner for a fair return they don’t see that this is the best way to approach the game and instead return to backing short prices, their approach neatly summed up as: high strike rate, low returns, plenty of shouting, no real profit.
There is no meeting I dislike punting more than a card where I fancy a number of favourites as it means that I have to get a lot right and the upside is small due to the odds. I much prefer heading into a card with a few fancies at bigger prices and profit if even one of them clicks.
Many of these ideas about favourites apply to the Dermot Weld horses at the meeting as you simply need to get an awful lot right with his horses if backing them over the seven days. The SPs of his eleven winners were 9/10, 11/8, 2/5, 11/8, 1/5, evens, 11/4 twice, 8/15, 6/1 and evens again. At those sorts of prices, one would need to be an ultra-selective genius to make him pay at Galway; if you detect some bitterness in my tone you’re probably right as I backed him to have ten or fewer winners at 7/4!
I do struggle to call Weld’s horses at the meeting as it is often not the runners with standout form claims that win; the three of his horses that I backed over the week – Pay Day Kitten, Tandem and Stuccodor – all came to the track with form that was working out yet none made an impact.
Sour grapes aside, the almost saintly status accorded to Weld at the meeting is over-the-top; yes, it is admirable that he manages to peak his inmates for one week of the year and that he extracts wins out of bad horses in a competitive scene and seems to know what horses will handle the unusual track well but one also needs to note that most of the maidens at the meeting are handed to him on a plate with many of the other big yards sending out second-graders to make up the field if even taking their chance at all.
One pleasing trend to emerge from the meeting was the sight of other trainers getting in on the act, notably Tony Martin but also Ger Lyons. Lyons opting to aim a few good horses at the meeting – he won the big mile handicap with Brendan Brackan and also ran Group 1 entry Sniper in a maiden – is particularly interesting as he had scorned Galway in the past but perhaps he now comes to view it as a good shop window for his yard and he would certainly have many horses that, in class terms at least, would fit the programme offered at Galway.
An opening up of the meeting to yards other than Rosewell House would certainly be good for the meeting as a whole as it would make it more competitive though the course executive could hardly care less on that front; as we saw from the crowd figures that came through the deluge to make racing on the Thursday, they will turn up regardless.