It’s a tough game, this.
If you’re good at it, you still lose a lot more often than you win, but the winners pay for the losers.
And, if you’re really good, the wins leave a bit in your wallet after the losers are paid for.
This weekend was a wagering roller coaster for all the wrong reasons. Heavy losses on Friday were compensated by a ‘cheap’ win on Sunday. There was a monastic abstinence on Saturday, as I committed myself to a million Hail Mary’s and a hefty bout of hungover self-flagellation.
Let me explain…
Friday was the racing website owners’ Christmas party day. Yes, we solitarily confined individuals (in the main) occasionally get together to chew the fat and drink the grog, and to share ideas. Friday was our day, and we had a table in the restaurant at Sandown.
From a betting perspective, there was absolutely nothing of interest on a wide open card that promised more insight for the future than sound propositions for the day. This was perfectly exemplified by my ‘limped in’ placepot perm, which limped out of leg one as Hendo’s hurdling debutant and favourite could muster only fourth place behind Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer. Few of these will be making the line up for the Triumph Hurdle, and while a couple might get a run in the Fred Winter, it’s unlikely they’ll trouble the judge there.
In any case, Friday was also about the debut of Slipper Satin in geegeez’ colours up at Wolves. Expectation was high after her trainer, Noel Quinlan, had reported her in excellent order and promised she would go very close. He also had another runner, Better Value, that was expected to win later on the card.
Surprised by the bullishness of the trainer’s comments, I piled in accordingly. Note, this is a most unusual act for me. It is rare that I speculate on the opinion of others, especially when that other has a strong interest in one horse, and not necessarily much of a notion on the rest of the field.
Slipper Satin was running at 4.30 and Better Value an hour later. The last race at Sandown was over by 3.30, but we had a comfortable table and – though the champagne and red wine had long since been decanted into so many fleshy vessels – there was still beer to be drunk.
Having taken 7/1 for too much, best odds guaranteed, I was surprised – no, shocked – to see Slipper Satin showing at 16/1 a few minutes before the off. In many ways, I knew my fate then and there. She was well backed on course, into 10/1, but she ran no sort of race. Initially sent on into the lead, her jockey allowed her to slip back through the field when she was challenged down the back straight.
Turning in, it looked like she’d be tailed off. But, small mercy though it is, she did run to the line well enough, and was eventually beaten six lengths by the winner. It’s hard to know what to make of the run and, in truth, I was spitting.
Mainly with myself, it should be said, as nobody forced money from my pocket, and it was a most uncharacteristic route to the betting window, via a sound bite from someone about whose opinion I had no handle.
No matter, for Better Value could yet steal parity from an unpromising position. Well, the form book will show a ‘P’ next to that one’s name for this run. Not the Timeform ‘P’, indicating capable of significant improvement. No, the common all garden ‘P’, indicating ‘pulled up’. In a flat race.
That can happen of course, but in this instance, the horse wasn’t lame afterwards. He would have been tailed off by the end, such was the scolded-cat ferocity of the early meter his rider employed, and the trainer was… well, let’s say he was unimpressed.
I still have no clue as to what to make of the trainer’s rhetoric, and in truth that’s of no consequence. I am a form book follower and, in a race like Slipper Satin’s, when all entrants were being asked to do something they’d never done before, there was no reason to be pulling on the boots. I deserved to walk home bare foot. Metaphorically, of course.
Friday night was briefly solemn, but it’s hard to remain introspective – even in the teeth of idiotic self-defeat – when in the company of smart business brains and good people, as I was. Ultimately, I was inspired and galvanised, as I generally am when meeting up with my peers.
I rolled in at something close to one in the morning, and Leonardo began his nightly warble (more teeth, poor bugger) around 3.30am.
Saturday was a day of limited effort. I watched, and very much enjoyed, the racing. Without a bet.
Actually, I did have one bet, but not on the day. I was taken with the way Sire De Grugy won at Sandown, having not been a huge fan of his in the past, and I backed him each way for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a race which is seriously lop-sided.
Here’s my rationale: Sire de Grugy is likely to go for the Queen Mum. Sprinter Sacre is too, assuming he can be got fit, and his current issue is resolved. We all hope that will be the case. If it is, Simonsig will surely run in the Ryanair, having won the Neptune over the longer trip a good bit more impressively than he did the Arkle over the shorter trip.
Cue Card may tilt at the Gold Cup itself if running close in the King George and, at any rate, would surely go at the Ryanair if not quite getting home around Kempton on Boxing Day.
Flemenstar could go for the Queen Mum, but is more likely to race over two-five in the Ryanair. Certainly his racing history suggests that’s the place for him. Kid Cassidy may be aimed at the Grand Annual again, though he’d have a stone-plus more to carry than when second last year.
Arvika Ligeonniere got found out in the Arkle last term, and will probably go Ryanair. And that leaves the third of the Henderson horses, Captain Conan. It was far from a disastrous run in third behind Sire De Grugy and, while expected to be fit enough to go close, he’s sure to come on for the run. But he does have ten pounds to find with SdG on official ratings, which are unlikely to change much as a result of the Tingle Creek outcome.
So, basically, if Sprinter Sacre runs in the Champion Chase, I contend that a fair number of others will dodge him and go for what could be one of the races of the Festival, the Ryanair. Sire De Grugy will not. He will stand his ground, and 16/1 (quarter the odds the first three) in what could be a small field of few realistic chances, seemed fair enough to me.
If Sprinter Sacre doesn’t run for whatever reason, Simonsig and a good few of the others might line up in the Champion Chase instead. In that case, it will likely be a much more competitive race, improving Sire de Grugy’s win chance whilst arguably diminishing his place prospects.
[Update: I’ve just read that trainer Gary Moore might skip Cheltenham, though if he runs well at Kempton at Christmas, I’d think they’d be sure to go for the Festival]
Still with me? OK, well that was the rationale.
Meanwhile, up Liverpool way, they were tackling those ferocious beasts which adorn Aintree’s famous Grand National course. Yes, I literally can’t wait for the million pound Crabbie’s Grand National (a fixed brush handicap hurdle).
I know it was only Foinavon, one of the smaller fences on the course, but cop a load of this preposterosity.
I mean, what’s the point?
Sadly, one horse was fatally injured in the Grand Sefton, the second of the two Aintree National course races. Plein Pouvoir over-rotated on landed which, I’m told by those who know more than me, is a common jumping issue in fixed brush hurdle races.
The overall numbers – just three fallers in both the Becher Chase (plus one unseated rider, from 22 starters) and the Grand Sefton (from sixteen starters) – demonstrate that the new fences are serving their purpose of reducing the number of fallers on this circuit.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are doing it at the expense of making the race anything like the test it once was. Sam Twiston-Davies, second on Baby Run in the Becher, said afterwards that there’s no way his horse would have completed over the old style fences.
So, is this a good thing? It’s a real toughie, and I have sympathy with both sides of the debate. From a sporting perspective, racing has clearly sacrificed its ‘greatest test’, which is now more likely to be a race like the Welsh National, especially on deep ground.
From a public relations perspective, a race like the Grand National, which has always been seen as a lottery by once-a-year punters, has now been reduced to exactly that. Buy a ticket, and hope your luck is in. It ain’t no test of jumping no more.
Onwards, to Sunday, and two ports of call. Our latest £100 free bet competition, courtesy of those fine fellows at Seanie Mac, involved a similar task to finding the winner of the 2014 Grand National. Yes, entrants had to pick a number – this time equating to the aggregate winning distances at Kelso and Warwick combined – and nearest to the right answer wins.
The correct answer was 41.75 lengths, so congratulations to turboisie who guessed 44 lengths, and wins the prize. For the second time in four weeks! It just goes to show that you have to be in it to win it, and if you weren’t, you might have turned your back on a ton of free bets. Literally. Well, colloquially, at least.
Well done (again), Mark.
Also on Sunday, there was some good racing at Punchestown and Cork. Punchestown featured a €50,000 Pick 6 guarantee and, as I’ve spoken about before, this is a golden value highway for those prepared to travel it.
On 17th November, I permed 120 x €1 units in a Pick 6 bet at Punchestown. There was a rollover pool that day, which meant there would be value to play for.
There were also two certainties on the card – 1/5 Faugheen and 1/16 Hurricane Fly – which essentially made it a Pick 4.
Long story short, I won the Pick 6 on 17th November. It paid €648.20. Ruby Walsh rode the first five winners, and the cumulative SP odds were 311/1. It paid €648.20!
Yesterday, there was a €50,000 guaranteed pool which, after deductions, equated to a €30,000 pool. A 4/1 shot won the first leg. After that, five favourites won, at odds of 5/4, 4/7, 7/2, 5/4 and 5/2.
Cumulative odds of 613/1. The Pick 6 dividend was €1,000 exactly, as there were 30 winning tickets. ‘Only’ half of one of those was mine. I staked €90 and returned €500 off such a simple bet. Incidentally, I had the second placed horse in three of those races too, and a couple of those would have made the dividend a good bit more attractive.
The point here is that, although outsiders can win and ruin the bet (of course!), it is ALWAYS worth scouting the card in Ireland when there’s a rollover or pool guarantee.
You don’t always have to be clever with how you bet, if you’ve sought out a place where value is in your corner before you even start!
That €410 profit made a decent dent into Friday’s losses, and rendered it a losing weekend, as opposed to a minor calamity.
And finally, an update on the registration for geegeez.
First, THANK YOU to the over 2,500 of you who have now registered. Your commitment to our site (and I mean that sincerely) is brilliant, and I’m working hard to get even more cool stuff on here over the coming weeks and months.
Coming soon will be an optional upgrade. This will be a paid service, but it will not be expensive. In fact, I hope you’ll agree it is excellent value.
So, what’s in there? Well, we’re still working on that. Currently, it will have all the elements you’ve come to enjoy, such as the race analysis reports and full form filters.
Plus, we’re adding pace reports this week hopefully, as well as the availability of tomorrow’s cards (and race analysis reports and full form filters) from 6pm the night before racing.
Plus, we’ve a new Course Report coming, which shows the course form for every runner in every race in a single place. You can sort that to find the top course specialists on any given day, at a glance.
There’s also a ‘Best Of’ Report, which will amalgamate all the top Race Analysis Report contenders, and display them on a single report. That will save you sifting from race to race, card to card, and all columns will be sortable as they are now.
We’re also working on a Tracker function. As with similar offerings elsewhere, you’ll be able to track your favourite horses. But you’ll also be able to track trainers and jockeys too. So, if there’s a rider you always look out for – or a trainer – you’ll get a notification in your ‘My Geegeez’ area each time they’ve got runners.
And we’re looking into a ‘head to head’ report too. This will show the previous match performance between runners in each race, and is yet another way of spotting the class horse in the field.
I won’t be waiting until everything is done before introducing these new features. Rather, they’ll be drip fed in – as ‘Beta’ (i.e. still in test) versions – as soon as I’m reasonably happy that they’re doing what they’re supposed to.
And, so that you can get a feel for the new kit, there will be a trial period of at least a couple of weeks before you need to decide whether it’s worth paying for thereafter.
With a following wind, I’ll be able to open up the trial later this week, and that will include tomorrow’s cards/race reports/form filters, and also the pace analysis reports.
So, stay tuned! And if you’ve any questions, comments or requests, do leave a message below. All feedback is most welcome.