Whilst thinking about subjects for today's musings, I decided that I could most definitely not warble on about something political, as I was starting to worry about a perceived negativity towards the sport. It may be true that racing's various governing bodies have made some curious decisions in recent days and weeks, but the game goes on, and there is much to enjoy.
In today's post, then, I'll have a quick look back at Saturday's racing, a look forward to this week's action, and I am going to share with you one of the best-performing systems in my 'systems incubator'. Whoop!
So, Saturday. It was one of those days that defines value punters from the 'winner at any cost' type. I am, and many of you are, in the former camp, unashamedly, as I/you believe it is the only way to make money from betting on any sport, long term.
I'd written up my thoughts on the eight TV races, where in truth I only had two strong views, which readers could probably discern for themselves. And, as I say, it was a defining post.
Because value punters, by definition, will get a LOT more wrong than right. Most Saturday tipsters, especially in the press and on TV, wade in with a couple of shorties and then get their prayer mats out. That's not how to win, it's merely how to 'save face' in the short term: a period which, granted, many followers of the sport fail to see beyond.
Not geegeez readers, who are steeped in the principles of value wagering, of course. You know that it's the long game that counts, and that woodwork-worrying is part and parcel of the way we play the game.
Saturday... it started with a 'no view' race where I nominated a 16/1 shot that would be suited by conditions. Persun ran a scorcher and finished second at 14/1. Next up was another 'no view' race, where Hawkesbury was flagged as a likely winner. Second, at 13/8.
The race for grey horses was my first opinion of the afternoon, and I liked the look of Crew Cut, who was my only racing wager in Britain on the day, each way. He finished fourth, of course, at 5/1, having been 13/2 earlier. The old timers were name checked for the frame, and both Baby Strange (7/1) and Light From Mars (12/1) pushed my nag out of the money, finising second and third to a horse I couldn't have nominated.
I had the next race, the Geoffrey Freer, down as "It’s a very good race to watch, but too hard to take a categorical punting view". My two against the field, Cafe Society (didn't stay) and Girolami (didn't perform) are still running, and I hope plenty of you either swerved the race or backed your own judgement.
In the next, I nominated Piazon against the favourite, at 9/1. He led until swerving violently across the track a quarter mile from home and was well beaten as a 7/1 shot. I also flagged Ventura Mist as one that could go close if bouncing back to form, at 25/1. She was sent off 14/1 and finished very fast to be a half length 2nd, having been hampered by the errant Piazon (as many others were too, in fairness).
In the next, the 3.15, I had Accession as easily the most likely winner, and he duly obliged at 9/2. Pastoral Player and Kinglami were given favourable mentions, and the former ran a fine third, despite duck egg form figures, at 7/1. Kinglami was disappointing.
In the big Ripon sprint, the Great St Wilfrid, I took three against the field: Kimberella, Captain Ramius, and Spinatrix. Kimberella was seventh of nineteen, beaten a length and a half; Captain Ramius missed the break and finished second last at 22/1 (something seems amiss with him just now); and, Spinatrix, bless her cotton socks, was second at 10/1, half a length behind the winner.
Spinnie has now run 322 in this race and, considering it's almost always a full twenty-runner field, that's most impressive. She's as tough as they come, as she proved when bagging another silver the following day - yesterday - in the Listed race at Ponty, from an impossible draw.
[I backed the winner - my only racing bet on Sunday - at 8/1, 10p Rule 4, returned 10/3. It was a value play, of course].
Onwards, and we had just the Hungerford Stakes to go on Saturday, where I suggested Gregorian would be too good for Breton Rock, with the latter not offering enough value to be a play against the Gosden horse. Of course, Breton Rock won - at 3/1 - and Gregorian was a short head behind him. The second had been 5/2 early, and the winner 7/2, so neither were value at starting price, not to my eye at least.
And that was that. A day of good calls but no returns for me personally. On the one hand these are frustrating, but on the other, if you can get close at decent prices - and beat starting price - consistently, then the laws of nature and mathematics will take care of the rest.
There was still time for me to drop a decent chunk of cash on a four race accumulator at Arlington Park in the States. It was Arlington Million night, with a cracking turf under card, and Europe was well represented.
I'd rolled a fair few up in acca's to varying stakes using my ticket builder tool. The Pizza Man delivered (groan) in leg one, and then Adelaide and Euro Charline plundered valuable pots for Ireland and Britain (via Italy) respectively. This meant I had a good bit running on to Magician (mainly), Side Glance, Smoking Sun, and Real Solution in a seven runner event.
I must have been tired or something, because in these situations - especially as I was unhurried at home - I would normally 'save' on the other three horses, all of which were double figure prices with the UK bookies. The rest is predictable history, and Magician got beaten by a horse that was 40/1 in Britain, Hardest Core.
There's a nice story to him - he'd been winning claimers, and his owner - an ebullient guy by all accounts, who happens to have Down Syndrome - had told anyone who would listen that his horse would win in the pre-race gala. Good luck to him, and his horse - there was certainly no fluke about the result - but it was an expensive reversal for yours truly.
I had also done a stack on the football to round out a frustrating day. Value is a rewarding mistress, but she's a hard one to tame.
Onwards, and tonight is Leg 3 of the Colossus Bets Pick 4 rollover. I'm still going and have lots of options in the Burnley - Chelsea game, including a couple of quirky results. I did cash out half of my tickets, to cover some of Saturday's losses, however. Glory seeking sometimes has to play second fiddle to bankroll management. Sigh.
More materially, this week sees the return of the good stuff, as we welcome York's Ebor to our telly boxes. It's a cracking meet, from Wednesday to Saturday, and I'll be trying to find some value winners in its midst.
For now though, keep in mind that at this most Yorkshire of Yorkshire events, the local trainers (and ex-pats like Willie Haggas) are dead set on bagging a winner for, in the main, local owners. In that context, recent form can often be forgiven. More on that tomorrow.
Now then, I'm conscious that in recent times there has not been as much of a systems focus on geegeez as there used to be. I still love a good system angle, but I do feel that with the advent of so much data availability, many of the good edges have largely been smoothed out by the market. And when new ones are discovered they tend to get factored in more quickly than they would have done even five years ago.
Nevertheless, there are still some good'uns, and one of my favourites from my systems incubator is an angle that exploits trainers who move their horses up in trip in the early part of their handicap career.
The six trainers will all be familiar to you, and some of them at least will be familiar in the context of improving horses in handicaps. They are:
Luca Cumani, Mark Johnston, Sir Mark Prescott, Saeed bin Suroor, Alan Swinbank and Roger Varian.
Here are the rules:
1. Horses aged two or three running in UK flat turf handicaps
2. Four or less career starts
3. Running in either same class as last time, or one grade higher or lower
4. Stepping up in trip a quarter mile (two furlongs) or more
5. 12/1 or shorter
Simple rules designed to out a horse expected to perform much better today (the odds threshold manages that to some degree) under materially different circumstances than previously - a big step up in trip.
This system has a 30% strike rate since 2008, and has been nicely profitable in each year.
As you can see, there will probably only be another thirty or so qualifiers this year, but they're worth looking out for.
How was your wagering weekend? Better than mine, I hope!
I'll be back tomorrow with a deeper overview of York's Ebor meeting, including trainers and horses to follow.