A lot of fluff and nonsense, dear reader, has already been written on the subject of the reigning Gold Cup winner's chances of a repeat victory this time next month. And, as is always the case, those who believe the hype will go skint. Because if you follow the crowd, you are destined to get the same results as the crowd. That's why 98% (or thereabouts) of punters lose. [In fact, given the advent of betting exchanges, that figure is now nearer 95% - are you the one in twenty?]
So it was that Denman's aura of invincibility was dented on Saturday, with a 23 length defeat to Hennessey winner, Madison du Berlais. But what should we make of that? Let's consider some facts:
- In 15 starts, Denman has never been out of the first two. Second to a Grade 1 winner, with numerous other Grade 1 winners behind is hardly the worst Gold Cup trial ever.
- Denman has never before raced in a Graded contest on such a speed-favouring track, and only proved that it doesn't play to his strengths.
- I estimate that Paul Nicholls would have had him about 85% fit for this race, knowing that winning here but knackering the horse out was no kind of preparation for the Gold Cup.
- Reality check: The horse was returning after a layoff of eleven months, in a Grade 2 (that was a Grade 1 in all but name), and finished 2nd
Now let's consider the potential Gold Cup opposition:
- Kauto Star is probably not a true 3m2f staying chaser, and will definitely not want it bottomless
- Neptune Collonges CANNOT win the Gold Cup. He wants a flat track and three miles. I will say that again: Neptune Collonges CANNOT win the Gold Cup.
- Madison du Berlais has demonstrated twice this season what an excellent and improving chaser he is. But consider that he has already had a whopping 31 chase starts, and it's hard to imagine him improving too much more. He'd currently need to find around a stone and a half (according to official ratings) to rival Denman's previous Gold Cup-winning level of ability.
- Of the rest, Exotic Dancer is good enough for a place but may skip the race in favour of a softer option; Joe Lively is a Lively outsider, despite flopping at Kempton (race might have come too soon after last one); Albertas Run has place prospects but probably can't win (despite my ante post wager); and, Halcon Genelardais still looks a decent place wager to me, but probably (perhaps that should be plodder-bly) can't win.
The long and short of all this conjecture? Denman, at around 9/2 (5.7 available on Betfair), is excellent value IF he runs. Personally, I'd wait at least a week to see how he comes out of the race, and what noises the Nicholls stable make. If he's not right, they won't run him. Simple as that. And that remains a live possibility.
In two weeks time, Denman at around 7/2 would still be a cracking bet, in my opinion.
Despite an apparently disappointing run on Saturday, he remains the one to be on to this punter's eye.
Gavin from Nag3 was staying at mine at the weekend, and - as well as the obligatory drinking and gambling - we got through a fair amount of work, predominantly on his excellent (and I mean excellent) Cheltenham preview. Whatever you do, make sure you look out for this. I know for a fact that it is better than the Weatherbys version (because the Weatherbys content is about a third of the Nag3 content!) and, though I haven't seen the Racing Post version, it will have to be brilliant to compete.
The way Gavin is planning on releasing the content, and providing the updates, means that ante-post punters will get the info they need up front; more cautious 'wait for the final declarations' players will get their fix; and, 'night before' bettors will also be treated. More in due course, but this is a 'must have' for the Festival, which starts four weeks tomorrow.
A quick word to those who recently signed up for my Laying System service. Of course, I'm delighted that the recent run of form is continuing. However, do please paper trade until you're happy that the approach is for you. Remember, we're interested in mid- to long-term profitability, and the laws of averages dictate that we are due some sort of 'correction' after such an extended winning run. (This is not just my natural pessimism, but rather, considered mathematical practice).
Finally, I have to pass on a word or two for Julia's Bavarica, which runs at Kempton this afternoon (3.55). Julia told me she should win today. Personally, I've reservations about the jockey (again! Although, in fairness, he has won on the horse), and the track (first try at Kempton). Nevertheless, it's an eminently winnable contest, and the pennies will be down from some this afternoon.