The Punting Confessional – Wednesday, April 10th 2013
Curragh – March 24th
I thought I might take a periodic look at an individual day’s racing over the next few months, taking in the betting shape of the card as a whole, and where better to start than the opening day of the flat turf season in Ireland, the Lincoln at the Curragh? One has to remember that there is an element of randomness within each punting day and while one may approach it with a sense that there is money to be made there is every chance the opposite will happen; conversely, the card that looks particularly tough, one can make a few quid.
There are many who would say tread carefully in the early part of the season as the form settles down but I don’t believe in this idea; a punter never knows when a bet will present itself and while I wasn’t playing to high stakes this day my caution was more the product of what I perceived to be the absence of value rather than the time of the year. This was a day where things didn’t go to plan which are as worthy of analysis as days when things went swimmingly.
The opening two races were maidens and made zero betting appeal. This can be good in some ways as a punting friend of mine often argues that he hasn’t the attention span to cover a full card in real detail, preferring to concentrate on three or four races. It could be argued that this is a flaw in our make-up, perhaps a product of the internet age that has boiled all our brains, but equally the effort needed to give a race the quality of attention it needs should not be underestimated.
I’m not saying maidens can’t pay but by and large they don’t for me as I discovered when analysing my results a year or two back; with all the unraced horses, they are races where the inside info boys have an edge. Breeding offers some sort of angle into them but more than anything I’m watching for the future, particularly with an eye on attitude and things like high head carriage, hanging and tail-swishing; I tend not to be forgiving in this regard.
Bird’s Eye View headed the betting in the six furlong handicap and he’s the type of horse you have to be against at the prices; he had been impressive on his sole start in 2012 but representing the Tommy Stack/JP McManus axis was always going to be too short. We never got to see how well-treated or otherwise she was as the saddle slipped and my decision to take her on with three race-fit rags – Battleroftheboyne, Allegra Tak and Elusive Prince – never looked like paying off. The winner was Srucahan and he was a horse I was too harsh on attitude-wise; despite having looked a dodge early in his career, he had won his two previous starts and this brought up the hat-trick. While Stack is well known as an early season trainer and often overbet as a result, Srucahan’s handler Paul Deegan does well at this time of the year and is nothing like so well-recognised.
The Group 3 Park Express Stakes was unappealing as I thought Yellow Rosebud was solid; I went for a ground motivated place bet on More Than Sotka but her limitations were exposed at this level. The favourite likely wasn’t fit for this early target and Rehn’s Nest took advantage, the Bolger bandwagon rolling on.
The Madrid Handicap was more like it as I felt the favourite Francis Of Assisi was a bad one; he was too short by dint of his connections, looked badly handicapped off 93 and had shown attitude on both his prior starts. Of course he goes and hoses up but he’s the sort of horse one has to oppose throughout the year and accept that some will win and make you look stupid. I backed Wholelotofrosie who appeared to have a lot going for her apart from the fact that she had moved to an unknown stable; she ran no sort of race. Einsteins Folly also got a saver with his strong form from Gowran on his final start of 2012 and the early form of the Bolger yard but he could manage only second to an easy winner.
Of all race types, older horse handicaps are my favourite and next up was the big-field Lincoln; this is the sort of race where if you are to find the winner, you are likely to be paid handsomely, and all the angles about pace and well-known horses apply. Despite having tipped up Tandem and Inis Meain in a Betfair piece early in the week, I turned against the front end of the market (which also included Anton Chigurh) by the day of the race; that is one of the problems with writing a piece so far in advance as you just don’t know how the market will unfold.
I felt they were all too short; Tandem because of connections, Anton Chigurh having won off the back of winning some poor ones in England last backend and Inis Meain because he had been talked up over the winter as a Pierse Hurdle horse and was well-known by the public. As an aside, the fickleness of the betting market should never be underestimated; Inis Meain, despite running well in this race having forced a strong pace, was allowed to go off a value price when finishing a good second to Parish Hall on his next start.
Shifting, Dougal Philps and Campanology were my main plays but all ran deplorably; though I prefer to only have one strong fancy in any race there are times when I will back three or four against the field if all are value.
Thankfully I had the good sense to listen to a pair of judges who were raving about Sweet Lightening pre-race and I had a saver which limited damage on the day; the fact that both fancied it suggested I had missed something in my analysis and while it is fine and good saying that you shouldn’t be swayed by others there is as a difference between listening to a sensible argument and being pig-headed for the sake of it.
The closing maiden was not the most interesting though I felt both the favourites were short enough and laid the pair at a combined 2/5; a furlong down it looked like I was going to get a result but Alpinist, like many from his yard, found a bit extra in the finish.
Ballydoyle concluded the day with post-racing gallops and my thoughts on such things have already been aired; they offer little punting advantage beyond telling you what horses are at some level of health, as those that have had setbacks won’t make the trip.