Ivanovitch Gorbatov and Lets Dance may be an exacta play in the Triumph Hurdle

Related Contingencies at the Cheltenham Festival

Multiple bets are sometimes viewed as the preserve of the desperate, with wise heads pointing out that there is nothing lucky about a Lucky 15, writes Tony Keenan. But, on occasion, punters can multiply their value rather than boost the bookmaker’s edge. Related contingency bets are one such example.

By and large, these bets are not allowed by bookmakers: in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, for instance, one cannot back the Denver Broncos to win and Peyton Manning to be MVP in a double at their current quoted odds, as the performance of the team’s most important player, the quarterback, is intrinsically linked to the outcome of the game. So instead of multiplied odds, a punter has to take a watered down price on both events happening, similar to that offered on a double for a team to win Euro 2016 and that side’s main striker to be the tournament top scorer as they are also linked.

Yet at Cheltenham next month, you can do just that. By backing two or more representatives of the same form line to win separate races you can multiply the strength of your opinion on a race being a hot piece of form and there are many examples of this happening at recent Festivals. Take the two and a half mile Grade 2 novice hurdle run on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham in 2013 where At Fishers Cross narrowly beat The New One, the latter in front too soon, with Grade 1 winners like Coneygree and Whisper in behind. Two months later, the pair won the Albert Bartlett and Neptune respectively at the Festival and those watching back the Trials Day run could have, rightly as it turned out, assumed that one horse would be suited by going up in trip while the other would enjoy competing at the same distance on better ground where his speed would be seen to better effect.

An even better example occurred last year when the Grade 2 novice hurdle run at Leopardstown on the Irish Champion Hurdle undercard produced three Cheltenham winners; the second Martello Tower won ‘the run for the spuds’ (Albert Bartlett); the third, Killultagh Vic, won the Martin Pipe (benefitting from some lenient handicapping); and the fourth, Windsor Park, won the Neptune.

Perming those horses in multiple bets, even allowing that the Leopardstown winner Outlander would surely have been included, would have produced a bonanza, the trio returning 14/1, 7/1 and 9/2 (659/1 treble) with bigger prices available in the weeks beforehand.

Both examples were novice races which isn’t the greatest surprise. Connections of the beaten horse(s) can want to avoid the winner next time, and at the Festival they have the option to do so with races over further and shorter, as well as the handicap route and now even a mares’ alternative. There aren’t as many options for those competing in open company who may have to face off with the same opponent again, however.

Furthermore, value is created by a bias against beaten horses in novice races in particular. Punters want to be with last time out winners and especially sexy, unbeaten animals in novice events despite the fact that horses that were beaten last time may have run better in defeat, the idea here being that a horse that was failed to win last time won’t be winning any race at the Festival.

You don’t just need to focus on a single form line either as you can get a good idea of the strength of a crop of horses from a series of races. In 2012/13, the Irish novice chasers over middle distances and staying trips looked a decent group and Lord Windermere and Lyreen Legend fought out the finish of the RSA that spring after Boston Bob fell at the last; needless to say, I backed Texas Jack in the JLT that year, a horse I believed was the best of the lot, and he made no impact in the finish! A year later in 2014, the Irish hunter chasers proved a deep crop and provided the first three in the Foxhunters and were five lengths clear of the fourth; perming the four Irish horses that weren’t complete no hopers (those priced 40/1 or shorter) would have produced a tricast of £1812.28.

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This type of thinking doesn’t apply to multiple bets alone as forecasts and tricasts can be used to produce the same related contingency end. Punters who fancied Sire De Grugy to win the 2014 Champion Chase, but wanted more than his SP of 11/4, may have cottoned onto the fact that it was Somersby in the Tingle Creek that gave him his closest race that season and it was the same horse that chased him home at Cheltenham at 14/1, the forecast paying £40.57, which was generous in light of that one’s tendency to run well without winning. While not a related contingency as such, you could also have backed both Sire De Grugy to win and Somersby without the favourite. Those ‘without’ markets, once the preserve of Irish on-course layers only, are something we might all need to be wise to at this year’s Festival with Willie Mullins rolling into the meeting with a number of short-priced favourites.

Finding the strong form lines, what American writer Steve Davidowitz calls a ‘key race’, is the difficult part but there are some sensible places to start. Form that is working out is an obvious point, though perhaps too obvious, and times, sectional and overall, might be of more use or at least be more hidden to the wider betting public. It boils down to good race-reading and sometimes the logical spots are best; meetings like Trials Day at Cheltenham or the Hennessy card at Leopardstown this weekend make sense as does the Betfair Hurdle meeting at Newbury.

As for this year’s possibilities, the Yanworth (Neptune) and Shantou Village (Albert Bartlett) double rather jumps out after Saturday; there are reasons for believing the second is better than the form with his run having come off a break and the ground against him. The sense that a horse can shape better than the form in defeat is a big angle and it could be for a number of reasons be it fitness, distance or ground, the last-named perhaps of most significance given that many of the trials will have taken place on ground vastly different to that encountered in March.

The Ivanovich Gorbatov maiden hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas looks strong form and Let’s Dance, the second who seemingly went into the race with a massive reputation, could be worth looking at in forecasts with the JP McManus favourite in the Triumph; while those further down the field like Lagostovegas and Tocororo could pitch up in the Fred Winter. Long Dog and Tombstone on their run on the same card is an interesting combo with that pair likely to take in different Festival targets. In light of Vroum Vroum Mag dismantling the English mares at Ascot recently, with the likeable but limited Jennies Jewel chasing her home, looking at Irish mares to perm with Annie Power in the David Nicholson could be interesting and the market hasn’t really taken cognisance of this with the shortest priced Irish entry in the race outside the Ricci pair being 20/1.

One form line I am looking to follow at the meeting is the Clarence House Chase from Ascot. I think we saw the best version of Un De Sceaux thus far and Traffic Fluide was unlucky not to finish closer, not brilliant at the third last, conceding first run to a degree and barely getting a hard time to get within a short head of Sire De Grugy. The presence of the fourth Vibrato Valtat gives substance to the belief that Sire De Grugy ran his race as they’d been mixing it all season and suggests that Traffic Fluide, with improvement to come, may already be better than not only his stablemate but also Sprinter Sacre as that pair are closely matched. Another factor is the time argument – both Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre have been underwhelming on the clock this season – and I want to be with Traffic Fluide in exotic bets at the Festival. The concern however is that he might run in the Game Spirit beforehand, win easily and thus become the biggest danger to Un De Sceaux in the market so it could be worth seeking out some ‘without’ prices at this point (as recommended in this Champion Chase preview).

- Tony Keenan

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2 replies
  1. Martin says:

    Great piece…punting gold dust! It would be fantastic if all these ‘Cheltenham pieces’ were bundled together or flagged up again slightly closer to the festival….so that these gems are not lost/forgotten nearer March?

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