Last week, Tony Keenan started to explain to us how important it is to find "the right type" of horse to back and how to spot them. He expands on those thoughts in more detail in this week's instalment of...
...The Punting Confessional – October 17th, 2012
Last week we covered off some angles about finding the right type of horse to follow with four types of note being the good horse with a small trainer, the poor workhorse that keeps it for the track, the sudden, unlikely improver and the hold-up type that keeps winning. It isn’t rocket science identifying the wrong type as they’re essentially the flip-side of the right type, with one notable exception, the ungenuine horse.
I considered mentioning genuine horses among the right types last week but thought better of it; in the main, I try to ensure every horse I back is genuine though there’s no huge edge in this and one of my rules of thumb is never back a dog. Genuineness (is that even a word?) comes in a few forms; you can have horses that find lots for pressure which many people equate with gameness though I probably prefer horses that just do things right, like travel well without being keen or getting outpaced and can put races to bed easily without needing a master ride.
Equally there are many ways a horse may be ungenuine, be it awkward or high head carriages, tail-swishing, horses that weaken or hang. Runners with such traits just don’t win as often as their ability suggests they should. Some dodges are more extreme than others; there are horses that simply will never win a race regardless of circumstances while others will win but only when things go right for them. Take a horse like Joe Eile for instance. He’s won four races in this life and has the world of talent but a series of races in which he has travelled well and found little or held his head high suggests that he’s one to be against in the main.
My feelings on temperamental horses have been on the record a while; I want to be against them all and there is nothing I hate more than discovering a horse I have backed has turned out to be a pig. There are many who would argue that there is no such thing as an ungenuine horse and that they are simply carrying an injury of sorts and this sort of thinking is supported by an uncritical media that is often unwilling to call a spade a spade; in some ways, I can understand that as the old saying about how you can insult a man’s wife but not his horse has plenty of truth in it.
But if you watch racing on a regular basis you soon learn that there are some more willing participants than others and if finding punting profit is what you’re at, then nursing a healthy cynicism is the way to go. In truth, I’m probably a little over-zealous in my quest to unmask a dog, where every cock of the jaw is interpreted as sign of waywardness but on the whole this approach has served me well. All that said, I do wonder of the ungenuine angle is quite the edge that it was and in uncompetitive racing, dodgy ones find it easier to win.
Onto some less obvious wrong types. If good horses with bad trainers are ones to follow, then bad horses with good trainers are ones to be against. The top yards in the land have masses of well-bred runners each season but some of them are bound to be duds and every year it’s the same with the likes of Aidan O’Brien, John Oxx and Dermot Weld. They have long-standing maidens where every variation is being tried, be it trip, ground, headgear, tactics or whatever and such horses are making the market each day they run.
The aim here is based in breeding with the object being getting a win to improve the page and the horses are thus having the living daylights run out of them and as such tend to provide multiple opportunities to get a score on one of their rivals. O’Brien’s After is a good current example; she has run 11 times this year without a win and while a few of them were at big prices, she has had 8 defeats at single-figure prices.
Horses that regress suddenly are also ones to oppose. In this case, you have got a horse that has a high level of form in the past but is not reaching that now yet the market overrates their chance of coming back to that level; the possibility of a return to form is overestimated. Good horses gone bad are excellent types to oppose as their reputation is overvalued and this can often by the case with a high-profile juvenile. Maybe is one that stands out from this year. She was unbeaten in 5 starts at two but has been turned over at odds of 13/8, 10/3, 5/1 and 4/1 this year, clearly not having progressed from last season. In her case and so many others, it pays not to forgive a poor return and concentrate instead on those horses that have form in the now.
Flashy homeworkers are clearly another wrong type and they’re the ones that people will be buzzing about at the racetrack and are continually attracting market support without winning. It’s amazing how often punters are duped by these morning glories though it isn’t surprising considering how often trainers make comments like ‘if only [insert name] showed what he did at home, we’d have a group horse on our hands.’ There are loads of such horses currently in training in Ireland with Wexford Opera and Word For Word (the gamble on him at Dundalk tends to be a feature of winter Friday nights) standing out.
Hold-up horses that flash home every day but rarely get up to win are also ones to oppose. It is well-documented that the last part of the race is often the easiest stage to make up ground but these cheap late gains are repeatedly overvalued by the market; many say that the horse has been given too much to do whereas in reality it may not have had the tactical speed to make a move when it was needed. Lazy analysts tend to lumps all these closers in together as eyecatchers but the sensible punter needs to be more discerning and use his knowledge of pace to determine whether the late move was meritorious or circumstantial.
Oftentimes, such horses are patently obvious from their run styles and win/run ratios with Lord Kenmare and Primalova being two good examples currently plying their trade on the all-weather and Dundalk.