Friday, July 27, 2012

Layers and the Olympic games

With Galway and Glorious Goodwood (referred to as simply 'Glorious' in some quarters) next week, this weekend's racing action looks somewhat mundane, especially with anticipation building for the much-heralded start to the London 2012 Olympic Games...

Perhaps it's just me but over the past few days I sense bookmakers have started to smell some easy Olympic-sized pickings in the forthcoming fortnight and have been indulging in some Olympic games of their own - yesterday I swear I saw a tweet where a layer quoted 8/1 about James Bond to light the Olympic flame...

Olympic betting isn't something I have any experience of but by far the best article I've read in recent months was penned by The Times' Owen Slot back in early March. The Times, in conjunction with Infostrada Sports in Holland, created a virtual medal table using a database of form collated up to that point. In that virtual medal table, Great Britain finished fifth with 16 gold medals, four behind Germany in fourth and Russia in third. Now, the table hasn't factored in home advantage but, as Slot is keen to point out, the layers have.

Home advantage would need to be worth a notional 11% improvement in form for Great Britain to finish third with 21 golds - the tally at Beijing in 2008 was 19 when Team GB finished fourth.

Depending on your perception of the value of home advantage, you can make your plays... Skybet go 5/4 Great Britain to finish fourth, while the same firm offer 6/1 Team GB will finish fifth, a price that makes plenty of appeal to the more pessimistic amongst us; more persistent punters may also care to ask for a price about Germany finishing fourth.

A word of warning before you rush to part with your cash - that table was compiled on form as at 5th March 2012 and a lot has happened since. Slot's article 'Bookmakers banking on home advantage to boost medal tally' was published with the sub-header 'Leading layers ignore statistics to frame optimisitc market for Britain' (The Times, Monday March 5 2012, p59).

As I said earlier, generally I don't bet on the Olympics - if I succumb to temptation this time, I'll take 6/1 about GB to finish fifth in the medal table.


Postscript added 28.07.12 @ 13:40

Supplement published with Thursday's Times (26.07.12) printed an updated virtual medal table - top five places shown below:

1. USA             39 gold, 21 silver, 28 bronze
2. CHINA         34 gold, 33 silver, 24 bronze
3. RUSSIA       20 gold, 30 silver, 32 bronze
4. GB               19 gold, 24 silver, 21 bronze
5. GERMANY  17 gold, 22 silver, 20 bronze.

Note that the comment added to this post by reader mrvp highlights a potentially better opportunity.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Market Rasen's Summer Plate meeting

I'm short on time so some very quick notes...

The weekend feature, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Ascot 4.35), is intriguing. Last year's winner, Nathaniel, took the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown a fortnight ago with a gutsy display on his seasonal debut; there must be some concern he won't have fully recovered from those exertions. In a race where the market has proved a decent guide in the past, I prefer Sea Moon to St Nicholas Abbey following his victory in a competitive renewal of the Harwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot but Sir Michael Stoute is not overly bullish about his colt's chance in a piece in today's Times so I'm not going to play. The three-year-old Japanese runner Deep Brillante (20/1 Bet Victor) is the each-way suggestion for those interested; at the time of writing bet365, 888Sport and Blue Square are the layers offering a quarter the odds a place.

Never mind the Flat, there's a decent jumps card at Market Rasen, with the Summer Plate (3.25) the highlight. You'd have reservations about the jumping with a few of those entered including Benbane Head, Tiger O'Toole, Eastlake and likely favourite Spock. Last year's winner Qulinton is a quirky individual who has been out of form for a while but last time hinted he could be on the way back and tries a visor here; Lawney Hill's I Have Dreamed has been running in hunter chases for the best part of 18 months. Peter Bowen regularly targets this prize, having won four of the last nine renewals; often he saddles several but this year he's single-handed with Al Co. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has declared two - I much prefer That'll Do (Harry Derham claiming seven) to Spock.  Al Co is my idea of the winner while That'll Do is suggested as an each-way alternative.

Finally, a couple to monitor - Mick Channon's Ctappers in the opener and Bellaboosh in the 4.40.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two John Smith's for York...

Can you have too much of a good thing? Tomorrow's racing includes the Darley July Cup at Newmarket, the John Smith's Cup at York, the Weatherby's Super Sprint at Newbury and the chesterBET City Plate at Chester.

I've decided to focus on the two long distance races at York - the John Smith's Silver Cup at 2.25 over 14 furlongs and the John Smith's Stayers' Handicap at 4.45 over two miles. Both races pick up strands of form from the Northumberland Plate run at Newcastle two weeks ago; on that occasion I highlighted runners with previous NH form and I'm going to do something similar here.

The going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

Crackentorp runs in the Silver Cup and ran a cracker to finish second at odds of 16/1 in the Northumberland Plate; he carried nine stone off a handicap mark of 93 on that occasion but this time has been raised eight pounds and has 9-7 on his back. Motivado was beaten a distance in that same race while Blue Bajan, Lyric Street and Kiama Bay were all withdrawn on the day on account of the heavy ground; the last-named has since posted a decent effort to finish seventh, beaten four lengths, in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock. Michael Bell took the honours last year with Tactician - this time he saddles the only three-year-old in the field who is marked up favourite in the tissue.

I think Cesarewitch winner Never Can Tell would prefer better ground, a comment that also applies to Mount Athos who was fourth behind the aforementioned Ces winner and was withdrawn from the Coral Marathon at Sandown last Saturday where the ground was described as good to soft. The mare Western Pearl ran third in this last year at a big price and ran creditably to finish fifth behind Simenon in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting while High Jinx doesn't have too many miles on the clock and apparently has the Ebor as his target so he'll be expected to show up well here. The one that catches my eye is the appropriately-named Stormy Weather. Formerly with Howard Johnson, the grey was highly tried on his first two runs over hurdles for Brian Ellison, in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last December. On his subsequent four visits to the track he has finished in the first two on each occasion and rates reasonable each-way value at around 14/1.   

In the Stayers' Handicap, those with previous NH form are Orsippus, Herostatus, Pokfulham, Bruslini, Jonny Delta, Mica Mika, Swinging Hawk and Red Jade. Brian Ellison's grey Bruslini has raced from the front in recent hurdle races before finishing third behind Cloudy Spirit over two miles two here in May. Orsippus was behind in fourth that day before going on to finish second at Ripon and then collect the Pontefract Cup three weeks ago (beating French Hollow who ran a stormer in the Northumberland Plate). Bruslini looks weighted to confirm the York form with Orsippus. Pokfulham looked to have a hard race when beating Rock Relief a nose on the heavy ground at Newcastle just over a fortnight ago while Herostatus had a long slog in the Catterick mud a mere three days ago.

Jonny Delta is an interesting one - as a four-year-old he finished seventh behind Steps To Freedom in the Aintree bumper - in front of subsequent Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes. That form reads well - last time out Jonny was fourth behind Getabuzz (Fallon up) beaten just two lengths (with Red Jade further behind in seventh); he's two pounds better off here so the pairing look closely matched but jockey bookings are noted... Fallon rides Orsippus while Neil Farley claims five aboard Jonny Delta. A difficult race but I'll follow Fallon on Orsippus (Bruslini feared) and will consider a small rach-way interest in Jonny Delta if priced up around the 20/1 mark.

To finish, a dreamer's double - what price Brian Ellison's two greys, Stormy Weather and Bruslini...?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Coral-Eclipse day 2012

Ten have been declared for tomorrow's feature, the Coral-Eclipse run over ten furlongs at Sandown.

There has been plenty of rain around today and the temptation is to think the ground will ride heavy but so far Sandown seems to have missed much of the moisture - at the time of writing the going is described as good to soft.

So You Think won this last year but was declared a non-runner yesterday after suffering a setback; he has now been retired to stand at stud in Australia. His withdrawal makes this a completely different race.

Three-year-olds receive an eleven pounds allowance from their elders in the Eclipse but in the past decade only three of the younger generation have obliged: Hawk Wing in 2002, Oratorio in 2005 and Sea The Stars in 2009. This year's representatives are Bonfire and Cogito; the former was sixth in the Derby and hails from a stable in form but to my mind possesses a suspect temperarment while the latter has enough to find despite finding plenty of trouble in running behind Most Improved in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot two and a half weeks ago.

Farhh replaces Royal Ascot conqueror So You Think at the head of the market. The Godolphin colt looked unlucky in running that day; connections are on record as saying their charge would prefer cut underfoot and they look likely to get their wish. Another Godolphin runner, Monterosso, won the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March but in the run-up to this connections have been decidedly downbeat. Nathaniel is a very talented individual and shown appropriate respect but the colt missed his intended comeback as the result of a dirty scope - this looks a tough ask on his seasonal debut. Cityscape has never won beyond nine furlongs but he has shown his best form on soft. I was considering two at each-way prices - Crackerjack King and previous winner Twice Over but neither wants the rain. Marco Botti's grey brings Italian form to the table while at the age of seven Twice Over looks unlikely to win - no horse older than five has won in over 50 years. Farhh looks the percentage call provided you buy into the Ascot hard luck story and he can reproduce a similar effort 17 days on; at the prices Crackerjack King is put up as a tentative each-way selection at around the 12/1 mark, although the ground appears to have gone against him.

All week I have been wondering whether to play in the following race, the Coral Marathon run over two miles plus at 4.20. Cavalryman is priced up favourite in the tissue but he's never been easy to catch right and is worth taking on. Chilberta King beat Aaim To Propser and Electrolyser a nose and two lengths in last year's renewal  - the first two look closely matched once again although on current handicap ratings Chilberta has five pounds in hand. Top-rated animal Glen's Diamond doesn't look guaranteed to stay while Mount Athos is of interest as is Thimaar having missed last week's Northumberland Plate on account of the heavy ground. Trappy indeed - earlier in the week I fancied Mount Athos but now the rain has arrived I'm far less confident - I think I'm going to watch from the sidelines...