The handicap angle that is overlooked....

Last Updated: 27.09.2021

Monday, 27th September 2021

The handicap angle that is overlooked….

Saturday’s Cambridgeshire went the way of the bookies….

With 11 horses pulling out on Saturday morning – 10 on account of unsuitable fast ground….

…. and only 26 – the lowest participation across two decades – going to post….

…. the layers were likely thinking things had gone the way of the punter….

My own selection, Anmaat (one of two) – backed in from 11s on Friday morning to 11/2 and joint-favouritism on Saturday – would’ve represented a jawbreaker of a punch for the industry….

He almost got the job done too. He travelled into the race strongly and looked like the winner at one point only to be turned over late on by Jamie Spencer on Bedouin’s Story – a pretty much unfancied 40s shot….

The bookies were lighting up the cigars before Spencer had even pulled-up the trend-busting 6yo….

  • Tucked-up early doors.... 

Plenty of punters got turned over a lot earlier in the week than that….

When these major betting heats come around there’s almost always a horse that springs to prominence and gains momentum in the market a few days ahead of the race – a bit like a runaway stagecoach in a western….

Last week, it was Chichester. He’d been up at 66s the weekend before. Then suddenly he was 12s and all the rage….

On Wednesday morning, a Paddy Power spokesman referred to the horse as a ‘handicap good thing’. His Coral counterpart advised punters that it ‘would be no surprise to see Chichester shorten further’.

The unspoken message was crystal clear: don’t miss out; follow the crowd; get on now because this good thing is only going to get shorter in the betting….

There are punters who can’t resist this kind of guff. Over the long-term they help keep the bookie in clover and quail eggs….

One of my rules of thumb is this: if the bookie is out there actively selling the bet – as Paddy Power, Coral and others were on Wednesday morning – it’s probably a bet you don’t want to strike. More times than not these kinds of bets go the way of the bookie….

Chichester did get shorter in the betting – he was the other joint-favourite – assisted to some degree by non-runners. But he was no good thing – finishing 17th of the 26 and beaten 10-lengths….

Other horses backed early-doors were beaten too – to the delight of the bookies….

The Gosden hotpot – Uncle Bryn – got beat. He hit the frame with bookies paying out on the first 6 – but it could’ve been worse for the layers….

They got Frankie – and Gosden again – beat too on Magical Morning. And they got the Stoute/Moore combo (another pairing punters are often sweet on) beat on Astro King – who was very disappointing….

  • The Irish angle.... 

We all know the Irish horses are the dominant force in the winter game – and that we’ll see more instances of Irish raiders coming over to plunder British races with big prize money on offer in the months ahead….

It’s something to look out for on the flat too – for the rest of this season and next….

Drawing things back into our own little niche – the big-field C2 handicaps – look at Johnny Murtagh’s record, for instance. He’s sent 4 horses over from Ireland this term to contest big handicaps with 14+ runners….

Two of them won – Create Belief won £40k at Royal Ascot in the Sandringham and Sonnyboyliston won £300k in the Ebor. Another of Murtagh’s – Mirann – wasn’t far away in the Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal meeting….

Perhaps Murtagh is the luckiest trainer on two legs. More likely it’s a case of talented horses well-targeted by a smart trainer on the up…. 

Joseph O’Brien hasn’t managed to win a big-field handicap over here this term. He’s only sent 8 qualifying runners – but of those Liffey River, Visualisation and Messidor all went close to landing big money at the Royal meeting….

Willie Mullins went close at the same meeting with M C Muldoon. Layfayette ran 6th of 30 in the Royal Hunt Cup for Noel Meade. Kevin Coleman placed with Only Spoofing at Epsom and again at Goodwood….

John Queally won with Arcadian Sunrise at York last month. Dermot Weld won the Chester Cup with Falcon Eight back in May

And it’s not like the Irish trainers have been overloading our big handicaps with runners. Far from it. These wins and places come from a sparse overall participation rate – I make then 4 wins and 10 places from 35 runners….

The Irish horses are dangerous. When they come for the big handicaps, they’re primed for the job and tend to go well. It’s an angle worth noting….

  • Not that keeping notes always helps….

I’ve made the note and still managed to overlook the 4 Irish horses sent over for Saturday’s Cambridgeshire….

Donnacha O’Brien’s Zozimus and Michael O’Callaghan’s Fastnet Crown confirmed the trend of Irish horses running well in British handicaps – they finished 4th and 5th (1st and 2nd of the far-side runners)….

I console myself with the fact that everybody else appeared to miss those horses too – Zozimus was sent off at 100s and Fastnet Crown at 33s. The prices were there to be had….

The other two Irish-trained runners – Dance Jupiter and Raise You – are trained by Joseph O’Brien. Both were pulled out on account of the fast ground….

Given the wider Irish record in these big British handicaps, the assumption is that both horses were primed to run big races….

No chances were taken on the wrong ground. The upshot of that is that both horses are well-set to put up a big fight on another day….

They’re both down to run in the Balmoral over the mile on Champions Day at Ascot. Either would be a big player if showing-up….

  • The final word….

That’s all for today. Back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

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Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd