Harry Angel to light the way in Ascot sprint
Betting on horses is not simply about finding the most likely winner of a race - anyone can do that quite easily, with the favourite being the obvious place to start.
To make any money long term, you have to back horses, favourites or otherwise, which are priced higher than they should be. That, of course, is the hard part as it's all subjective - but a good way to help identify a good (or poor) value favourite is to watch previous runnings of the race and try to figure out which type of horse tends to perform well, and which perform poorly.
This is easier in some of the big jump races like the Gold Cup or Grand National for example, but it becomes a little trickier in Flat racing to find that winning profile, especially the sprints.
Profile Once you have a profile of the type it takes to win the race, you can look at each entry and see if it fits that profile, then check the price and decide if it's good value.
But you have to be careful with this approach, as race rules and conditions change over time, as is the case with this afternoon's Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot (4.20). It went from being a Group Two to a Group One in 2002, and another significant change came when it became restricted to four-year-olds and older in 2015, when the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup was introduced for three-year-olds, won by Sir Michael Stoute's Eqtidaar yesterday.
So in this case, I'm not quite sure that watching previous renewals will point us in the right direction - although despite a few changes here and there, punters have still managed to come out on top against the bookmakers lately, with four winning favourites in the last six years.
That's one trend I expect to continue at least, and although at the top of the market, I reckon 9/4 or thereabouts is still a big price for the Clive Cox-trained Harry Angel this afternoon under jockey Adam Kirby.
With an official rating of 125 which is 4lbs clear of Australian raider Redkirk Warrior, you'd expect Harry Angel to be a good deal shorter considering he won some top-class Group One sprints as a three-year-old last year. Yet punters appear a little cautious, as his record at Ascot is four losses from as many races.
But I'd agree with Clive Cox when he says there are excuses for each and he appeared a little keen, for example, when less than a length second to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup here last year.
He went on to win back-to-back Group Ones straight after, and although later beaten at Ascot again in the Champions Sprint Cup, the October ground was poor and he didn't seem to settle.
He looked as good as ever when shaking off the cobwebs to win a Group Two at 4/9 at York in May, and he can finally break the Ascot duck this afternoon.
Alongside the aforementioned Redkirk Warrior, Aidan O'Brien's Merchant Navy is one of the biggest threats to the selection. Merchant Navy was beaten by Redkirk Warrior when they met at Flemington back in March, but Ryan Moore's mount put in a career-best effort when winning a competitive Group Two on his first run for O'Brien at the Curragh last month. The Ballydoyle supermo's other runner Spirit Of Valor could also run well at a big price.
Around 400 miles north at Ayr, Mrs Gallagher is tipped in the Listed Scottish Sun/British Stallion Studs EBF Land O'Burns Fillies' Stakes (4.10), priced in the 3/1 region. She was out of her depth last time in Group Two company but is capable at Listed level, winning twice this year.
Priced around 50/1, the Tim Easterby-trained Flying Pursuit is friendless in the early markets for the Wokingham Stakes Handicap (5.0 Ascot), but Fran Berry's mount was quite consistent last term, winning a number of races including a decent handicap at Ripon off a mark of 96.
A rating of 103 was a little too harsh earlier this year and he's misfired in his last couple of races, but he's back down to 99 for the moment, admittedly still quite high.
Yet he's not without an each-way chance if things fall right in this 28-runner field, in which anything could happen. This looks wide-open and I've a sneaky feeling he'll run better than those odds suggest.
2.30 Ascot: Natalie's Joy
3.05 Ascot: Crystal Ocean
3.40 Ascot: Queen Of Bermuda
4.10 Ayr: Mrs Gallagher
4.20 Ascot: Harry Angel
5.0 Ascot: Flying Pursuit (e/w)
Do the double
Soccer: Last week, I backed Sweden to beat South Korea, and Mexico are also tipped to beat them in this afternoon’s Group F clash. The Asian side found it hard to hit the target last week and are in big trouble, but, in contrast, Mexico caused an upset in the group by beating Germany. Juan Carlos Osorio and his men look value for another win today at 8/11.
Racing: Trained by Michael Stoute, nobody will get rich backing Crystal Ocean around 8/13, but he’s the class act in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes (3.05 Ascot), and is impossible to oppose. Stoute knows the sort it takes to win having tasted success in this race no fewer than ten times, and his colt came close to winning a Group One when second in the St Leger. He’s won two Group Threes in good style this year, and should take all the beating today
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.