Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Prepare for more surprises between now and the week of reckoning

Altior, with Nico de Boinville up, on the way to victory at Newbury. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Altior, with Nico de Boinville up, on the way to victory at Newbury. Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

This column has brought up the consequences of the guaranteed-odds concession before and one bookmaker incorporating it in into its antepost Cheltenham markets was quite something.

Bet365 is an online behemoth with about 75pc of its bets placed on in-play markets - so racing is of little relevance to its bottom line. However, just like Lidl and Aldi might be apt to flog a bag of carrots for 20c to do selfies of their six-packs and render competition almost impossible, Bet365 makes a mountain of money elsewhere so it can be bold with its racing product.

Simply, its non-runner-money-back, best-odds guaranteed offer means that if you back a horse for any race and it doesn't partake, your stake is returned. If you take 5/1 and he goes off 10/1, you get the 10/1. And we're talking about races taking place over a month away.

Never has this seemed more of an incentive after a week in which three major Grade One Cheltenham fancies were ruled out - and we are talking only about one trainer here.

Faugheen, Min and bumper horse Getabird are all gone. Consider the likes of Coneygree, Annie Power and Don Cossack and the 2017 festival is becoming a cross between the PDC and the BDO.

If we wish to stumble on with arrows analogies you should consider throwing a few darts at various races.

It seems inevitable that targets will change. Willie Mullins has to attempt to strategise a plan that will maximise the stable's number of winners and only this weekend David Pipe mooted Moon Racer could go for the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Envisage changes to the Mullins narrative, in the same way Vautour was expected to run in the Gold Cup until almost the last minute last year. He has surrendered his stranglehold in the Champion Hurdle market so what way might tickets be changed?

At the Irish Champion Hurdle launch, Mullins said Annie Power could take on Faugheen - with the caveat that Yorkhill might easily go hurdling if he felt it right.

It is Yorkhill which is most intriguing. Altior's sensational effort on Saturday renders the Racing Post Arkle less attractive, and the JLT Novice Chase went to Black Hercules in 2015 and Vautour last year.

What about Un De Sceaux? The prospects of him taking on Douvan in the Champion Chase must be remote. Could he revert to a shock Champion Hurdle bid? He is 69/1 on Betfair and you heard it here first, unless he goes in the Ryanair in which case you didn't hear it here at all.

Then there is Vroum Vroum Mag, which could revert to chasing (Ryanair?) if needed be. The soft touch for her is the OLBG Mares' Hurdle but Limini could go for that.

Owners tend to be deferential to Mullins' aspirations and, so rotten has his luck been this season, there will be communal goodwill across the yard's connections that it has the best festival possible.

The bottom line is to not take as granted that any horse will go to any particular race. And with non-runner-no-bet in operation, you can bet now safe in the knowledge it is pretty risk-free.

On a weekend of some strange results, Saturday's Betfair Hurdle was a cracking duel between two well-treated novices in Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes, while Altior was spectacular. The more the season goes on, the stronger the British challenge appears to be.


Mark Walsh, as Joseph O'Brien said, gave Slowmotion time to find her feet early in winning Naas' feature on Saturday. She came home strongly after what the trainer called a "peach".


"I'd say he would have had a few quid on him today and he'd have been in first last night at 12/1!"

Robbie Hennessy reflecting on the death of his father Bill after training Dylrow to land a gamble at Naas on Saturday.


Everyone banging on about this female weight allowance, who cares if it's insulting or sexist, it's a advantage so grab it with both hands.

Wilson Renwick (@WilsonRenwick), ex-rider-turned-cyclist, offers a forthright view on French racing's introduction of a 4lb allowance for female riders.


The 8/1 about John Levins' Complicit on Thursday evening dried up quickly. However the 6/4 shot struggled to get involved at Dundalk the following evening.

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