Saturday 16 December 2017

Price is right for Churchill to set O'Brien record

Churchill, with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning last year’s Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at The Curragh. Photo: Sportsfile
Churchill, with Ryan Moore up, on the way to winning last year’s Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at The Curragh. Photo: Sportsfile

Wayne Bailey

People often talk about value betting with regard to racing and it's sometimes assumed that good value equates with a high price.

But for me, a value bet is one where I feel the chances of the horse winning are greater than the odds suggest. The horse may be a favourite, or it may be an outsider, but value bets can be found at both ends of the market.

If you are new to pricing things up in your head, it's good to think in percentages.

Take Churchill as an example in this afternoon's 2,000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket (3.35). At the time of writing, the best price available about Aidan O'Brien's colt is 11/8, or 2.38 in decimal odds.

To get the implied percentage chance of something winning, you divide 100 by the decimal odds. So in this case, 100 divided by 2.38 is 42. That means the bookmakers are saying Churchill has a 42pc chance of winning the race, or a 58pc chance of losing; whichever way you prefer look at it.

Value

Of course, it's all subjective but what I'm saying here is that Churchill should be a value bet to you if you believe his chances of success today are greater than 42pc, it's as simple as that.

I've been trying to work out for myself his chances of winning, and one of the things I often look at is how other horses with a similar profile performed in the race in the past.

I ended up getting a sense of déjà vu when I considered that he comes here unraced this season; he ran six times as a two-year-old (winning five), and the last two of those were the Dewhurst at Newmarket and the National Stakes at the Curragh.

I won't ask for answers on a postcard but I'm sure some of you have noticed the uncanny similarities with Jim Bolger's Dawn Approach, which won the 2013 Guineas at 11/8, odds which also suggested he had a 42pc chance of winning.

Dawn Approach won each of his six two-year-old races including the Dewhurst and the National Stakes, although the one difference is that Churchill was third on his debut. But that's largely irrelevant now and I'm happy to take Churchill at that price as I reckon he should be as short as even-money.

Thirteen horses raced the year Dawn Approach won but we've a smaller field of ten this time around, three of which are trained by O'Brien as he attempts to beat John Scott's 19th century record of seven wins for a trainer in this race.

Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor look well out of their depth and are priced accordingly but Churchill looks the real deal. The way he was staying on in the Dewhurst and the fact that he's by Galileo suggests he'll have no problem stepping up to a mile or further.

Dawn Approach flopped in the Derby but Churchill is the current ante-post favourite there around 7/1 so it will be interesting to see how the market reacts if we have a decisive win today.

Having said all that, the André Fabre-trained Al Wukair is not dismissed easily and poses a big threat to the favourite. Unbeaten in France, he won a Group Three last month and his turn of foot is striking. The recent run is in his favour and he won't let Churchill have it all his own way.

Richard Hannon's Barney Boy also has claims having won at a mile on his debut and followed up with a victory in the Group Three Greenham Stakes last time.

Despite a relatively small field, it looks a good quality race with some really smart colts at the head of the market.

O'Brien can double up in tomorrow's 1,000 Guineas (3.35) with course-and-distance winner Rhododendron. Ladbrokes, which traditionally had the inside track on Ballydoyle runners, cut stablemate Winter into 8/1 from 25/1 recently, which is interesting, although how much of that is PR is difficult to say.

Like Churchill, Rhododendron hasn't had a prep run this season but she's said to be in good order and it was nice to see her overcome a Group One defeat at the Curragh when taking the Dubai Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.

She looks the one to beat around 9/4, although John Gosden's Daban is respected having won a Group Three here last month in fine style.

At Goodwood, Laugh Aloud looks overpriced at 9/4 in the Listed Fillies' Betfred Conqueror Stakes (3.50). She was in need of the run when fifth in similar race at Kempton recently.

Back at Newmarket today, Profitable gets the nod around 9/2 in the Group Three Longholes Palace House Stakes (2.20) although it does look quite open.

Successful in this race last year, Clive Cox's charge has a number of Group wins under the belt including the King's Stand Stakes at Ascot, and I'm willing to overlook the fact that his form tailed off at the end of last season as I reckon he was simply getting a little weary.

Each-way

The Brian Meehan-trained Fox Trotter has won just once in a 17-race career but he's a useful handicapper nonetheless and was once rated 101.

That rating was a little harsh in my view following his second place in a Group Three, and even a mark in the mid-90s didn't help him get his head in front. But he comes to the Betfred 'Treble Odds On Lucky 15's' Handicap rated 88 today (2.40 Goodwood), which is a little more realistic.

I risk making too many excuses for the five-year-old but he's had a few races where he could have done better and he sometimes breaks slowly meaning he's playing catch up, but if Kieren Fox can get him away cleanly and he gets a bit of luck in-running, he should be able to go close today at a nice each-way price of 16/1.

William Haggas' Zwayyan will probably go off as favourite and has strong claims if you are willing to forgive his latest defeat at Newmarket in which he never settled.

WEEKEND SELECTIONS

2.20 Newmarket: Profitable

2.40 Goodwood: Fox Trotter (e/w)

2.55 Newmarket: Seventh Heaven

3.35 Newmarket: Churchill

3.50 Goodwood: Laugh Aloud

4.45 Newmarket: Khalidi

3.35 Newmarket: Rhododendron (tomorrow)

Irish Independent

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