Rain provides grounds to oppose favourite with Al Kazeem
THERE'S not a whole lot you can be certain of when it comes to betting on horses. While most of us wake up on Saturday mornings confident about giving the bookies a bashing, that optimism must always be kept in check by virtue of the fact that we are placing our faith in four-legged animals.
Like humans, horses can have good and bad days, and you never really know what mood a horse is in until he's off and running.
But, having said all that, there are certain days in the racing calendar that are easier to study than others, and with eight Group races across the cards in Britain and Ireland, I'm quite hopeful that I'll get the chance to visit the payout counter a couple of times by close of business today.
As a general rule in Flat racing, the form stands up much better in higher-quality contests, and that makes the job of picking the winner somewhat easier; although backing those winners at the right prices still remains the challenge.
To illustrate the point, we can take a look at the fate of the favourite, which has a declining strike-rate as the quality of the race deteriorates.
The jolly has a 38pc strike-rate in Group One races, 36pc in Group Two contests and a 34pc strike-rate in Group Three/Listed contests.
But in the non-major races, the strike-rate of the favourite is just 32pc.
While blindly backing the favourite in Group Ones won't prove profitable in the long term, market leaders should be opposed at your peril in such races, considering how often they win.
At Leopardstown, I was all set to back the Juddmonte International winner Declaration Of War in the Group One Red Mills Irish Champion Stake (6.50), which is still just about favourite at the time of writing – but with the possibility of rain overnight in the Dublin area, Roger Charlton's raider Al Kazeem gets the nod at 11/4 instead.
The weather forecasters seem unsure as to how much rain will fall overnight and this morning, but any extra give in the ground will help his cause following a disappointing third in the Juddmonte International on unsuitably fast ground.
He won the Coral-Eclipse on firm but his trainer has made it clear that he prefers the soft, and should conditions come up in his favour, he's unlikely to go home empty handed. According to Charlton, the 'gun is loaded' and his five-year-old comes to Ireland in great shape.
In the Sprint Cup at Haydock (3.50), Clive Cox's Lethal Force (7/4) is tipped to get the better of Gordon Lord Byron.
The drop back to six furlongs has set his form alight and with 6lb in hand on official ratings, it'll be hard to peg him back once Adam Kirby presses the button.
THE Denis Coakley-trained Gabriel's Lad looks the one to beat in the opening Fly London Southend Airport Handicap at Ascot (1.55), but I can't be having him at 6/1 in a line-up which includes the likes of Glen Moss, Ascription and Pythagorean.
Instead, a chance is taken on 20/1 outsider Democretes, one of two runners for the Richard Hannon Stable.
The chestnut gelding made no impression last time out when 11th to Glen Moss under an inexperienced jockey but that race had come after a break of just seven days and he never looked comfortable.
He's best judged on his previous race when finishing a neck second to Gabriel's Lad, for which he traded as low as 1/6 in-running.
1.30 Ascot: Democretes (e/w)
2.20 Kempton: Masterstroke
2.40 Haydock: Montiridge
3.50 Haydock: Lethal Force
5.45 Leopardstown: Chigun
6.50 Leopardstown: Al Kazeem