Thistlecrack ready to deliver a much-needed Chrismas bonus
Usually discussed in relation to sport, the 'hot hand' phenomenon is the belief that someone who has experienced a string of successes is more likely to have continued success straight after.
The term comes from basketball, and many fans and commentators seem to believe that a player is more likely than usual to score a shot if he had scored a few in a row previously.
In the 1980s, three researchers in the United States found little evidence for the hot hand phenomenon and declared that most so-called winning streaks are purely random sequences which are bound to happen from time to time.
I'm not quite sure if there's such thing as a reverse hot hand but I wouldn't mind giving those researchers a shout to see if they can look into a very poor streak of luck I've been having, as almost every large bet I've placed in the last month has a tale of woe attached to it.
Last week was typical; I got off to a bad start with my each-way selection and things weren't looking too good after a loser in the next - although I got some relief at least when Harry Fry's Unowhatimeanharry won the Bristol Novices' Hurdle at 11/10.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the day, and Peace And Co was a hugely expensive flop at 4/5 in the International Hurdle. Nicky Henderson has missed out on a few big prizes this season although the talent is there and I'm sure his horses will come good soon.
Later on, I was absolutely convinced that Famous Kid was the proverbial good thing in a minor contest at Wolverhampton, and I had a bet with a stake which really wasn't appropriate for an all-weather race.
But despite going off at 4/5, Saeed bin Suroor's colt found nothing when it mattered and I woke up the next day with nothing but a hangover and a pocket full of useless dockets. It's bad enough doing your dough on a decent-priced nag, but it always feels a lot worse when odds-on shots get turned over.
I hope the missus was being serious when she told me not to buy her anything big for Christmas - but women are even harder to figure out than racehorses and somehow I doubt I'll get away with a simple card and a box of Milk Tray this year.
There's also the little matter of keeping a few bob for Leopardstown next week, although help could be at hand at Ascot today where I'm very warm on Thistlecrack's chances in the Long Walk Hurdle (2.25) for Colin Tizzard's yard under Tom Scudamore, who has been cleared to ride having appealed a careless riding ban.
Paul Nicholls' Saphir Du Rheu is the market leader but I'd hazard a guess that carrying top-weight to fifth place in the Hennessy last time must have taken a bit out of him. I'd like to see him stick to the fences for a while as I think he'll be very good with some more experience but I suppose he's still quite young aged six and Paul Nicholls knows a lot more about this game than I do.
Reve De Sivola has won this for three years straight and although beaten by Saphir Du Rheu in the Cleeve Hurdle, he was giving the winner 4lbs so a neck defeat wasn't too disheartening. But his warm-up race at Auteuil last month wasn't anything to write home about and I'm beginning to wonder if his best days are behind him.
Thistlecrack really came into his own when stepping up to just over three miles in the Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in April and his pedigree suggests he'll be well suited to the longer distances.
Before the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, connections suggested he'd need the run but he stayed on extremely well to win nicely, which bodes very well for the future and suggests further room for improvement.
Fair enough, Cole Harden and Whisper failed to fire that day but Thistlecrack is beginning to make a real impression in this division and yesterday evening's price of 2/1 seems more than fair to me.
Later on, Jolly's Cracked It can keep the good times rolling for Harry Fry in the Ladbroke Hurdle (3.35 Ascot) and the 9/2 available early doors looks generous considering the six-year-old has skipped some other decent races in order to compete today.
I mentioned last week how Fry has a great knack of finding the right races for his horses and this looks a good opportunity for the bay gelding off a reasonable mark of 141.
Now aged ten, punters aren't too keen on The Giant Bolster for the Sodexo Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.0) and that's reflected in his odds of 25/1 or thereabouts.
But he wasn't disgraced when seventh in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last time and at the prices, he's worth a couple of Euro each-way, now down 7lbs in the weights.
12.55 Haydock: Briery Queen
2.20 Lingfield: Lamar
2.25 Ascot: Thistlecrack
3.0 Ascot: The Giant Bolster (e/w)
3.35 Ascot: Jolly's Cracked It